The first film opens at the NYC Public Library where a librarian (played by Alice Drummond) goes downstairs into the stacks. As she walks down an aisle of shelved books the books behind her begin to float across the aisle from shelf to shelf. Then she walks by some card catalogue files, and behind her the drawers open and the cards spew out and fly about in the air. When she finally turns and sees what is happening she screams and starts to run, but the turmoil keeps after her, and then she sees….
Three psychologists, Peter, Ray, and Egon (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis), from a local university are called in to deal with the problem, and when they choose to say “paranormal” (which of course is true) they are fired from the university. So they have to form their own business, which they call Ghostbusters. They hire Janine, a receptionist/secretary (Annie Potts) and then Winston, to help them carry their heavy gear (Ernie Hudson). He quickly becomes a full-fledged member of the team, and they are on their way. Except that they don’t have a job.
Then they meet a cellist, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) who wants her apartment cleansed of demons, and a rep from the EPA, Walter Peck (William Atherton), who wants to shut them down. All of these characters are caricatures to a degree: Peter is snarky and sarcastic, Ray is friendly and capable, Egon is bookish and likable, Winston is strong and steady, Dana is sexy and beautiful, Janine is smart and knowledgable, and Peck is the complete officious jerk. And this categorizing works so well because it is a kind of shorthand to get us up-to-speed with the story very quickly.
The ‘busters easily recognize that the city is in great danger, but, in his single-minded determination to do his job, Peck lies about them to the Mayor, and causes the disaster to actually happen. The havoc culminates with the appearance of the worst demon of them all – Gozer, who looks like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, except skyscraper-high.
Along the way Dana and her nebbishy neighbor Louis, played by Rick Moranis, become the living vessels of two demons: Dana is a home for Zuul, and Louis for Vinz Clortho, a subservient but critical helper. One of the funniest things in the movie occurs when Moranis stumbles into the wreckage of Weaver’s apartment and says, “I am the Keymaster”, and Weaver replies “I am the GateKeeper.”
Once the key opens the gate, Gozer can enter this world.
The film was, for me at least, more a science fiction take-off than an out-and-out comedy, but I really enjoyed it. The visual effects by Richard Edlund were outstanding, as was the music by Elmer Bernstein. And “Costumes by Theoni V. Aldredge” takes on a whole new meaning when you see the off-the-shoulder number Sigourney wears for the last third of the film. I also want to mention that the Make-up Artist was Leonard Engelman, and the Hair Stylist was Dione Taylor. The film was written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, and was directed by Ivan Reitman.
And the theme song, which is possibly the first thing remembered when the title is mentioned today, “Ghostbusters (Who You Gonna Call)”, was written and performed by Ray Parker, Jr.
The second film begins “5 Years Later”, with Sigourney, as Dana, pushing a baby carriage down a New York sidewalk. The carriage gets away from her, and she has to chase it through traffic, back onto the sidewalk, out in the street, etc. She finally catches it when it stops in the middle of the street for a fast-moving bus. She lifts the baby from the carriage and hugs it and the credits roll, accompanied by Ray Parker Jr.’s great song. Have to say there is no suspense here – for pete’s sake, people, you know they won’t open the movie with a baby getting run over!
At this time the “Ghostbusters” business is kaput due to all the lawsuits resulting from the destruction at the end of the first movie. Ray and Winston are appearing in their protective uniforms at birthday parties (and having to put up with kids who say they asked for He-Man), and Ray also has a bookshop, Ray’s Occult, which is not doing well; Egon is a somewhat whacked-out practicing psychologist, and Peter is the host of a psychic-themed TV show. On the program shown his guests are arguing about their predictions of The End of the World, and one is claiming it will be February 14, 2016! So, since today is February 12, Happy Valentine’s Day!
Dana has given up playing the cello for the symphony, due to the time commitment, and has been working as an art restorer at the museum. Her boss Dr. Janosz Poha (great name!), played by Peter MacNicol, has her working on a portrait of Vigo of Carpathia. As she leaves for the day she tells Poha (who has a big crush on her) that now that her baby is older she plans to try to go back to the orchestra. As she leaves a face suddenly protrudes from Vigo’s portrait.
Later that night Janosz is working on the portrait alone, and the face appears more fully. It shocks Poha with bolts of electricity, then announces itself as Vigo, the Scourge of Carpathia and the Sorrow of Moldavia, and says it wants a child so that it can live again. Vigo is played by Wilhelm von Homburg.
Then the four guys get together again and in the middle of the night dig a big hole in First Avenue, because their instruments (they still have all their equipment) indicate a strong psychic flow underground, which turns out to be literally true. Before they can do anything constructive they are arrested for digging the hole (and causing a full-city blackout). At their trial, the Mayor’s Assistant, played by Kurt Fuller (the goofy Medical Examiner in “Psych”), sets the judge (Harris Yulin) and the crowd in the courtroom against the ‘busters with wild claims and exaggerations. Luckily, all their equipment and a large beaker of the bright pink flow are on the evidence table. The louder and angrier the judge and the assistant get, the more active the pink stuff becomes, since it reacts to people’s emotions, good or bad, until finally the ghosts of two killers that the judge sentenced long ago appear and start destroying the courtroom. The ‘busters suit up and control the situation, and then the judge dismisses all charges and the guys go out to save the city (and the baby). I think this movie is the funnier of the two; at least I laughed a lot more.
Once again Ivan Reitman directs from a script by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd (except that their names are reversed, and Katie Dippold and Paul Feig are listed as co-writers). Twins Will and Hank Deutschendorf play baby Oscar. The Visual Effects Supervisor is Dennis Muren, and the visual effects were produced at ILM. The costumes were designed by Gloria Gresham. The music was by Randy Edelman. I recognized a few of the actors who played small parts: Brian Doyle Murray, Mary Ellen Trainor, Jeff Altman, Cheech Marin, Roscoe Lee Brown, June Foray, Phillip Baker Hall, and Cree Summer Francks. And I think the director got two of his kids into the movie: the credits list Catherine Reitman as Girl with Puppy and Jason Reitman as Brownstone Boy # 2. Good for him!
The disc for “Ghostbusters II” also included one episode from each of the two animated TV shows based on the movies: “The Real Ghostbusters” and “Slimer and the Real Ghostbusters”. From “TRG” the first episode, “Citizen Ghost”, and from “SatRG” the episode “Partners in Slime” from the second half of the only season. “TRG” ran for seven seasons, from 1986 to 1991! “Slimer and ..” only lasted one season, 1988-89. Voice cast information on cartoons is always interesting. For instance, I found out that Lorenzo Music was the first voice for Peter, but after Music’s death the job went to Dave Coulier.
A new version of “Ghostbusters” should be coming out later this year, starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and Chris Hemsworth. There’s no mystery about why it was greenlighted: “Ghostbusters” 1985 had an estimated budget of $32 million, and worldwide gross was $291,632,124. “Ghostbusters II” had an estimated budget of $37 million, and worldwide gross was $215,394,738. Financial info from imdb.com.