Ghostbusters isn’t only one of the best comedies ever made but the film was influential in changing up the visual effects game.
Ivan Reitman had broken onto the map as a director with Meatballs and shortly followed with Stripes. However, Ghostbusters is certainly the film that would change the game. It’s the film that gave us Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis). The Ectomobile! The keymaster and the gatekeeper! Ray Parker’s hit theme song! Documentary on top of documentary. Life as we know it would change on June 8, 1984. Ghostbusters is one of the greatest comedy films of all time!
Venkman, Stantz, and Spengler start up the Ghostbusters upon being fired by Columbia University. It turns out that they lost credibility after their New York Public Library experience. This will prove to be a mistake on Columbia’s part later on. They purchase a firehouse and the rest is history. Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) serves as their secretary. Business starts out slow but it soon gets really busy. First, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) reports a dog in her fridge. Peter goes onto inspect the apartment and starts an affair in the process. Meanwhile, they capture Slimer at the Sedgewick Hotel while being careful not to cross the streams. Eventually, business demands another member so they hire Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson). Dana gets possed by Zuul while neighbor Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) gets possed by Vinz Clortho.
Everything leads to the climax on top of the Shandor Building aka Spook Central. It’s where where they not only face Gozer the Gozerian, who shifts into the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. While previously warning them not to cross the streams, Egon gives the go-ahead to do so.
There’s so much to enjoy about this film. Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis work great as a team. Murray’s deadpan performance is certainly a standout but this is a film that requires all three or it wouldn’t work. Reitman allowed them to improvise, keeping what worked or otherwise going with the script. You also have a little guerilla filmmaking taking place, too.
Columbia Pictures had been worried about the film’s potential at the box office. The film’s production budget was awfully high at $25-30 million. We’re talking about a comedy film with expensive visual effects. This is just something that you don’t hear about in the 1980s. I mean, an action film or sci-fi film is one thing. But a comedy movie?!? The end result would be a box office hit! Of course, nobody knew this during production. You just have to have faith in people turning out. We all know what would happen next. Seven straight weeks at number one. The second-highest grossing film of 1984 and highest grossing comedy ever at the time.
To think at one time, people thought then-Columbia Pictures exec Frank Price made a terrible mistake. Former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent had been CFO of Columbia at the time and even sent a lawyer to prevent Price from further pursuit. Vincent would win out in the power struggle following Coca-Cola’s purchase of the studio and Price would move over to Universal. Can you imagine what would have happened if they overruled the greenlight? When one takes into account the impact of Ghostbusters, who knows how many movies would never have been made.
Behind the scenes, film composer Elmer Bernstein certainly has his work cut out. It isn’t just having to score a comedy but having to mix it up with the film’s other tones. Of course, Ray Parker’s theme song, “Ghostbusters,” would be a hit.
Ghostbusters would also be the start of a franchise. We’re now at two direct sequels, one reboot, and two animated series. Outside of film and TV, the potential only grows. Comics, video games, music, etc. And to think that once upon a time, Columbia didn’t think it had a chance. It would be one of those films that would also change blockbuster filmmaking. Before Ghostbusters, the term blockbuster applied to very few films. Afterwards, blockbusters would mix several genres and be the films that filled the studio coffers. Of course, this would depend on their contracts after what happened with George Lucas at 20th Century Fox.
DIRECTOR: Ivan Reitman
SCREENWRITERS: Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis
CAST: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, William Atherton, Ernie Hudson
Columbia released Ghostbusters in theaters on June 8, 1984.
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