(Disc Released: 23/10/14) As part of Reel Chat’s introductory episode, it’s been a real pleasure to sit down and enjoy Ivan Reitman’s 80s sci-fi comedy classic “Ghostbusters” – in it’s 30th Anniversary re-release on Blu-ray. From the Columbia Pictures logo, accompanied by Elmer Bernstein’s eerie score, to the moment the iconic theme song is cued, a smile full of fond memories plasters itself to my face. It’s an effective opening sequence that generates interest with a farcical, light-hearted air of spookiness and mystery. Everything that follows is a grandiose spectacle of comedy and special effects, enhanced by an outstanding cast that makes the film feel as fresh and original as it did when it originally premiered.
When their research grants expire and they’re promptly expelled from Columbia University as quacks, three parapsychology scientists, Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), go freelance, creating a ghost removal service and calling themselves the Ghostbusters. Along with a sardonic receptionist, Janine (Annie Potts), and a fourth member, Winston (Ernie Hudson), they purchase an abandoned firehouse and retrofit a 1959 ambulance dubbed “Ecto-1.” Before long, the guys are hired by the beautiful cellist Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), who notices some strange occurrences in her kitchen and eventually gets possessed by a supernatural force, together with her nerdy neighbour, Louis Tully (Rick Moranis). With a sudden rise in spectral activity, the team soon faces the task of saving New York City from an untold evil brought forth by Gozer the Gozerian.
Like most great comedies, “Ghostbusters” relies on the interactions and conversations between its characters, but leaves enough headroom for some great visuals that play along with the gags. The rest of the film reveals something greatly lacking in many modern comedies: smart dialogue, full of quips, cynicism, sarcasm, and all-around zaniness that feels spontaneous rather than scripted. We don’t gather a sense of jumping from one pratfall to the next or from one comedic situation to another. There’s a terrific flow in the narrative where each quirky one-liner and special effects-driven prank naturally leads to other, sometimes bigger, laughs. I can’t think of another comedy that smoothly transitions from a laser-tag show against a Demigod to a battle with a Godzilla-like marshmallow man without missing a beat.
Aykroyd and Ramis wrote a terrific script with a nice blend of comedy, fantasy, horror, and sci-fi. It plays off of each actor’s talent, welcoming improvisation, and suits their respective roles perfectly. The characters carry a believable camaraderie, as if they’ve known each other for years, and we feel comfortable around them. Though Ramis never planned on playing the role of Egon (Christopher Lloyd, Michael Keaton, and Chevy Chase were favourably considered), it is practically nigh impossible to imagine anyone else pulling it off. Winston was also written with Eddie Murphy in mind, but Hudson does such a terrific job in his low-key role that Murphy’s exuberance could only be viewed as a distraction. The team rightly allowed Murray to go all out with Venkman and establish that cynical comic persona for which he is now celebrated. With Reitman reining it all together, the spook-fest that is “Ghostbusters” still produces laughs of epic proportions.
Added to this is the use of physical props and animatronics spliced into the film, which recalls an earlier time of cutting edge technology. With a cemented trend for the use of CGI effects in modern moviemaking, there is something charming and endearing about watching some old-school special effects do their thing. Of course, this new Blu-ray version greatly exaggerates the artificiality of it all and makes the tricks-of-the-trade appear dated by comparison. But these fabricated creatures participate in the humour and become a part of the storyline, turning “Ghostbusters” into that rare exception where such effects actually compliment the film. Over the years, Slimer has evolved into the undisputed mascot of the franchise, while the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is now enjoyed as one of the funniest (and most bizarre) monsters to grace the silver screen. Even Ecto-1 is easily recognised today as the official vehicle of the Ghostbusters.
Capitalising on a popular and universal interest in sci-fi, extraterrestrials and the paranormal, “Ghostbusters” remains a timeless classic, full of memorable, understated lines and many well-known scenes. This cinematic gem is one that shouldn’t be missed… even 33 years after it’s initial release. (My Movie Rating: 4.5/5)
THE IMAGE QUALITY
For this 30th Anniversary Edition of this sci-fi/comedy classic, producers recycle the same excellent 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode from 2013’s “Mastered In 4K” re-release. With that said, my impressions remain the same, showing a significant improvement over the original 2009 release, with better clarity, resolution and a much sharper image overall.
Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the picture quality comes with a very noticeable layer of grain throughout, and some sequences, particularly low-lit interiors and nighttime scenes, are predominantly thicker than others, which only serve to give the transfer an appreciably cinematic appeal. More importantly, contrast and brightness levels are nicely balanced with crisp, bright whites and deep, rich blacks.
Facial complexions appear somewhat waxy, but flesh tones overall are warm with some very good textural details during close-ups. The colour palette also receives a pleasant upgrade, displaying nice saturation in the primaries and accurate secondary hues. Architectural details are a nice treat to look at, especially at a distance, with the weatherisation of the exterior of buildings and many of their intricacies clearly visible. There are a few scenes throughout that appear soft, but this is obviously inherent to the photography and the film’s age rather than a weakness in the video. The image also possesses an appreciable depth of field that adds to the ’80s film-like quality, making this a very welcomed high-def presentation of a classic and dearly-beloved film. (Video Rating: 4/5)
THE AUDIO QUALITY
The Ghostbusters are called into action thanks to an excellent DTS-HD MA codec. Of course, there’s really no significant difference between this and its Dolby TrueHD counterpart from 2013, so for all intents and purposes, they’re identical. Originally an 80s stereo mix, the audio is nicely maintained and balanced across all three front channels, feeling expansive and naturally spacious. The entire soundstage contains various special effects and ambient sounds with a wide dynamic range, offering decent room penetration and clarity throughout, and vocals are crystal-clear and precise in the centre. The original musical score by Elmer Bernstein and the iconic theme song by Ray Parker, Jr. enjoy a broad and sometimes engaging soundscape, with minor bleeds in the background.
As expected, surround activity is limited, with only a few atmospheric cues, like the sound of crickets or New York street traffic heard in the distance. Directional pans exhibit smooth movement between the channels for a few pleasing moments of envelopment. Expanding the sound field a bit, the lossless track becomes lively toward the third act once ghosts escape from the containment grid. The battle with Gozer fills the room with plenty of activity in the rear speakers. Low-frequency effects are quite weighty for a vintage sound mix, adding palpable depth to each time the “proton packs” are activated and used. All things considered, this is a highly-enjoyable and well-balanced presentation. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
DIGGING INTO THE SUPPLEMENTS
- Audio Commentary — Director Ivan Reitman is joined by co-writer/actor Harold Ramis and associate producer Joe Medjuck for this informative and highly entertaining commentary. Originally recorded for the 1999 DVD release, the three men clearly enjoy each other’s company and offer many fun details about the production, as well as ideas of where many of the concepts originated. While it would have been nice to offer a more recent commentary, the track is interesting for fans unfamiliar with the facts revealed here. This commentary comes highly recommended by our commentary man Brose Avard.
- Slimer Mode – Picture-In-Picture — This neat Blu-ray feature frames the film with a cool Ghostbusters border, while a Picture-In-Picture track plays interview clips featuring 2009 interviews with the cast and crew reminiscing about the production and peppered with still photographs and behind-the-scenes video. A pop-up text trivia track is also inserted into the mix, offering random facts about the film and shooting locations.
- Gallery 1988 Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary Print Collection (HD) — Essentially a still gallery of pop-culture artwork. Not bad for a once off view.
- Who You Gonna Call: A Ghostbusters Retrospective (HD, 24 min) — A nice new retrospective with Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd talking with journalist Geoff Boucher about the film’s history and genesis, the characters and cast, it’s legacy as well as sharing a variety of anecdotes and memories.
- Ecto-1: Resurrecting The Classic Car (HD, 16 minutes) — The signature vehicle is restored to its original glory for the promotion of the Ghostbusters video game in 2009. Interview clips include Dan Aykroyd and the various folks who worked on the refurbishment of the 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Ambulance.
- Ghostbusters Garage: Ecto-1 Gallery (HD, 5 minutes) — As was mentioned in the “Ecto-1: Resurrecting The Classic Car” piece, the many assorted photos taken during the restoration process are made into a slideshow with a few video clips, while Elmer Bernstein’s original score plays in the background.
- 1984 Featurette (SD, 10 minutes) — This vintage featurette always brings back memories of the ’80s. Using behind-the-scenes footage to maintain interest, this short piece includes interviews with cast and crew talking about various aspects of the filmmaking process and mentioning the use of the latest in expensive technology for the F/X team.
- Cast and Crew Featurette (SD, 11 minutes) — Originally recorded for the 1999 DVD release, this featurette presents a collection of interviews with Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis, chatting about the film and it’s impact.
- SFX Team Featurette (SD, 15 minutes) — This is a panel discussion with the original F/X team relating their experience of working on the film, while photos of the props are dispersed throughout. This is a real gem, and a must watch.
- Scene Cemetery (SD) — Collection of 10 deleted scenes in pretty rough unrestored quality.
- Alternate TV Version Takes (SD, 2 minutes) — Six alternate takes shot at the time of filming for the purpose of eventually airing the movie on television.
- Multi-Angle Explorations (SD, 6 minutes) — Broken into three sections (“Spook Central Exploding,” “She’s A Dog,” and “Crossing the Streams”), fans can enjoy watching the rough video and animation work in before-and-after fashion done to three particular scenes.
- Storyboard Comparisons (SD, 6 minutes) — Again, broken into three sections (“Slimer,” “Dogs Drag Dana,” and “Atop Spook Central”), viewers can watch the hand-drawn storyboards and compare them to the film’s final cut.
- “Ghostbusters” Music Video by Ray Parker, Jr. (SD) — Ray Parker, Jr. performs his 1984 hit song “Ghostbusters.”
- Theatrical Trailer (HD) — Interestingly, this 1984 trailer appears to have been completely re-created using the restored HD footage.
(Special Features Rating: 4.5/5)
HOME VIDEO RELEASES
1999 Collector’s Edition DVD
2005 The Ultimate Collector’s Pack (Remastered DVD with Ghostbusters II)
2009 Original Blu-ray
2013 Mastered in 4K Blu-ray
2014 30th Anniversary Blu-ray
2016 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
1984 Original Soundtrack Album / 2006 Original Soundtrack Album (with 2 bonus tracks)
2006 Original Motion Picture Score (Limited Collector’s Edition of 3000 copies)
BOOKS OF INTEREST
2015 Ghostbusters – The Ultimate Visual History by Daniel Wallace
After 33 years, “Ghostbusters” remains just as amusing and hilarious as when it first hit cinemas, full of gut-busting dialogue and many memorable scenes. Demonstrating that big-budget special effects can mesh well with laugh-out-loud comedy, the film also enjoys being one of the most successful comedy franchises ever made and continues to convert a new generation of fans with each viewing. This 30th Anniversary re-release comes with outstanding audio and video presentations that are clear upgrades to previous home releases. Accompanied with a wealth of informative and entertaining supplements, the overall package comes highly recommended. (Overall Blu-Ray Disc Rating: 4.5/5)
Adam in front of Hook & Ladder 8 in Tribeca, New York City in 2008 – the exterior location of the Ghostbusters firehouse.
Written Review by Adam Stolfo