Written by J.T. Johnson
ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: June 8, 1984
DIRECTOR: Ivan Reitman
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Lazlo Kovacs
WRITERS: Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis
MUSIC: Elmer Bernstein
Every since its release in 1984, “Ghostbusters” has acquired a devoted following that has helped the franchise not only spawn an animated series, but also a sequel, a video game, and a 2016 reboot that isn’t half bad either. It all came from the mind of one of the film’s stars. Dan Aykroyd originally conceived the idea based on his own fascination with the paranormal.
Originally, the script was perceived as a vehicle for both himself and John Belushi. They were already fellow “Saturday Night Live” alums who had achieved great success while working on “The Blues Brothers”. It was also a very different story from what ended up on the screen.
In the early stages of the script, a group of Ghostbusters travelled through time, space, and other dimensions taking on huge ghosts. In fact, this is where the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man came from. Also, the Ghostbusters used wands instead of proton packs to fight ghosts and their uniforms were more police-like in nature.
Director Ivan Reitman liked the basic idea but convinced Aykroyd to set it in a more realistic (and financially doable) world. This is when Aykroyd and filmmaker/actor Harold Ramis completely rewrote the script to what was seen on screen by millions. Originally, the roles of the Ghostbusters were written for Belushi, Eddie Murphy, and John Candy. During the rewrites, Belushi died while Murphy and Candy turned down the film.
Eventually, however, the cast was found and the film was made. The movie went on to make over $291 million and became the most successful comedy of the ‘80s.
The story is simple. Paranormal doctors Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Raymond Stantz (Aykroyd), and Egon Spengler (Ramis) have discovered that ghost are real and that they terrorize the citizens of New York. Peter immediately sees the potential financial gain should they became paranormal exterminators.
Soon, they prove to the world that they are legit and they become famous as a result. However, certain people such as EPA agent Walter Peck (William Atherton) try to stand in their way. Also, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), a woman that Peter is immediately attracted to, is being terrorized by a pretty nasty ghost that seems to reside in her fridge.
Murray, Aykroyd, and the rest of the cast were the champions of comedy during the ‘80s and it really comes as no surprise that this is one of their crowning achievements. They take the action and the drama seriously but they never forget their number one goal and that is to make people laugh. While all of the Ghostbusters are fun to watch, Murray really steals the show as Peter.
Whether it’s a clever one-liner or being the Ghostbusters’ P.R. man with the rest of the world like Peck, Murray is always in top comedic form. Even with all of the other amazing material to be found in the movie, Murray is worth watching it alone.
The effects and the ghosts that they make are also something to behold, even 26 years after the film has been released. There is a huge variety of ghosts to find in the film, from the more humorous Slimer to the more serious Gozer, they are all fun to see and to see how the Ghostbusters will take them down. It should be noted at this point that Aykroyd has since revealed that to him, he created Slimer to pay homage to his late friend, Belushi.
Reitman is one of the few directors in the ‘80s that was able to find a decent balance between the story and the effects. He uses special-effects only to enhance the story, not take it over. He also has the good sense to know that he has a real-life all-star cast that is more than capable of taking on this type of movie.
While it did not turn out the way Aykroyd originally envisioned it, “Ghostbusters” is one of the classics that will be around for a really long time. New generations continue to discover what has to be one of the greatest comedies ever made.