Ghostbusters, the paranormal, phenomenal spook comedy, which became one of the biggest successes and comedies of all time and spawned a rabid cult of fans in its wake, celebrates its 30th anniversary this week.
Directed by Ivan Reitman, and starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and the late Harold Ramis (the latter two co-wrote the script), Ghostbusters seemed to be the vehicle that crystallized everything about all of them. They had all worked together before — Murray and Aykroyd on SNL of course; Murray and Ramis in the army comedy Stripes, which was directed by Reitman, who Murray had also worked with on the misfits-are-in-charge of the Summer Camp comedy Meatballs — but the synergy that came on the screen with Ghostbusters was wholly apparent to all and, ultimately, became a film that spanned generations, and it was and is, a film that was for everyone and pandered to no one.
Still mildly utilizing the template that was set forth in Animal House six years prior, Ghostbusters has some of that film’s out-and-out comedy, but its true benchmark is how its narrative (an unexplained rash of paranormal activity has infiltrated the teeming streets of Manhattan, New York City), which borderlines on fun silliness for the most part, is able to nicely co-exist with Richard Edlund’s special effects, which wisely, were played straight, thus, packing visual and emotional punches, and are tailor made to essentially scare the crap out of the viewer when viewing them (witness the near the beginning scene in the film with the ghost librarian). The contrast is pitch perfect, slapstick, and witty one-liners, which are mainly spouted by Murray, who plays his character Peter Venkman (in a role originally written for John Belushi, who died during the screenwriting) like he’s the apex of all the slick, oily charming unkempt lovable schlubs he’d played prior to this and the result is the perfect side-by-side tandem when the supernatural poltergeist sequences come to play and above all, is one of the main reasons for the film’s success and staying power. In a way, there hadn’t been such a successful marriage of story, comedy, and shocks and thrills for a movie-going audience since legendary comedy duo Abbott and Costello met Frankenstein and most of the other Universal Studios’ famous monsters on screen back in 1948.
And those one-liners. The film is chock full of endlessly quotable dialogue — “The Flowers are Still Standing,” “This man has no dick,” “It’s the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man,” “How is Elvis and have you seen him lately?,” “He Slimed Me,” “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass,” and so on and so on, a list of all of them could fill probably an entire volume, and I’m sure there are websites out there where someone has done just that. The cult of the film has become its own living, breathing beast, as first generation and later generation fans still don those complicated looking but always cool costumes that the Ghostbusters wore, replete with those huge proton packs on the back at any given Comic-Con. And then there’s the Ghostbusters car itself (a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor ambulance) with its Ecto-1 license plate which still pops up in full-size replica versions all over the country. And, even though all the principals involved with the film were established by the time they made this picture, they were all put over the top with Ghostbusters. The success of the movie (and its memorable theme song, with its “Who You Gonna Call?” refrain, sung and penned by Ray Parker Jr.) was of Star Wars and Jaws heights, as astronomical amounts of money poured in from all over the globe, which also benefited from aggressive cross promotion with toys, posters, and especially T-shirts, (the most successful being a black one which sported the now famous and iconic “No Ghost” logo) something which for sure must have truly surprised all involved.
The staying power of Ghostbusters is a massive force that spreads across genres and one that had the one-two punch of being successful as a comedy and as a supernatural film; a horror film even. That kind of blending of creativity usually winds up with the reverse effect, but back in 1984 and to this day, the out-of-the-box blockbuster status of Ghostbusters and its effect on the industry and most importantly its fan base, which still stretches into the millions as each new generation embodies the picture like the previous one did, will never let up, whether it’s the 30th anniversary of the picture or the 300th. It just goes to show, that we ain’t ‘fraid of no ghosts. Happy Anniversary, Ghostbusters!