The original “Ghostbusters” movie hit theaters June 8, 1984. In preparation for the female-led remake, which opens July 15, take a look at Newsday's three-star review of the first film.
Summer movies are like amusement park rides. Let’s say you’ve already had your adrenaline fix with the latest Indiana Jones roller coaster ride, and what you’re looking for now is a good laugh. Where will you find it? At “Ghostbusters,” this season’s most enjoyable movie fun house. “Ghostbusters” is like romping through Disneyland’s haunted house with Bill Murray.
Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis play investigators of psychic phenomena in “Ghostbusters.” The movie begins with the ignominious finish of the trio’s career as college professors. They are evicted from the Columbia University campus as charlatans. To earn a living, they go into the business of catching ghosts for a fee. In their first TV ad, they announce that their company, Ghostbusters, is dedicated to “serving New York’s supernatural elimination needs.”
Their combination workshop/office/home in lower Manhattan is an adolescent fantasy, like Batman’s hideaway. They’ve got a rebuilt ambulance parked on the garage level. To answer emergency calls, they slide down a pole from the living quarters. On their first rush job, they zip over to a swank hotel whose 12th floor is haunted. They wear gray paramilitary uniforms. They carry on their backs power packs that resemble flamethrowers. Remember, cautions Ramis, the team’s technical wizard, “Each of us is wearing an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on our back.”
Cornering a ghostly green blob in a hotel banquet room, the ghostbusters destroy crystal chandeliers, walls and furniture with errant blasts of their ghost-pacifying ray guns. When a direct hit eventually stuns the ghost, it is vacuumed into a prison invented by chief gadgeteer Ramis — an “ecto-containment system” storage box.
This line of work, they discover, is not without its unique occupational hazards. On his initial encounter with the ghost in the hotel corridor, Murray is spritzed with green residue. “Yuk,” whines Murray, “He slimed me. I feel so funky.” Later, plastered head to foot with the white gooey remains of an exploded 17-story-tall marshmallow man, Ramis moans: “I feel like the floor of a taxicab.”
The comic tone of “Ghostbusters” is blasé. Murray, who is part humbug and part Everyman, is inconvenienced more than awed by ghosts and demons.
One night all hell breaks loose, and the gargoyles on the ledge of a Central Park West apartment house come to life. Hands sprout from her easy chair and grab Sigourney Weaver. Terrified and captive, she is pulled in the chair across her living room by an invisible force into the inferno of her kitchen. It has become a blindingly bright maw of hell, like the kid’s bedroom closet in “Poltergeist.”
Murray, who has been trying unsuccessfully to make time with Weaver, notices changes in her when he shows up for their official first date. In a basso rumble, she explains she is the “keeper of the gate” for a Sumerian demigod whose arrival is expected any moment. Murray backs away. “I make it a rule never to get involved with possessed people.” She grabs him and writhes against him. He weakens. “Actually,” he says, “it’s more of a guideline than a rule.” In her bed, however, she levitates several feet above the mattress while Murray’s eyebrows rise in astonishment up his forehead until they bump into his widow’s peak. Time to depart.
Written by Aykroyd and Ramis, produced and directed by Ivan Reitman, “Ghostbusters” has state-of-the-art visual effects by Richard Edlund. The illusions are realistic. They ought to be, in a movie that cost $30 million. Yet, rather than turning its realistic array of monsters — ordinary ghosts and immortal demons invading through a time warp — against the audience, “Ghostbusters” plays them strictly for comic relief. Their purpose is to provide a believable threat to be overcome by Murray and friends.
“Ghostbusters” works as comic collaboration. Murray is the vocal, outrageous personality. Aykroyd and Ramis play it fairly straight. Murray is a hoot, our representative, refusing to take anything seriously, deflating pomposity. In the end, he gets the girl, naturally, because a truly funny person is irresistible.