15. Ghostbusters (1984)

Director: Ivan Reitman

Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, William Atherton, Ernie Hudson

Let’s get this out of the way right now: I do not believe in ghosts. But what is a ghost, exactly? There seem to be many different variations out there. Some are malicious spooks that only wish to terrorize the living. Some seem to wander the Earth unaware/unable to admit that they’re dead. Others have a wrong that was done to them which they are trying to make public knowledge. About the only type of ghost I could say I have some small belief in is the metaphorical kind. I believe that, because of our memories, a small trace is left behind of the people who once graced a particular location with their presence. In this way, I can go to these familiar places and feel… odd… when I take a look around, especially in my old schools. Whatever the reason for a ghost’s presence among the living, I would be the character known as ‘the skeptic.’

There are several skeptics in “Ghostbusters.” One of them early on is Peter Venkman (Bill Murray). He’s a scientist at NYU, as are friends Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis). Ray and Egon want to prove the existence of and study the paranormal, whereas Peter just wants to use his position to pick up college girls. Although the Dean of the University (who finds their theories preposterous) kicks them off campus, an incident at a library involving a “full-torso apparition” changes everything for them. Now, the three men are ready to go into the business of catching ghosts. Along the way, a very annoying skeptic in the form of EPA representative Walter Peck (William Atherton) impedes their path. He thinks the Ghostbusters are dangerous, and wants their facility shut down. Seriously, has William Atherton ever played a character that didn’t make you instantly hate him?

One of the charming aspects of “Ghostbusters” is Peter Venkman’s hilarious repeated attempts to secure a date with his first client, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver). I think probably my favorite scene of the movie, other than the apocalypse-averting climax, has to be the scene where Dana brings Peter over to her apartment to check things out. You know, to make sure the ghosts aren’t still hanging around. Try not to break up when you hear Peter’s response to Dana’s statement about how nothing ever happened in the bedroom. I’ll bet you can’t do it. For me, “Ghostbusters” represents Bill Murray at his best.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw “Ghostbusters.” It was 1987, and I was five years old. That day, my family and I attended someone’s wedding (though if you asked me their names or what relation the bride/groom were to us, I couldn’t tell you), but all I could think about was catching “Ghostbusters” on ABC’s Sunday Night Movie. Remember when ABC regularly showed movies pretty much any night of the week? That Christmas, I got the full set of Ghostbusters action figures …which were a tie-in not with the movie but the cartoon, but I didn’t care. I still have them in a box somewhere to this day. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was always my favorite.

The cast for “Ghostbusters” almost ended up looking quite different, and yet I can see how the actors who were the original choices of writers Aykroyd and Ramis might have worked out well. John Belushi was to be Peter Venkman, however he died in 1982 before the project could get underway. The role of Winston Zeddemore was to have gone to Eddie Murphy, and Louis Tulley was to have been played by John Candy, but both turned the movie down. I can definitely see Murphy and Candy working out quite well, but I’m happy with what Ernie Hudson and Rick Moranis were able to do with those characters.

Though I was too young to see this one theatrically, I did get the chance to see “Ghostbusters 2” with my mother in the summer of 1989. A third movie has been teased ever since, but creative differences, particularly on Murray’s part, combined with the falling out between Murray and Ramis, kept that idea on the shelf. At this point, a remake is more likely, and that’s not a prospect that appeals to me, either. Since Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis seem the only original cast members interested in continuing the franchise on the big screen, maybe they could do one where Ray and Egon hire youthful ghost hunters as their own replacements, so that it would be both a sequel and a reboot.

In the meantime, the original “Ghostbusters” is here to stay, ready to entertain a whole new generation who either want to believe in ghosts or just want to laugh at their expense.

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Comments
  1. shnsjolin says:

    This is a family favorite at our house. It gets played several times a year. We were also lucky enough to catch it on the big screen when it played at the Alamo Drafthouse.

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