Filmsite Movie 

Ghostbusters (1984)
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Ghostbusters (1984) is director Ivan Reitman's sci-fi fantasy comedy regarding the paranormal. It told about a trio of eccentric parapsychologists called upon to investigate hauntings in various NYC locations. Although the title screen displayed the film's title as two words: "Ghost Busters," in almost all other instances, the film's title was displayed as one word.

Originally, the film's script noted the film's title to be "Ghost Smashers." Co-writers Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis designed the film to take advantage of the talents of other Saturday Night Live (SNL) cast members, including John Belushi (who died before the film's making of a drug overdose in March of 1982) and Bill Murray. Aykroyd had been a cast member himself from 1975-1979 on SNL, and took one of the major film roles. Although scripted, the film was noted for numerous ad-libs and script modifications.

Columbia Pictures took a risk with the supernatural sci-fi comedy involving the paranormal by financing the film's extensive special effects, involving techniques such as miniatures, stop-motion, puppetry, rotoscoping, and cel animation. Ghostbusters received two Academy Award nominations, without any wins: Best Visual Effects and Best Original Song ("Ghostbusters") - it lost respectively to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called To Say I Love You" in The Woman in Red (1984).

It featured the catchy theme tune: "Who ya gonna call? - Ghostbusters!" and the film's logo: a red-lined "No Ghosts" sign. Its tagline was: "They're Here to Save the World." The catchy title song "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker, Jr. hit the top of the pop singles chart by the end of the summer of 1984. Films in the 1980s that paid homage to 'Ghostbusters' included Howard the Duck (1986), Vibes (1988), and Second Sight (1989), and later R.I.P.D. (2013).

The film competed against Beverly Hills Cop (1984) (with a total of $234.8 million) and Gremlins (1984) (with a total of $148.2 million), and was the # 2 comedy hit of the year (at $229.2 million), but after its re-release in 1985, it became the # 1 highest-grossing box-office (domestic) film of 1984. The film earned box-office success with $243.6 million (domestic) and $296.6 million (worldwide) on a budget of $30 million. It was the highest-grossing comedy of all-time, until being surpassed a few years later by Home Alone (1990) at $285.8 million (domestic).

Its financial windfall helped to create a widespread, multimedia franchise (with three follow-up features films), including:

  • The Real Ghostbusters (1986), a spin-off/sequel, an animated TV series (from 1986-1991)
  • Ghostbusters II (1989), a feature-film sequel; again produced by director Ivan Reitman and co-scripted by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis
  • Extreme Ghostbusters (1997), a second animated series for one season in 1997, a follow-up to the 1986-1991 animated TV series for one season
  • Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016), a rebooted version of the 1984 film, directed by Paul Feig and written by Feig and Katie Dippold, starring four females as the parapsychologists (Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones)
  • Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), a second sequel to the 1984 film, directed by Jason Reitman (Ivan Reitman's son) and co-scripted with Gil Kenan

There were also several comic-books related to the film, and Atari’s 2009 video-game release, Ghostbusters: The Video Game.

Plot Synopsis

The Pre-Title Screen Prologue:

The film opened with an exterior view of the New York Public Library (on Fifth Avenue in NYC in Manhattan). In the library's reading room, librarian employee Alice (Alice Drummond) was gathering books and pushing a cart. After heading downstairs into a more remote and empty basement area of the library, as she was placing a book onto a shelf, she was oblivious to levitating books floating and changing places in the aisle's stacks. She was terrorized by an invisible and unseen ghost behind her who slid open the card catalogue shelves situated along a wall and tossed the contents of the drawers into the air as she walked along. Frightened and scared, she fled screaming from the room.

There were no opening credits for this film, other than the title screen (with the Ghostbusters logo), with a view of the exterior of Columbia University in New York City.

Three Parapsychologists at Columbia University:

In Weaver Hall in the Department of Psychology at Columbia University, behind the frosted glass door of the Paranormal Studies laboratory, Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) was conducting an ESP test inside an examination room. The door to the room had a bright red graffiti marking: "Venkman Burn in Hell," and there was a door-hook placard: "Maid please make up this room as soon as possible." It also noted that the lab was shared by three colleagues: Dr. Venkman, Dr. Raymond "Ray" Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis).

Two paid student volunteers were hooked up to electrodes: a dweebish male (Steven Tash) and a cute female (Jennifer Runyon). Venkman was alternatingly questioning the students to correctly identify symbols on 80 cards during a psychological test. He always flirtatiously accepted whatever answer the female provided: ("Incredible! Five for five. You can't see these, can you?...You're not cheating me, are you?"), but adminstered electrical shocks to her male counterpart for every response, even though some of his answers were correct. After being shocked too many times, the pissed-off male student threatened to depart ("I'm getting a little tired of this!...What are you trying to prove here anyway?"), ripped off his electrodes, refused his $5.00 payment, and slammed the door as he left.

His colleague Dr. Stantz frantically entered the room and interrupted Venkman, who was exasperated and wanted to continue flirting with the female student ("I'm right in the middle of something, Ray"). Ray told Venkman about the ghost-sighting at the main branch of the NY Public Library:

Ten people witnessed a free floating, full torso, vaporous apparition. It blew books off shelves from twenty feet away and scared the socks off some poor librarian!

Ray insisted that Venkman join him to leave immediately, and informed him that a third parapsychologist co-worker Dr. Spengler was already checking out the situation with his Psychokinetic Energy Meter (PKE): "Spengler went down there and took PKE valances. Went right off the top of the scale. Buried the needle!" Before leaving, Venkman suggested an 8 o'clock date with the female student, and congratulated her: "You are a legitimate phenomenon." .

Venkman was perturbed as the two proceeded into the NY Public Library: "As a friend I have to tell you: you've finally gone round the bend on this ghost business." In the Reading Room of the library surrounded by bookshelves, they met up with Spengler under a table with a stethescope, who reported: "This is very big. There is definitely something here." They met up with the library administrator Roger Delacorte (John Rothman), and were led to a Delacorte's small side office to question the freaked-out elderly librarian lying on a table. Venkman asked her a series of "standard" but unrelated questions about her mental, physical, and psychological health:

  • Have you or any member of your family ever been diagnosed as schizophrenic, mentally incompetent?
  • Are you habitually using drugs, stimulants, alcohol?
  • Are you, Alice, menstruating right now?

When Delacorte doubted his line of questioning, Venkman barked at him: "Back off, man. I'm a scientist."

The First Scary Encounter With A Paranormal Ghost:

They proceeded down to the basement where the librarian had originally seen the "moving" ghost, where Ray noticed suspiciously a tall, semi-symmetrical stack of books from the floor to the ceiling: "Symmetrical book stacking just like the Philadelphia mass turbulence of 1947." Venkman agreed: "No human being would stack books like this." The trio also found that some of the card catalogue drawers had been "slimed" with white ectoplasmic residue, and collected a gooey sample. The group also took further PKE readings that were gaining in strength, and narrowly escaped a falling bookcase.

And then, they encountered the Library Ghost (Ruth Oliver) (aka The Grey Lady) for the first time - the free-floating, transparent, purplish apparition was in the form of an elderly lady in the library who was reading a book. Ray calmly noted: "A full torso apparition, and it's real."

Uncertain about what to do, the three crept toward the frightening form as Venkman and Ray suggested: "We've got to make contact. One of us should actually try to speak to her." Venkman reluctantly volunteered and approached the figure, as if he was greeting her in a bar: "Hello, I'm Peter. Where are you from - originally?" The Gray-haired Lady Ghost turned and shushed him, with her finger to her lips ("Ssh!"). When that didn't work, Ray confidently decided to take charge with a new plan. As they stealthily approached the ghost as a group, Ray yelled: "Stay close. Do exactly as I say. Get ready, ready, get her!"

Suddenly, the library worker turned towards them, and was transformed through mutation into a screaming, ghoulish and skeletal spectral hag (with effective special effects) - a great scare! They screamed and frantically fled from the library exit doors, passing by and ignoring Delacorte's question ("Did you see it? What was it?") as they hurriedly exited and yelled back: "We'll get back to you!" The threesome enthusiastically discussed the real possibility of finally catching a ghost. Spengler declared that due to his findings, they could actually catch a ghost: "I think we have an excellent chance of actually catching a ghost and holding it indefinitely", while Ray exclaimed: "If this ionization rate is constant for all ectoplasmic entities, we could really bust some heads!"

The Establishment of Their Own Business - "GHOSTBUSTERS":

When the unorthodox group of three eccentric Columbia University parapsychologist research professors returned to their offices at the university, Dean Yeager (Jordan Charney) arrived with movers to inform them that their work's funding had been terminated, and the threesome group would need to vacate their offices and relocate off-campus immediately: ("The board of regents has decided to terminate your grant. You are to vacate these premises immediately"). The Dean explained that they had been defrocked (fired) from their paranormal-focused research. When Venkman protested, the Dean soundly dismissed his "sloppy," highly-questionable and suspect academic work, theories, and methods:

Dr. Venkman, we believe that the purpose of science is to serve mankind. You, however, seem to regard science as some kind of dodge or hustle. Your theories are the worst kind of popular tripe, your methods are sloppy and your conclusions are highly questionable. You are a poor scientist, Dr. Venkman.

After being tossed out, the trio were loitering outside on-campus in the open quad, where Venkman was drinking from a whiskey bottle. Ray felt dismayed and concerned about their future prospects as reputable academicians, and warned them about the real-world: "This is a major disgrace. Forget MIT or Stanford, now. They wouldn't touch us with a ten-meter cattle-prod....Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities. We didn't have to produce anything! You've never been out of college. You don't know what it's like out there. I've worked in the private sector. They expect results."

Venkman proposed that their misfortune could be turned into an opportunity:

For whatever reasons, Ray, call it fate. Call it luck. Call it karma. I believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that we were destined to get thrown out of this dump...To go into business for ourselves.

He suggested that they go into the offbeat business on their own as paranormal, supernatural exterminators. They would establish the world's first company dedicated to investigating paranormal phenomenon, capturing, and eliminating poltergeists, spirits, ghosts, and other haunts. But first they would have to develop an expensive eco-containment system. After sharing swigs from Venkman's whiskey bottle, Ray was persuaded to provide start-up capital for their new enterprise by mortgaging his childhood's ancestral home. Ray was aghast at having been talked into a mortgage loan (at 19%) ("You didn't even bargain with the guy!") that Venkman acquired from the Manhattan City Bank, but Venkman was optimistic:

We are on the threshold of establishing THE indispensable defense science of the next decade. Professional paranormal investigations and eliminations. The franchise rights alone will make us rich beyond our wildest dreams.

A real estate agent (Rhoda Gemignani) led the group through Hook and Ladder No. 8 - an almost-condemned, abandoned, unused, and dilapidated "fixer-upper" firehouse. When asked for his opinion, Spengler was worried about the building's condition - it suffered from metal fatigue and substandard electrical wiring - and its location was in a crime-infested neighborhood ("demilitarized zone"). However, Ray was enthusiastic about the firehouse's pole-slide:

Does this pole still work? Wow! This place is great! When can we move in? You've gotta try this pole!

He encouraged them to immediately move in that evening, to "try it out." Venkman spoke for the group as he told the agent, simply: "I think we'll take it." They would use the funds to purchase and set up their new headquarters and services.

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