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Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Matinee: Ghostbusters

Nineteen-eighty-four was a fantastic year in the world of film. Well, at least it was in my humble opinion.

If I could list some of my favourite movies from the entire decade known as the 1980s, I reckon that quite a few of them would come from 1984. The Terminator, for instance. Yep, that was '84. So was Sixteen Candles and Gremlins. That's three examples right there.

Therefore, you're probably going to assume that this week's edition of our Monday Matinee will involves a film that was released in the year 1984. Well, you're absolutely correct on that one.

And seeing as how Halloween is just one week away from today, I reckon that I should try to come up with an appropriate movie to discuss. And I believe that I have found one.

And what better way to kick off the discussion by throwing in a few leftovers from the Sunday Jukebox? Yesterday, I talked about Halloween songs, and how there just wasn't enough airplay for them when the Halloween season did come around. I also talked about DTV, the Disney version of MTV. If memory serves me, I believe that the following song was featured in the 1987 DTV Halloween special. I can't be sure though. At any rate, here it is in all its glory.

ARTIST: Ray Parker Jr.
SONG: Ghostbusters
ALBUM: Ghostbusters Official Soundtrack Album
DATE RELEASED: June 7, 1984

How odd that the few Halloween songs that were released on the charts have made it to number one? Well, at least the two examples I found anyway.

At any rate, the song became one of Ray Parker Jr's biggest hits (even netting him an Academy Award nomination for best original song), and the film that it appeared in is the subject of today's blog.

As it happens, I think the first time that I attempted (key word attempted) to watch Ghostbusters was on television. I want to say that this was around 1987, as it usually takes about two to three years for movies to debut on network television. I really wanted to see this movie, as both my sisters were old enough to see it at the old Capitol Theater in town, and both of them had the Ghostbusters movie posters and T-shirts. I mean, they were 18 and 12 at the time the film was released, so I guess it was only natural.

Me being only three at the time of the film's release, I obviously had to wait to see it.

When the listings for the Friday night movie showed Ghostbusters playing on television, I was excited and couldn't wait to see it. I even made a little party for one surrounding it. Had gotten Mom to pop me some popcorn, and then we went to the store to buy a huge bottle of A&W Root Beer, and I waited to sit down and watch the movie.

And, I made it about five minutes before getting scared and running away.

All it took was the opening scene of the library card catalogs spitting cards all over the place and the librarian screeching that oh so blood-curdling scream that did it to me. There was no way that I was going to watch THAT movie!

But, then again, I was six. A balloon popping would have scared me. Hell, at 30, a balloon popping STILL scares me. But that was many entries ago...

The point is that while the first attempt at watching the movie didn't go so well, there was still a part of me that wanted to tune in so I could see what happened after the first five minutes of the movie. So, the very next year, the movie aired again...this time on a different network. And the second time around, it didn't seem so scary. I actually kind of liked it (even though some of the grown-up humour I didn't really get).

So, I guess that's our life lesson...don't let fear control what you do. You may miss out on a rather exciting and rewarding experience.

Or, in my case, a classic film.

And what a film Ghostbusters was too. The film opened up nationwide just one day after Ray Parker Jr. released the song Ghostbusters, on June 8, 1984. It starred Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Eddie Hudson, Rick Moranis, and Annie Potts. The film ended up making almost $230 million dollars at the box office during the summer of 1984, making it the 32nd highest grossing film of all time (if you converted the amount of money it made into 2011 dollars, it would surpass $500 million dollars in profits!)

The film was so successful that a sequel was made in 1989 with all of the original cast members. It is also rumoured that a third sequel is supposed to be coming in 2012, though details of that news are sketchy at this time. I imagine as we get closer to the date, more info will be leaked out, if of course this project gets off the ground.

The original film though was something very special. Most of you who have seen the movie know what it's about. Three parapsychologists named Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) have lost their positions teaching at Columbia University in New York City. As a way to earn a living, they rent out an abandoned fire house and open up a paranormal exterminator service designed to exterminate ghosts from the places they are haunting. They dub themselves the Ghostbusters.

After a rocky start, the trio are summoned to the Sedgewick Hotel to investigate a report that a ghost is haunting. 

After capturing the first ghost (a blobbish green ghost by the name of Slimer) and dropping him off at a containment unit located in the basement of the office, more paranormal activity seems to take place in various areas of New York City. While the Ghostbusters become celebrities because of their efforts to try and contain the paranormal activity, they find themselves become more and more burdened. With assistance from their secretary Janine (Annie Potts), a fourth Ghostbuster, Winston Zeddemore (Eddie Hudson) is hired.

The Ghostbusters are soon requested for a job by a woman named Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), who lives in the apartment building located at 55 Central Park West. The building is being haunted by a demonic spirit called Zuul. Zuul is a demigod, worshipped as a servant to Gozer the Gozerian, a Sumerian shape-changer.

Try saying that tongue twister three times fast!

Anyway, Peter Venkman is interested in taking on this case, if for no other reason being that he became quite smitten with Dana. Of course, Venkman also had to deal with some competition for her affections courtesy of the bookish looking Louis Tully (Rick Moranis). While the team of Ghostbusters investigate the building, both Dana and Louis are possessed by a duo of demons (Zuul and Vinz 'The Keymaster' Clortho respectively), speaking of the coming of Gozer, whose mission is to destroy everything in his path. The Ghostbusters attempt to come up with a plan to stop this from happening, by doing their best to keep Louis and Dana separated so the two demons do not join forces.

However, when fate brings a visit by EPA worker Walter Peck (William Atherton), it spells doom for the Ghostbusters plan. Peck immediately arrests the Ghostbusters on the charge of keeping dangerous chemicals stashed away in Ghostbuster headquarters, and then does something really stupid. He orders the ghost containment chambers to be decontaminated, sending Slimer and all the other ghosts the group had captured back out onto the streets of New York City to cause mischief. Even worse, with the Ghostbusters being held in custody, there was nobody stopping the possessed Dana and Louis from joining together to summon Gozer.

Somehow, the Ghostbusters manage to secure the blueprints of 55 Central Park West, and learn that the building was designed by a mad scientist named Ivo Shandor. He designed the building in such a way that it would make it easy for Gozer to be summoned back to the land of the living. His reasoning was that it would bring about the end of the world, as he had deemed humanity too sick to go on living.

A rather bizarre claim, but still serious enough for the Ghostbusters to want to stop Gozer from coming back to cause massive destruction. Of course, they also had to deal with recapturing all of the ghosts that Peck and his team released back out onto the scared citizens of New York.

And when Gozer does make an appearance towards the end of the movie, it is in the form of a beautiful woman. The team briefly manages to subdue Gozer, but Gozer warns that the destructor will follow, taking on the form that is chosen by the team. Peter immediately tells everyone to clear their minds and not think of anything, but somehow Ray ends up not hearing this, and as a result, the destructor takes on this form.

A gigantic marshmallow man by the name of Stay-Puft. And, yes, I did have a Stay-Puft marshmallow man action figure. And yes, I wish I still had it.

So, can our heroes defeat Gozer and turn the Stay-Puft marshmallow man into one gigantic S'more? Will Dana and Louis ever be freed from possession? Will Slimer finally find a home? Will Janine become a designing woman in the near future?

Well, what, you expect me to tell you the ending? Watch it yourself!

What I can tell you is a few pieces of trivia about the movie Ghostbusters, and also talk about some possible actors who could have gotten parts on the movie, and how very different the movie could have been.

Did you know that the movie spun-off an animated series on ABC? It's true. And Slimer was actually a good guy in this series. You may also recognize Maurice LaMarche and the late Lorenzo Music as voice actors in this series.

Did you know that the movie Ghostbusters was initially supposed to have John Belushi as one of its stars? As we all know, it was never meant to be, as Belushi died in 1982. But, it is rumoured that the character of Slimer was loosely designed after Belushi.

Did you know that the original title for the movie was supposed to be Ghostsmashers? And that the original concept was supposed to have been the team travelling through time and space to fight ghosts? That would have made for a different kind of movie!

Did you know that the screenplay was written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis? The original screenplay had to be rewritten after director Ivan Reitman loved the concept but simply didn't have the budget to pull off such a film.

Did you know that John Candy was the first choice to play Louis Tully? It's true. John Candy was unable to commit to the role, so Rick Moranis got the part.

Did you know that Eddie Murphy was the first choice to play Winston Zeddemore? Had Murphy gotten the part, Winston Zeddemore would have accompanied the group to the hotel scenes instead of Peter Venkman, thus Winston would have gotten slimed instead. The reason why Murphy didn't take the role? He had agreed to star in another movie project. The movie? Beverly Hills Cop.

Did you know that Harold Ramis didn't want to act in the film? Ramis was content just to co-write the screenplay. However, the casting directors couldn't find a suitable actor to play Egon Spengler, so Ramis decided to play Egon, as he had created the character himself.

Did you know that John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Walken, Michael Keaton, Chevy Chase, and Christopher Lloyd were all at one time considered for the role of Egon Spengler before Ramis got the part?

Did you know that when the film was test screened, half of the ghostly effects were not yet ready at the time? Despite this, the audience was very enthusiastic over the film anyway, and by the June 8 release, the special effects had been completed.

Did you know that a theater in California had the first screening of Ghostbusters one day before the film was officially released to the public on June 7, 1984?

Did you know that when the movie was released on laserdisc format that director Ivan Reitman HATED it? He said that the light levels on the disc was so bright, you could see all the matte lines. Thankfully by the time the DVD was released, these problems had been fixed.

Did you know that the movie Ghostbusters was the first film to be ever released on a USB flashdrive?

Did you know that beginning October 13, 2011, select theaters will be showing Ghostbusters back on the big screen for about two weeks? As of this writing, if you are one of the lucky cities that is taking advantage of this screening, you still have time to see it!

Did you know that legal problems almost caused the film to have to change the name of the title? Back in 1975, a Filmation cartoon series called Ghostbusters starring Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker was produced (I have seen it, and it has nothing to do with the movie, as one of the characters is a giant ape) with the title Ghostbusters, and the studio was forced to come up with alternate names should a lawsuit be launched. But when the extras involved with filming the final scenes kept chanting 'Ghostbusters!', the studio was forced to buy the rights for the name.

So, that's Ghostbusters. One of my favourite films of the 1980s, and a film that taught me that fears should be confronted. Otherwise you may miss out on a great experience down the road.

I ain't afraid of no ghosts!

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