Sci-Fi Lady Nerds turns one this week and as such, we’re going to be having a blogging bonanza blow-out, by celebrating each day with at least one blog post. Kicking things off, I’m going to talk about one of the most beloved Science Fiction films of all time, nay, one of the most beloved franchises of all time: Ghostbusters. I’ve been trying to write about this particular franchise since we started the blog a year ago, but every time I’ve tried up until now I just get too excited or feel that I haven’t done justice to the film, or my childhood… But, since this is a special occasion, I’ve finally decided that the time to hesitate is through. Let us dispense with fear and performance anxiety and finally bust this review out!
Before we begin our wonderful trip down memory lane however, I am going to address the elephant in the room, by bringing up the much maligned Ghostbusters reboot, which has just hit cinemas here in Australia and internationally. I’m one of those people that had their knickers in a twist right from the moment I heard they were considering another instalment. That’s right, long before talk of a reboot, long before the death of Harold Ramis, long before Bill Murray said he wanted nothing to do with it, long before some twit thought it would be good to make it a ‘girl leads’ picture, I was already livid. I’ve seen far too many classics get sullied with a remake or a reboot or a far too belated sequel (ahem, Lost Boys) and the thought of this going down the same way makes me feel like a piece of my childhood has died. It wouldn’t have matter who they had cast or how they approached it, I would have hated any new attempt to add to this rich and perfect franchise. And here is why:
Some things, I feel, come along at precisely the right time and thus are perfect at the time of their making and need never be revisited or revived or rebooted. They remain ageless and relevant. The Back to the Future franchise is one of these examples. Who could ever replace Marty McFly, Doc Brown or Biff Tannen? No one. Can you imagine if some bright spark suggested trying it? Can you now imagine if they then said ‘I know, let’s not only remake it, let’s make Marty, Doc and Biff women!‘ Your soul would just shrivel up and die a bit inside.(That would never happen of course, because Robert Zemeckis was smart enough not to sell the rights to Back to the Future and also because it is a dumb, dumb, dumb fucking idea. Ghostbusters is (or was) in exactly the same category.. I’m filthy that modern studio executives have taken it upon themselves to touch such a cultural and generation cornerstone film. I’m filthy that they’ve substituted the male cast with female leads (because sisters are doing it for themselves, or chicks can be funny too, or whatever) and I am filthy that Chris Hemsworth has allowed himself to be used as eye candy and in doing so, has shamed the country of his birth. I love you Hemsy, but you’ve shamed us with your involvement in this. Oh shit, and then there is the God-awful new rendition of the theme song… maybe we better just stick with the films… Suffice to say, I won’t be heading to the cinema to see the new instalment and I won’t be giving it any more time on this blog (even if it turns out the be the most amazing film of all time – which it won’t). As far as I am concerned, it is like The Mummy Returns; it never happened, it doesn’t exist.
Okay, now that that unpleasantness is behind us, lets get back to what we came here for.
Any readers out there who are familiar with the comical workings of Dan Aykroyd will be familiar with the way he writes scripts. That is to say that he writes tomes and then gives them to studio executives/co-writers/friends to whittle down into something that will fit into the space of a single feature film. We saw this with The Blues Brothers and again with Blues Brothers 2000 (another damn fine example of why generational touchstones should be left alone even if you do have John Goodman signed up to star. I love you John, but damn it, you are NO JOHN BELUSHI and I love you too, Dan, but damn it, you NEED John B for The Blues Brothers. Even a first class ring in like John Goodman just will not do, we accept only the genuine article). Ghostbusters was no exception. Aykroyd pretty much wrote a 200 page treatment and then Harold Ramis whittled it back to what we have on film today. Luckily, Ramis was just the kind of genius that knew what to cut and what to keep in order to make this work. Maybe that’s why he is so good as Egon and maybe that’s why he was a perfect choice to helm the writing of the sequel (but we’ll get to Ghostbusters II in the fullness of time).
I don’t know your thoughts, but scientists have never been cooler than they are in Ghostbusters and neither has science or parapsychology. In fact, it was purely because of this film and my own childhood dream of becoming a Ghostbuster that I took a short course in parapsychology. Of course the course itself was an interwebs con-job and the ‘diploma’ isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, but the point is, I have that qualification now. I’ve taken the first step towards being cool.Now, I just need to find 2 like-minded paranormal enthusiasts and I might be on the way to getting somewhere.
This is also one of those rare films where it is pretty difficult not to love every member of the cast in equal measure. I appreciate Egon for his Twinkie addiction and wanting to drill a hole in his head. I love Ray for his love of the fire pole, I love Ernie for his connection between Revelation and the events unfolding in New York City during the time the film is set. Okay… I even love Louis a little bit and Janine for her feisty style. Maybe I can also thank the comedic timing and confidence of Dr. Venkman for the fact that I’ve always had a thing for slightly unattractive, slightly nerdy men or any man that has the ability to make me laugh with his slightly predatory, though well-intentioned humour. I also still have a major girl-crush on the possessed version of Dana; you know, the one that wears the red handkerchief dress and is on the never ending quest to find the key master.
Don’t worry, Dana/Zool, I too am still looking for the key master in my own life. Sometimes it feels like a never-ending quest.
(Dana Barrett. Awesome hair, awesome frock, awesome lady. Tully… I don’t know about you though, even as the key master, you kind of freak me out).
When you strip it back to the core themes and stack them up against the usual Hollywood fodder, Ghostbusters is an odd film. It was odd at the time and it is odd now – but that is exactly what makes it great. Three middle aged parapsychologists get kicked out of their cushy jobs at a fancy New York University and decide to go into business for themselves, as Ghostbusters of all things. It’s a beautiful thing and, as an adult, it inspires me to believe in my own dreams. I might not have the PhD to become an official parapsychologist, but damn it, if Ray Stantz can take out 3 mortgages and move into an abandoned fire house in order to follow his dreams, then surely I can take a semester off university to tool about writing a novel and doing blog posts. A whole semester off… get back, Racheal, you daring thing, you. That’s what I am talking about though. Ghostbusters has a way of making you feel better about your own dreams… by making them seem infinitely more appropriate than Parapsychology. Similarly, I think the film endures because it is impossible not to feel happy when you’re watching it.
There are so many funny exchanges that go on between all the characters over the course of the movie that I really don’t know where to begin as far as trying to pinpoint my favourite one liners. I do love the following banter between Venkman and Dana Barrett though, it makes me giggle each time I see it:
Dana: That’s the bedroom… nothing ever happened in there.
Venkman: What a crime.
It’s moments like that where it is plain to see that this role was initially written for John Belushi, because other than Bill Murray, there is no one who could possibly have delivered it better. I am not sure how many of you reading this would be aware of that fact, that the role was written for Belushi, it is common lore amongst fans though and is something that I always found a bit sad about the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Bill Murray fan and I can’t imagine anyone other than him playing the role of Venkman, but each time I watch Ghostbusters I get a ping of sadness because I am also an epic Belushi fan and it still stings that the world lost such a talent (it doesn’t matter how it was lost, just that it was). Another interesting bit of trivia: Belushi’s wife Judy has a cameo in the film, she’s the party guest that asks Louis if he has any Tylenol.
The relationships and rapport between all the cast members is essentially the reason (I feel) that this film goes the distance. Despite the fact that the subject matter is relatively comedic and not what you might consider ‘serious’, there is the fact that it appeals to the adult and the child and the inner child, all in equal measure; and this also has some bearing on the way that the film continues to endure. No matter how old you were when you saw it or how old you were when you saw it last, there are always new bits and pieces that you pick up with each viewing. Part of the rich multi-textural layering can be attributed to the fact that Ramis, Aykroyd and Murray were all veteran comic actors at the time that this came out; but some of the genius has to also be credited specifically to Aykroyd and his personal fascination with the supernatural. Long before crystal skull vodka and House of Blues became multi-national franchises, Aykroyd was fascinated by the occult, hauntings and the supernatural. He continues to be to this day. It takes a genuine love of something to present it in a way that is not only rich and entertaining, but oddly accurate.
Much like he did with The Blues Brothers, I appreciate the fact that Aykroyd was unafraid to be himself when he put this film together. When you look at some of the other films that were in production at the time (Indiana Jones, Karate Kid, Beverley Hills Cop), this is just way out there. When you look too, at the stick Aykroyd got for Neighbors, it was a pretty gutsy move to push forward with this… but he did and 1984 and all of our lives are richer for it.
So 1984 was the year that changed our lives by highlighting that it is not only okay to be a science nerd, but okay to follow your dreams and to believe in ghosts, spooks and spectres. Sometimes, even if you’re in your mid-30’s with no real prospects outside of your career as a professional academic, trusting in your gut will bring rewards – in life and love. No wonder this movie was so successful at the box office, not wonder it stayed at number 1 for weeks on end, no wonder it remains a constant fixture on commercial television and is still beloved by children and adults alike.
And what could possibly have put an end to this supernatural reign at the box office, I hear you ask? And I’ll answer:
Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…*
1984… what a bumper year of brilliant films…
*(you can read my tribute to Prince and Purple Rain here: Flashback Film Friday: Purple Rain (1984)