Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dogs and Cats, Living Together

"It just popped in there!"
Okay - so technically, 1984's Ghostbusters is a comedy. Dan Aykroyd supposedly based the screenplay for Ivan Reitman's movie on his own beliefs in the supernatural and UFOs. The veracity of the supposition remains to be proven. Of course, it doesn't really matter because Ghostbusters remains one of the quintessential '80's comedies which will be quoted by frat boys and movie enthusiasts ad infinitum.

Aykroyd is Columbia University parapsychologist Ray Stantz, whose colleagues Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) are called in to investigate phenomena at the NYC Public library and later, a prestigious hotel, where their use of 'proton packs' and a ghost 'containment system' causes all sorts of damage, resulting in them being fired from Colunbia. They start their own business, 'Ghostbusters,' with which they promise to remove paranormal entities from fellow New Yorkers' homes. They set up shop in an abandoned firehouse and transform an old ambulance into their official vehicle, hiring Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) as their receptionist. Business is slow until they get a call from Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), a philharmonic musician whose apartment has been taken over by an ancient demon named Zuul. As the sarcastic Venkman woos Dana, Egon discovers that her building was designed by a cult leader who designed it as gateway to summon a demon known as Gozer in order to bring about the destruction of mankind. Meanwhile, Dana's neighbor Louis (Rick Moranis) becomes possessed by a demon known as 'Vinz Clortho,' or The Keymaster. When Dana is possessed by The Gatekeeper Zuul, she and Vinz start the end of the world. All of this thanks to EPA lawyer Walter Peck (William Atherton), who shuts down the Ghostbusters' containment unit because it's an unlicensed nuclear device. When the spirits trapped in the device escape, New York is overrun by malevolent spirits and the mayor has no choice but to let the team (now joined by Winston Zeddemore - Ernie Hudson) to take action. Zuul forces the team to choose the form of the 'destructor,' and while the others block their thoughts, Ray can only think of the mascot for StaPuft Marshmallows and a giant marshmallow monster is loosed upon the city.

Aykroyd, Ramis and Moranis came up with a brilliantly hilarious script and Reitman was wise enough to let Murray improvise much of his dialogue, resulting in one of the funniest supernatural comedies ever made. But for my money, it's Weaver's fearless performance as Dana/Zuul; Moranis' insane performance as Lewis/Vinz and Potts' deadpan performance as an imperturbable New Yorker that make the movie work so well. Without these three actors, Ghostbusters would have been just another throw-away 80's comedy with a supernatural hook. Personally, it's the amazing Annie Potts who makes the movie so watchable. Janine embodies the unimpressionable "been there, seen that" New Yorker of the 80's to a tee. Of course, Atherton's imperious prig Peck doesn't hurt.

The rather silly 1989 sequel Ghostbusters 2 has it's merits (among them, Peter MacNicol's insanely hilarious performance as Janosz), it doesn't hold a candle to the original. 

More, anon.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

GHOST BUSTERS was a monster hit.