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Who ya gonna call? Don’t get spooked, but Ghostbusters has hit 30

August 13, 2014

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I ain’t afraid o’ no ghost: detail from the Ghostbusters teaser poster, featuring the iconic ghost-caught-in-a-‘no’-sign logo – created by Michael Gross from Dan Aykroyd’s original design

The miners’ strike. Band Aid. Reagan’s rampant re-election victory. That guy with his jet-pack at the Olympics. And Torvill and Dean. What do they all have in common? That’s right – incredibly, frighteningly they all took place 30 years ago. Just as did, in fact, the first wave of ‘Ghostbusters-mania’. For, even more pertinently, the spectrally terrific comedy adventure is celebrating its big ‘three-oh’ this summer.

Wait, the first wave of public delirium associated with Venkman and co.? Don’t get me wrong, summer ’84’s definitely wasn’t the only one. On the back of the marvellous original movie, there next came the animated TV show The Real Ghostbusters, which then flooded the toy market with Kenner’s oh-so awesome, oh-so colletable action figures – kids went utterly crazy for both. And then, as the decade came to a close, the original big-screen team were back, saving Christmas with the Statue of Liberty. Or something.

But, there’s no getting away from it (just like trying to outrun a giant King Kong-like marshmallow sailor man), the original earthquake caused by the box-office cash-till-ringing splendiferousness of Ghostbusters was truly seismic; it was everywhere in the summer (and later) months of ’84. Ray Parker Jr.’s oh-so catchy theme tune was thoroughly contagious, Slimer was utterly loveable and Bill ‘The Murricane’ Murray seemed like the biggest, coolest star on the planet. Indeed, getting caught up in Murricane’s ghost-bustin’ hurricane made many feel like a god. And practically everyone said yes.

So, then, peeps, join me please in saluting Ghostbusters’ 30th with a very special post dedicated to the ghoulishly great blockbuster (a true cultural cornerstone for millions that grew up in the intoxicating ’80s), featuring, as it does, tidbits on the flick’s making, quotes from cast and crew members, classic video clips and many, many a top image (several from behind-the-scenes). Warning: If you don’t, Slimer’ll get you – but don’t worry, you’ll feel so funky…

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HOVER MOUSE over the images for information

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The cast…

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Ghostbusters was originally conceived by paranormal enthusiast Dan Aykroyd as a movie vehicle for himself and fellow ex-Saturday Night Liver John Belushi; he wrote the film-to-be’s screenplay with friend and oft co-star Harold Ramis. Eventually, Aykroyd would play Dr Ray Stantz (‘The Heart’) and Ramis Dr Egon Spengler (‘The Brains’).

Cast as the movie’s unofficial lead Dr Peter Venkman (‘The Mouth’) was Bill Murray, with whom Ramis had starred in hit comedy Stripes (1981); in fact, in the ’70s the trio had all performed together in Chicago’s Second City comedy troupe. The final ‘Ghostbuster’ role, Winston Zeddmore (‘The Everyman’), was filled by Ernie Hudson, the victim character, Louis Tully (‘The Keymaster’), by Rick Moranis and the client/ Venkman’s love-interest, Dana Barrett (‘The Gatekeeper’), by Sigourney Weaver – whom won her role by acting out Dana’s transformation-into-a-terror-dog in her audition for director Ivan Reitman.

Intriguingly, Jeff Goldblum, John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd and Christopher Walken were all considered for Spengler, while Tully and Venkman were supposedly written for, respectively, John Candy and John Belushi – Candy had ‘artistic differences’ with Reitman; Belushi didn’t live long enough to fill his intended role, dying of a drug overdose in 1982 (apparently, Chevy Chase and Michael Keaton also turned down Venkman, but – although often trotted out – Eddie Murphy was never the intended casting for Zeddmore).

Ultimately, Serbian model Slavitza Jovan was cast as the androgynous god Gozer after Paul ‘Pee Wee Herman’ Reubens passed on it, while according to Aykroyd, loveable ghoul and unlikely break-out star Slimer was to some extent supposed to be ‘the ghost of John Belushi’.

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I went over and I introduced myself and he said, ‘Hello, Susan.’ [Then] he picked me up and put me over his shoulder and walked down the block with me … It was a great metaphor for what happened to me in the movie: I was just turned upside down and I think I became a much better actress for it~ Sigourney Weaver on meeting Bill Murray for the first time, on location for Ghostbusters outside New York Public Library (from vanityfair.com)

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We had three different studios going [at once], I had a motorcycle going back and forth from one to the other~ SFX genius Richard Edlund, whom set up his own company for Ghostbusters, on the time-strapped challenge of getting all the movie’s effects finished on time (from vanityfair.com)

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The numbers…

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Ghostbusters was greenlit with a budget of $25m, a figure plucked out of the air for the executives by Ivan Reitman and a then astronomical sum for a comedy; the deal for that show of faith was its script had to be finished and the film shot and edited in just 12 months.

It opened on June 8 1984 and promptly hit #1 at the US box-office, staying there for seven non-consecutive weeks. So far, it has grossed a worldwide total of $291.6m; ensuring it was the third biggest global hit of 1984 and stands at #33 on the list of highest grossing movies of all-time, adjusted for inflation. It was nominated for two Oscars (Original Song and Visual Effects) and currently holds a 96% ‘Certified Fresh’ rating on rottentomatoes.com.

The same summer, its theme song, performed by Ray Parker Jr. (see bottom video clip), topped the US Billboard chart for three weeks and hit a high of #2 in the UK, where it stayed for the same amount of time. Lyndsey Buckingham has claimed he turned down the opportunity to write and perform a theme song for the film.

Several Stay Puft Marshamallow Man suits were made for the shoot and all of them were destroyed due to the rigours of filming – each of them cost $20,000.

The huge dollop of marshmallow that falls on NYC health department irritant Walter Peck (William Atherton) was actually 50 gallons of shaving cream – he was often harrassed by the public for some time after the movie’s release; a bus full of schoolkids apparently shouted ‘Dickless!’ at him.

While on location, Bill Murray withdrew $2,000 from an ATM for a homeless man.

The sequel, Ghostbusters II, was released on June 16 1989 and achieved the biggest ever three-day opening-weekend box-office gross – only for the record to be broken just one week later by Batman (1989).

Ultimately, Ghostbusters II (even accounting for five years’ worth of increasing inflation) grossed around $75m less than the original; it currently holds a 51% ‘Rotten’ rating on rottentomatoes.com.

Fondly recalled TV cartoon spin-off The Real Ghostbusters ran for seven seasons from 1986-91, totalling 147 episodes. It was this series, rather than the films, that generated the hugely successful Kenner toy action figures and play-sets. The Venkman character was voiced by Lorenzo Music, whom at the time also provided the voiced of Garfield on TV – ironically, Bill Murray voiced the iconic cat in 2004’s Garfield: The Movie. In January 2009, The Real Ghostbusters was named #22 on ign.com’s list of the ‘Top 100 Animated TV Series’.

During Ghostbusters’ original run, the commercial in the film was independently shown in cinemas, the artificial telephone number it features (with the standard movie ‘555-’ prefix) replaced with a genuinely functiong telephone number. When fans called the number, they heard a pre-recorded message from Aykroyd and Murray – the number received 1,000 calls an hour (that’s 24 hours a day) for six weeks.

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The film crossed over to so many markets and audiences and was celebrated for so long … It went through three seasons: the entire summer, [then] every kid was dressed as a ‘Ghostbuster’ for Halloween, and it dominated the Christmas gift season~ Rick Moranis on Ghostbusters’ unexpectedly extraordinary box-office success (from vanityfair.com)

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Many of the images featured in this blog post can be found in the book Making Ghostbusters by Don Shay (ISBN: 9780918432681)

Thanks to Mike Seiders’ stupendous infographic and Lesley M M Blume’s article The Making of Ghostbusters: How Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and ‘The Murricane’ built Ghostbusters (published on vanityfair.com) for much of the information and artist Fabrizio Fioretti for the final four 3D character images

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 29, 2016 6:24 am

    So much fun, thanks!

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