Ghostbusters: “30 years passed and it’s still part of my life.”
(Author’s Note: The following article is respectfully dedicated to the late, great Harold Ramis, known to millions of Ghostbusters fans as Ghostbuster Dr. Egon Spengler. His collaboration with creator Dan Akroyd and his writing talent helped shape Ghostbusters into the comedy classic it is today.)
It’s been 30 years since the Ghostbusters first started tangling with Focused Non-Terminal Phantasms, Class Five Full Roaming Vapors, and giant marshmallow men in sailor suits set to destroy mankind. Not only do the Ghostbusters celebrate their 30th anniversary this year, but later this summer the 1984 comedy classic will be re-released in theaters, while the original film and 1989 sequel will get the special edition Blu-Ray treatment.
Like a fine wine, it’s a movie that’s aged well, and still has a loyal fan base. Among those fans are Christopher Grimm and David Ingold, store managers at Cash In Culture in Century III Mall, which specializes in selling movies and pop culture memorabilia, including Ghostbusters items.
“Ghostbusters is one of those movies I’ve loved for so long. I have no actual memories of seeing it for the first time,” Grimm said. “I memorized it way before I was even old enough to get all the jokes.”
Ingold is a fan who’s actually taken a pilgrimage of sorts to check out real locations that were used in the film.
“While in New York last year, I visited the firehouse they used as the Ghostbusters’ headquarters,” Ingold said. “Like many kids of the 80s, Ghostbusters is one of the seminal movies of my childhood.”
In 1982, Dan Akroyd, already a rising star from his performances on Saturday Night Live and in the film The Blues Brothers, wrote a script called Ghostmashers for friend and SNL alum John Belushi.
In Akroyd’s original script, the Ghostmashers were a worldwide organization, roughly akin to a SWAT team, that traveled through time and space to various parallel dimensions. Akroyd wrote the role of Dr. Peter Venkman for Belushi who, sadly, passed away later that year of a drug overdose.
After Belushi’s death, Akroyd pitched his concept to producer/director Ivan Reitman (Animal House/Meatballs). Reitman thought Akroyd’s script would impossible and too expensive to film, but liked the concept and thought with a little reworking to film could be doable.
In the Ghostbusters DVD commentary, Reitman said that he pitched to Akroyd simplifying the story. Instead of the action taking place in future and parallel dimensions, it would be set in present day New York City. It would be a “three guys going into business story, just a very unusual business.” In Roger Ebert’s review of the film, he called it “a paranormal version of the Orkin Man.”
Reitman also suggested Akroyd collaborate with writer/producer/actor Harold Ramis (Animal House/Caddyshack/Stripes). Meanwhile, Akroyd recruited friend and fellow SNL alum Bill Murray to play Venkman. Murray and Ramis had previously starred together in the successful comedy Stripes.
Ramis and Akroyd fleshed out the characters more, making Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) the “mouth” of the operation. Ray Stantz (Dan Akroyd) would be the “nuts and bolts” guy and also have a childlike enthusiasm. He would be the “heart” of the Ghostbusters’ team.
Ramis wrote the part of Egon Spengler for himself, intending the character to be the “brains” of the group. In the DVD commentary, Ramis stated he played Egon as a “New Wave Mr. Spock” and never smiled throughout the movie.
As a tribute to Belushi, Akroyd based the first ghost they bust, Slimer, on John Belushi’s hard partying, heaving eating and drinking character, Bluto, from Animal House. On the DVD commentary, Reitman claimed about Akroyd, “Danny always used to jokingly refer to Slimer as the Ghost of John Belushi.” Akroyd confirmed this in a recent Vanity Fair interview.
Instead of the Ghostbusters already being established as in Akroyd’s original script, it was decided to show how they became the Ghostbusters. The film opens with Venkman, Stantz, and Spengler as university parapsychologists who are fired and decide to form the Ghostbusters business. Their first big bust comes when they catch Slimber in the famous hotel scene. The character of Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) was added as a love interest for Venkman.
Ernie Hudson was cast as the fourth Ghostbuster, Winston Zeddemore, after Eddie Murphy turned down the part. The character of Winston, who was not a scientist, was an “Everyman” character and served as the voice of the audience.
Originally, the part of Dana’s nerdy neighbor, Louis, was written for John Candy. After Candy passed, Rick Moranis got the part.
The film was originally released on June 8, 1984, the same day as another summer movie box office hit, Gremlins. Ghostbusters was a huge hit, spawning merchandise, a Saturday morning cartoon series, The Real Ghostbusters and a sequel, Ghostbusters II, in 1989.
At press time, Akroyd has said Ghostbusters III is in development and will be released some time in the future, but given no specific details.
Ramis and Murray worked together again on the 1993 hit film, Groundhog Day.
Sadly, Ramis passed away from complications of the disease autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis this past February.
On June 5, Entertainment Weekly reported Ghostbusters will be re-released in movie theaters on August 29 and on September 16, Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary Edition and Ghostbusters II 25th Anniversary Edition will be released on Blu-Ray with all new bonus features.
This is excellent news for loyal Ghostbusters fans as the movie still holds a special place in their hearts.
“I recently started collecting The Real Ghostbusters action figures,” Ingold said. He has an original Real Ghostbusters Fire House and Proton Pack he’s had since childhood, and continues to add to his collection. “Thirty years have passed and it’s still a part of my life.”
Story by Chuck Brutz for Pennsylvania Bridges