Last year Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, Dan Akyroyd and Ernie Hudson met up to reminisce about Ghostbusters and to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the paranormal comedy. Sadly it was without Harold Ramis, who had passed away in February 2014. For many Ramis will be best remembered for his collaboration with Murray and co. and his portrayal of the nerdy paranormal Scientist Egon Spengler, but I prefer to think that his contribution to the industry was greater than that. As actor, writer and director he seemed to enjoy the human condition with all its flaws, and was able to magnify it and make it even more ridiculous by bringing it to the big screen for our amusement.
Harold Ramis: drastically underrated in Hollywood, he was the key to Bill Murray's career.
Ramis was also one of the few people to really understand the considerable talents of Bill Murray and know how best to showcase them on film (such as the quite brilliant Groundhog Day). In Ghostbusters, Ramis and Aykroyd gave Murray the opportunity to shine by supplying him with the best lines, and combined with director Ivan Reitman encouragement to ad-lib during scenes, Murray delivered a performance that serves as an object lesson to any actor on how to make a self serving, sarcastic, work shy character into a witty and likable rogue.
The role of Peter Venkman was originally conceived for John Belushi. After Belushi's passing Murray agreed to take on the part in a deal which would include finance for the Somerset Maugham adaptation of The Razors Edge. The film was also released in 1984, and would see Murray play his first dramatic role. Sadly it was a complete flop at the box office, whereas Ghostbusters became the highest-grossing film of year. Murray was bitterly disappointed and, apart from a brief scene in Little Shop of Horrors, promptly disappeared off the radar for four years to study philosophy.
The plot of Ghostbusters is meagre to say the least. Three peculiar former parapsychologists Venkman (Murray), Stantz (Aykroyd) and Spengler (Ramis) are kicked out of college for their shoddy and unproductive research. Venkman persuades Stantz to mortgage off his dead parents house so that they can set up shop as paranormal experts, to explain, contain and repel ghosts who seem to be running amok in New York. And to make money. Lots of money. After all "No job is too big, No fee is too big!".
Their first and only customer is cellist Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) who lives on the 22nd floor of a high rise apartment on Central Park, and has demons in her refrigerator! The spooks even obligingly cook her eggs to spare her from a fridge full of food, and then leap out of her armchair for a hug - possession never got so needy!
Dana's neighbour, the slightly soppy Rick Moranis fails to woo the girl across the hall, but conveniently both he and the object of his desires become possessed. Tulley (Moranis) becomes The Keymaster who's task is to seek out Weavers 'Zuul', The Gatekeeper. This is all part of a bigger plan to unleash the Sumerian God named Gozer the Gozerian.
Gordon the Gopherian
On paper at least, Ghostbusters had all the hallmarks of a giant flop. Green muppet like ghosts, grainy apparitions, a giant marshmallow man and a so, so plot, but the script was a work of genius, with dialogue that is still as fresh and laugh out loud funny today. You find yourself cherry picking from a list of gags as long as your arm, all of which find their target and make this an experience that you don't get from a film too often.
It's also aged tremendously well. That is apart from the laboured Terror Dog that destroys Tully's apartment and brings about a swift end to a desperately awkward party.
"Okay, who brought the dog?"
Ghostbusters is a superb 'buddy' movie, with the three main characters perfectly entwined, yet compensating for the others shortcomings. Each is as different as they are enduring and endearing, and any one of the three are plausible enough to have been real in our own lives. I've known a few Venkmans, a handful of Stanz's and a very odd Spengler.
Together, the three leads compliment one another beautifully and form the three sides of a comedic triangle.
I'd go as far to say that if you were looking for natural chemistry of this standard, you'd have to go way, way back to the Marx brothers, and that's something only a few committed film buffs will be able to do.
At that 30th anniversary reunion, Murray acknowledged the collective magic employed on this project.
"Those guys, Danny and Harold [Ramis], were at the top of their game [for the first movie]. They were burning nitro at that moment. Unless you have a really clear vision, you’re always trying to recreate that"It's extremely difficult to imagine Ghostbusters without Bill Murray, as he delivers a comedy master class. It's even more difficult to think of anyone else delivering the razor sharp dialogue in the way that he does (something that does not bode well for the reboot). He leaves such a lasting impression, even after thirty plus years and is a major ingredient of why this film is so highly watchable, and so well regarded with film connoisseurs.
Having said that, it's not entirely The Bill Murray Show. Aykroyd, Ramis, Moranis and Weaver all add their ten cents worth to make this one of the most delightful films ever made. But there is one question - Ernie Hudson? If ever there was a role that seemed pointless and secondary to everything around it, it's Winston Zeddemore, the forth fiddle to to other three talents within the Ghostbusting group. If you ask anyone who was in the film they will rattle them off one by one and then announce.... and that other guy. Which, if you are Ernie Hudson must be quiet annoying.
If you do anything this Halloween, pull the curtains, take the phone off the hook, lose the mobile and ignore the knocking of excitable children craving a sugar rush so that you can appreciate Ghostbusters all over again. It's absolutely brilliant.
Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter