Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on March 31st, 2006
“Who you gonna call?” By now everyone knows the answer. Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson are the Ghostbusters. As their ad proclaims, they’re ready to believe you. Ghostbusters was originally conceived by Aykroyd as a vehicle for John Belushi and himself. When Belushi died, reportedly from a drug overdose, the project sat on the shelf a few years. Harold Ramis would eventually team up with Aykroyd and finish the script. It’s been said that “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” Leave it to these …wo knuckleheads to combine the two and create a phenomenon. Like pretty much anyone else, I’ve seen Ghostbusters many times in the last 20 years. And just like all of you, I’m still not tired of it. I am, however, done with the repetitive theme song. This release marks at least the third time Ghostbusters has appeared on DVD. This version appears to be identical to the double package release of both films about a year ago.
Ghostbusters pioneered the big budget comedy. Not since “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” have the genres of comedy and horror combined in such masterful form. Ghostbusters had the quality f/x of a blockbuster sci-fi epic. The casting was nothing short of genius. Each cast member brought a distinctive and integral element to the film. Murray provided the used car salesman aspect. Aykroyd perfected the common wide-eyed man with just enough knowledge to be dangerously funny. Ramis played the 50’s style scientist with the stoicism made famous in films like This Island Earth. Hudson was brilliant as the Joe six-pack, obviously intended to represent us, the audience, on this adventure. Sigourney Weaver weaves in just the right amount of sultry and unintended villainy to complete the palette of colors necessary to pull this all off. The supporting cast features actors destined to become stars themselves in the likes of Rick Moranis and William Atherton. While many of the f/x don’t quite meet today’s exploding expectations, they were state of the art in 1984. Forget Kong. Who can resist the giant Sta-Puft Man?
Ghostbusters is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Some shots are a tad grainy, but the overall picture holds up well when you consider it’s a 20 year old film. Colors are uneven at times. While bright colors are often soft and subdued, this is not true for the wonderful animation sequences. Here reds and greens shine particularly brightly. The stark contrast is likely intended, and works well as a device. Black levels are not extremely deep or detailed, but they are more than adequate, again when you consider the age of the original print. There is the occasional print artifact as well as a bit of compression artifact evident throughout. There’s nothing here, however, that’s obvious enough to decrease your overall enjoyment of the film.
I was satisfied with the video transfer even with a few minor flaws, but I must admit the audio disappointed me. While I realize the original film was made before Surround Sound, there are countless instances where films have been remixed with stunning results. Without a doubt, Ghostbusters had some wonderful potential that was never realized with this Dolby Digital 5.1 track. I would hope that as a film reaches its third DVD release, improvements would naturally be made. This mix is identical to the first version released. Yes, the dialogue is fine. It is well centered and always clear. There are so many opportunities here to bring the mix alive. With the swirling spirits and unnatural elements of this film, I was looking for a new engulfing experience. Sadly, this mix might as well be 2 tracks. There’s no sub levels to speak of in spite of the wonderful moments the film affords. About the only thing that does sound any better is the annoying theme song.
The menus are a little hard to figure out. Spook Central is the menu you’ll want to access for the disc’s extra content.
“1984 Featurette” is simply a promo piece that lasts about 10 minutes. The extra features clips and interviews with a hyped narration that reminds us not to miss this “upcoming” release”
“Cast and Crew Featurette” is a more modern collection of clips and interviews. Here you’ll hear Ian Reitman, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis talk about their memories of working on the film. It’s a hoot to hear Aykroyd give us some of his personal lessons on paranormal subjects. A touching segment has them all reflect on how their kids took to the film in later years.
You’ll have to access “Scene Cemetery” for a collection of deleted scenes that you have likely already seen. The picture quality is very poor here.
There is also a collection of Conceptual Art and Storyboards to go through.
Ghostbusters’ success can be found in no single element or even incomplete combination of elements. The sum here is really greater than the parts. Take away any of these key elements and what do you have? Ghostbusters 2. Fortunately everyone was smart enough to stop there. It’s a strict rule in Hollywood that success must be run into the ground until it is complete trash. “Actually it’s more of a guideline than a rule.”
Special Features List
- 1984 Featurette
- Cast And Crew Featurette
- Conceptual Art