gaz jones
A Feature From Guest Contributor Gareth Jones

Recommended Viewing Situation:

An 80’s outdoor Greek Cinema With A Sandy Cola in hand.

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With the release of the re-imagining of Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis’s 1984 film Ghostbusters, I felt it time to revisit the original myself. It’s arguably a modern classic, however at over three decades old, perhaps less a modern but solely classic film. I have to admit now, that is probably my favourite movie of all time but it’s a closely fought fight between ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘Requiem for a Dream’. Without doubt it’s my favourite comedy, holding a special place in my heart for a few other reasons as well.

Ghostbusters is one of the earliest memories I have of film and maybe the very first film that I remember watching as a child. During our first family holiday abroad, the excitement of being on an airplane and flying to the exotic Greek island of Corfu. A trip I will always remember, partly because of beauty of the sea and sandy beaches, partly because my parents crashed not one, but two hire cars. I also remember the holiday because next to our apartment was a bar which had an outside cinema screen. Some nights we were allowed to stay up late, a rare treat at that age, and were allowed to drink cola and watch the film. The only film I remember was Ghostbusters. It made a big impression of me, being only 4 years old I subsequently had nightmares about the stone dogs (or bears) with their evil glowing red eyes.
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I didn’t get to see the film again until it came to TV, some 4 or 5 years later. Luckily our family had just purchased our first video cassette recorder, we were actually at our Grandparents the night the film aired, but thankfully we’d figured out how to program said VCR and Ghostbusters had recorded while we were away. You’re old if you remember this, but it was thing back then to be able to program your VCR. They were all made in Japan, without really any consideration to user friendly design and the instructions were often rather poorly translated from Japanese. Manuals were said to be totally alien to any adults, but to a determined 9 year old, it was literally child’s play. I actually got to help program all the schools VCR’s for our primary school.

My sister and I and a friend all watched Ghostbusters in the morning and loved it, if you know anything about kids, they will quite happily watch the same thing, over and over again, many times. We didn’t really have many other videos and there were only 4 channels back then, I must have come close to wearing out the tape. In fact I memorized the entire script and recited it though my Dad’s Philips tape deck using the microphone mum used to record her pupils for French speaking and listening exams. I would listen to my recording through my headphones on my Walkman and recite the whole film back to myself. I would take childish delight in doing American accents and I definitely got some strange looks walking around Sainsburys that day.
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To say this film is special to me is a big understatement really. If you haven’t seen it, where have you been! The most successful comedy of the 1980s there is so much to love about it.

The plot is fairly incidental to the enjoyment and dynamic of the film, but essentially a group of academics are thrown out of university, reasons for which I’m not entirely clear. I mean for those of you that have seen the film, why would they suddenly decide to just terminate a grant like that? Can they do that? It is a bit Hollywood, but then it is Hollywood.

The scientists…yes I said scientists. You see in the 80s they did have successful films about intellectuals…anyway they decide to start a business, the film is very 80s in that way, making money, greed and such. They do for a time seem to get rich but things go a bit wrong when they fall foul of the EPA, the environmental protection agency in America. The film may have been way ahead of its time; the green movement was really still in its infancy back then. Although in Ghostbusters the film’s stars try to cover up their facility and sue the EPA, rather than helping them with their well founded concerns. In Ghostbusters the EPA are the bad guys, can’t really see that happening today, but it was acceptable in the 80s. In between all this there is a romance between the main and rather reluctant Ghostbuster Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) and Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver).

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The main reason to love this film is the performance of the Characters; from Dan Ackroyd’s speed talking childishness to Rick Moranis geekiness, you often wonder how the Ghostbusters ever got to know each other. Bill Murray’s performance in particular is sublime, even at the point when gets covered in Slime…It became an 80’s thing to get covered in gunge. The soundtrack is fantastic, there’s a cool car; the Ecto1 (although every 80s film had a cool car in it) and fantastic special effects, all set with the epic backdrop of New York City. The story is to literally save the world from a Sumerian demonic entity and her two pet dog demons. Comedy, drama, action, horror and science fiction all come together in really very special way that will probably never be repeated…until the remake.

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The one caveat I would add is that, I might only love film so much partly because I saw it when I was young and in context of its own time. I’m not sure if to a different generation, with no prior knowledge the film would seem as good. The effects are still great, but of course they look dated. To be honest I doubt if there actually is anyone who does not have prior knowledge of this film, the theme tune was played at every school disco and still heard at every 80s theme night.

I haven’t seen the remake at the point of writing and am generally excited, I didn’t care that it was an all female cast. I fail to see how it’s relevant to any conversation. But I have seen the trailer and it leaves a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. Maybe it’s because I’m out of touch now or just bored with Hollywood, or maybe the jokes are aimed at a different generation. I haven’t decided if I will actually go and watch it, at the risk it would taint my nostalgia for the original. I doubt it would, for starters Ghostbusters II did enough tainting already.

So new or old? The Original will always exist, and no remake can remove its ‘classic’ status, a film that will be a microcosm of 80’s comedic writing and film making. But it’s your choice, give them both a watch and you make the call.

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All Images, Production photos and Screen Grabs Copyright Columbia Pictures