Ghostbusters (1984): Comedy 30 Years Ago…..

ghostbusters_posterRevisiting “Ghostbusters,” which was made by Ivan Reitman exactly three decades ago, reveals how much the Hollywood genre of comedy and the state of special effects have changed over the years.

Like today’s blockbusters, the movie is a big-budget, star-driven blockbuster, a hybrid of comedy and sci-fi, laced with cool humor and special effects.

In ideas and concepts, this commercially successful movie owes much to many less successful ones that preceded it, such as “Spook Chasers,” “Spook Busters,” “Ghost Catchers,” and others.

The difference between those films and the 1984 comedy is that “Ghostbusters” had a huge budget for special-effects (both visual and sound), and the presence major stars, headed by the incomparable Bill Murray, whose irreverent personality shines in this kind of material.

ghostbusters_1_Murray_aykroyd_ramisIn Reitman’s comedy, Manhattan turns out to be an angry, scary place to live. We are told that the island is about to blow “like a frog on a hot plate.”  Frustrations in the city are feeding and underground reservoir of negative energy, which creates in citizen above new frustration.

With it relaxed and detached rhythm and sort of lazy attitude, the movie gets a shot of energy from its visual effects (which were Oscar-nominated).

ghostbusters_2Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis play a trio of New York City para-psychologists who set up their own “ghost-busting” shop–not unlike exterminators–in a downtown building, complete with a bored secretary (Annie Potts).

For the right fee, the amigos promise to rid homes or businesses of unwanted supernatural residents. They are hired by Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), a symphony cellist who lives in a spectacular apartment above Central Park where strange things have been happening.


ghostbusters_3_Murray_aykroyd_ramisAfter capturing a large, gooey, green ghost and experiencing other weird incidents, the busters determine that the apartment complex was built by a Sumerian devil cult and that the site is the doorway to the spirit world.

Initially conceived as a Dan Aykroyd-John Belushi vehicle, the picture was rewritten after Belushi’s untimely death of drug overdose, giving Murray’s character the emphasis, and indeed, it the movie belongs to Murray. With his deadpan delivery and snide quips, Murray holds his own amid the state-of-the-art special effects.

ghostbusters_5_ramisStay away from the inferior sequel, Ghostbusters II, which was released in 1989.

Oscar Nominations: 2

Song: Ghostbusters, music and lyrics by Ray Parker, Jr.

Visual Effects: Richard Edlund, John Bruno, Mark Vargo, Chuck Gasper

Oscar Awards: None

 Oscar Context:

The Best Song Oscar was won by Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” from “The Woman in Red.”

Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” won the Visual Effects Oscar.


About Ivan Reitman


Ivan Reitman has created many of Hollywood’s most popular (if not great) features. His directing credits include Meatballs and Stripes, which starred Bill Murray, Dave, which starred Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver, and Junior which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito and Emma Thompson.  Reitman has produced such hits as National Lampoon’s Animal House, starring John Belushi and the family features Beethoven and Beethoven’s 2nd.


Reitman also produced the HBO telefilm The Late Shift, based on Bill Carter’s non-fiction book about the late-night television wars which received seven Emmy nominations. Other producing credits include Commandments, Private Parts, and the animation/ live action film Space Jam, starring Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes characters.


Reitman’s other directing credits include Six Days, Seven Nights, Twins, Kindergarten Cop and Legal Eagles. Reitman also produced the Broadway hit The Magic Show starring Doug Henning and the Off-Broadway hit The National Lampoon Show. Reitman earned a Tony nomination for directing the Broadway musical Merlin.  Reitman’s TV credits include the Emmy-nominated children’s show The Real Ghostbusters and the Saturday morning animated series Beethoven for CBS.  He is working on a new animated children’s show Mummies.