Best Decade for Films Ever – The 80s – Ghoststoppers!?

We were nearing the end of 1984, George Orwell’s Thought Police thankfully did not repress our individuality and our independent thought and we weren’t living in a dystopian present. Not quite yet. It was a big year for the hits of Madonna and her debut album. Dead Or Alive had first released You Spin Me Right Round, with Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears were having continued chart success. The Police, were in their mellow phase, Billy Joel had an Uptown Girl, Billy Idol had Rebel Yell, Bronski Beat were singing about a Smalltown Boy, Bryan Adams was running to you and Ray Parker Jnr. was asking us a question.

Who You Gonna Call?

Ray Parker Jnr.

Ghostchasers, Ghostoppers or Ghostbreakers. Those were the alternative names given to the film during production as they did not own the rights to the title due to Universal Studios owning the title for a short lived TV series. Thankfully the new boss at Universal, a guy called Frank Price, just happened to be the previous boss at Columbia and so out of the kindness of his heart he granted them the rights to the name.

The UK had been aware of Ghostbusters since at least the 18th August 1984 when RPJ hit the charts at number 56. Yeah. 56. This was the same week that George Michael’s Careless Whisper was at number one and Agadoo was at number 2. Push pineapple shake the tree.

I was straight off to Woolworths to buy the single, and here it is 36 years later.

It took until the 16th September after 5 weeks in the chart to hit it’s highest position at number 2 behind Stevie Wonder’s Careless Whisper. It stayed at number 2 until 8th October and was replaced by Culture Club. At least the Ghostbusters remained a total of 42 weeks in the charts.

Meanwhile in the US RPJ’s single was at number one for two weeks running from 11th August.

On the 26th January 1985 the album reached it’s highest UK position in the same week that Foreigner was sitting at number one.

At the time I was studying additional O’ Levels at 6th form and I used to play my Ghostbusters album in the 6th form common room when no one else was using it. I’m not sure what happened to that album, but I do hope it didn’t get thrown out with my Falco 12 inch singles…..

Somewhere around that time I did some digital artwork which I printed out using my spark jet printer.

We UK folk just don’t appreciate good music, or maybe we just didn’t get hip-hop.

The sequel’s chart topper by Run DMC only lasted two weeks in the UK chart hitting a high of 65. I must admit I didn’t buy that one.

Ghostbusters was released in UK cinemas on the 7th December 1984. Two days after the release of the film, Ray Parker was rising in the charts again at number 33, then 15, then 7, 6, 8, 7, 16 and 20 by the end of January. I think by then everyone owned a copy.

It was a very strange Christmas date for UK cinema as Gremlins was released on the very same day. So Ghosts and Monsters were high on the viewing publics agenda that festive jolly holiday season.

When they both opened, Ghostbusters went straight to number one in the UK cinema charts followed by Gremlins at number 2. The audiences were familiar with the Ghostbusters tune and one thing prevented a lot of the interested audience members from seeing Gremlins. The UK Film Rating system.

Even though there is swearing and sexual references, Ghostbusters managed to get a PG rating. Unfortunately due to a kitchen scene where one Gremlin is blended, and one explodes in a microwave, Gremlins ended up with a 15 rating. Still, they both got £4.5 million and £2.5 million respectively. Conan, Romancing the Stone and The Killing Fields were also in the top ten that week. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’s notorious heart removal scene helped to create new 12 rating. More on Gremlins later.

Since 2011 Ghostbusters has been rated as a 12A certificate a change from it’s original PG rating. The reason for this is stated on the BBFC’s website…

“The BBFC’s Guidelines at ‘PG’ state there may be ‘Mild sex references and innuendo only’. The film contains a number of sex references, both verbal and visual, that exceed this allowance. Most notable is a scene in which it is implied that a ghost is performing oral sex on a man. As the man’s trousers and zip are unfastened, the camera moves to his face as he sinks back on the bed with his eyes crossed in pleasure. Later, a woman who has been possessed by a demon rolls about on a bed with a man and tells him: “I want you inside me”. Although these references were permitted at ‘PG’ in the 1980s, when there was no classification available between ‘PG’ and ’15’, they are now more appropriately classified at ’12A’ where the Guidelines state ‘Sexual activity may be briefly and discreetly portrayed. Sex references should not go beyond what is suitable for young teenagers’.”

It was a decision for me as to which film to see first and I remember having to queue outside the Wallaw in Blyth for both of them. The film posters for each film displayed outside. By ’84 The Wallaw had become a multi screen cinema with the main screen viewable from the balcony area whilst the other two screens were split underneath the balcony.

I would have presumed Ghostbusters would have been on the bigger screen due to increased audience sizes.

Interestingly the Northumberland Ghostbusters held a investigation into the cinema in 2016 whilst it was closed. “The Northumberland Ghostbusters will be hosting the first Paranormal Investigation in the building since the 1980’s, using the latest technology and aided by our resident medium Jean, what secrets will the Northumberland Ghostbusters discover as the team investigates with unlimited access to the whole building?” Tickets were only £20.

Did they return? That was the last entry on their facebook page…… woooooooooooooo!

Actually it probably wasn’t.

Prior to seeing Ghostbusters, I didn’t really know about the actors in the apart from Sigourney Weaver from Alien. The other actors I wasn’t familiar with at all.

Saturday Night Live wasn’t a thing in the UK until the rise of Wayne’s World in 1992. There were some late night showings at some point in the early 90s, but in the 80s it wasn’t a weekly thing for us Brits. In the 90s, I did buy one or two VHS tapes and used to record and keep some of the more famous guest stars like William Shatner in the late night showings. Another actor I was aware of was Steve Martin, although never a cast member on SNL he made frequent appearances, particularly his wild and crazy guys with Dan Ackroyd. I was and still am a big fan from his comedy stand-ups to his films particularly Roxanne, and especially L.A. Story. Currently I love his banjo playing with his band, the Steep Canyon Rangers and Edie Brickell. But what are we talking about Steve Martin wasn’t in Ghostbusters. I digress.

Dan Ackroyd

Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi (Animal House and The Blue Brothers) were part of the SNL alumni. Originally John Belushi was slated to be playing Peter Venkmen, as played by Bill Murray, but unfortunately he died in 82 from a drug overdose before filming started. Ivan Reitman, the director paid tribute to Belushi’s raised eyebrow expressions by influencing the design of slimer also known as Onionhead during production.

“We always thought of Slimer as a spiritual embodiment of what John’s character did in Animal House.”

Ivan Reitman

Other SNL actors lined up for the film were Eddie Murphy as Winston and John Candy as Louis Tully. Both actors ultimately turned down their roles.

John Candy as Louis Tully in storyboards
SCTV cast with a few recognisable faces
Harold Ramis

Harold Ramis was not involved in SNL but was offered a job as a writer on the show. He did work closely with Bill Murray as the writer of Groundhog Day, Caddyshack, Meatballs and Stripes, his first movie acting job following TV writing work on SCTV, a Canadian sketch show featuring John Candy and Rick Moranis. He worked with John Belushi as writer on Animal House. He also had directing duties on Caddyshack and Groundhog Day among others. Unfortunately Groundhog Day was the last film Ramis and Murray worked on together. They didn’t speak for 21 years until shortly before Ramis’s untimely death due to autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis. I am a big fan of many of his works both briefly infront and mainly behind the camera.

Bill Murray

Through Ghostbusters I started to watch more work from the other actors involved in the film, particularly the craziness and dramatic subtlety of Bill Murray. I caught up with Stripes, Groundhog Day, This Life Aquatic and especially Scrooged, one of my all time favourite festive movies I’ve watched an untold amount of times.

His more recent work with Wes Anderson, cameos and hidden roles in Zombieland and Dumb and Dumber, singing duties on the live action Jungle Book have proved how versatile he is.

Props man: I can’t get the antlers glued to this little guy. We tried Crazy Glue, but it don’t work.

Frank Cross: Did you try staples?

It was great to see Lee Majors as himself saving Santa, due to my love of the Six Million Dollar Man.

Rick Moranis went on to be the main star in a few Honey, I Shrunk the Kids movies and the 3D attraction at Disney Theme Parks the world over. He also showed his singing talents in one of my favourite musicals, “Little Shop of Horrors” which also picked up Steve Martin as The Dentist. Oh, and Bill Murray popped in for a short cameo as masochistic patient and ultimate frustration for the sadistic dentist.

Annie Potts, who portrayed Janine Melnitz is probably most famous as the voice of Bo Peep in the Toy Story movies as well as the infamous Memaw from the TV series Young Sheldon.

Ernie Hudson has been keeping very busy over the years from voice acting in Transformers TV series, 2 years on Law and Order, Desperate Housewives, Modern Family and literally hundreds of other guest appearances on TV shows, animations, shorts and TV movies.

The director Ivan Reitman had worked with most of the cast before through Meatballs and Stripes. He directed a number of future hits including Kindergarten Cop with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Junior, and Twins.

His son Jason Reitman has taken directing duties on the new Ghostbusters : Afterlife with Ivan producing. Jason among other projects directed Juno, and recently during lockdown directed a serialised remake of The Princess Bride featuring many celebrities filming from their own homes playing multiple versions of the parts and using home made props and costumes. Inconceivable.

Here’s hoping that Afterlife will be as fun… when we eventually get to see it.

The film itself was written by and starring Harold Ramis and Dan Ackroyd. Dan’s great-great grandfather was a “spiritualist explorer of the invisible world” who which was passed through to Dan’s dad, Peter H. Aykroyd, who wrote the book “A History of Ghosts.”. So Ghosts and the paranormal were quite popular in his family. Harold Ramis was also very spiritual and maintained humanist beliefs demonstrating a kindness toward fellow human beings.

Anyway, there is me, on my own, outside The Wallaw in the December cold. Waiting to go into this Art Deco building to watch some ghosts.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect from this film, cool ghostly effects, a definite fun soundtrack and it was a comedy according to the trailer and clips I’d seen.

Compared to the second film in the series, the original Ghostbusters was raw and it felt real. Props looked like they had been cobbled together from junk and felt real in the hands of the ex-students thrown out to fend for themselves and working what they could beg, borrow and steal. The second film always felt too Hollywood for me. I did enjoy it but I missed the use of the proton packs and wasn’t a big fan of their positive slime blowers. Still good fun, but it felt sleaker.

Dan Ackroyd wanted the four Ghostbusters to appear as if they worked in waste management it was all supposed to have a home made hobbyist approach and wanted it to appear as if they were working with Hi-Fi equipment from the 70s. Prop maker Stephen Dane, who previously worked on Blade Runner, threw various army surplus cables, and other doodads together to make the proton packs. Similar to the sensibilities in Star Wars, they had to look used and battered.

One top of the propmaking, more practical effects were required. The special visual effects would have probably have been produced using Industrial Light and Magic, but unfortunately they were busy working on Indiana Jones, and Star Trek 3 so Richard Edlund who previously worked on many Industrial Light and Magic projects including all the Star Wars movies was tasked with creating the world. Particularly of interest with the Ghostbusters he already had experience working on Poltergeist.

Ghostbusters had 100 effect shots to complete over a ten month period, Edlund had bought out Doug Trumbull’s Entertainment Effects Group facilities and had to integrate the visual effects with the creatures produced by Boss Film Creature shop. Boss made a plethora of ghosts and creatures including Slimer, the Stay Puft Marshmallow man, a library ghost, the dream ghost, terror dogs, and a whole host of escapees including a zombie taxi driver and a subway spook. There were many other practical effects including puppetry, stop motion animation, the various sets, and props, Zuul, miniatures, slime and one giant bucket of fake marshmallow foam to drop on ‘dickless’ Walter Peck actor William Atherton.

Speaking of Walter Peck he did on occasion get the nickname shouted at him….

Ivan Reitman, mentioned on the DVD commentary that he ran into Atherton sometime after the film’s release, and instead of greeting him as one might normally greet the man who made you internationally famous, Atherton was completely pissed off. Not only were people trying to fight him, but he also had random assholes shouting at him in public. In one incident that was absolutely horrible and totally not the greatest thing we’ve ever heard, a bus full of kids spotted him on the street and yelled “DICKLESS!” at him from the windows. 

Cracked 2015

Incidentally Industrial Light and Magic worked on Ghostbusters II. Boss Film Studios closed it’s doors in 1997.

Want to know more? Check this out.

We couldn’t go without mentioning one of my favourite parts of Ghostbusters. The car. Ecto-1 stands as one of the most iconic vehicles in movie history. These others include my favourite, the Back to the Future Delorean, Knight Riders KITT, the TV and Michael Keaton Batmobile, James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5, Lotus Espirit from the Spy Who Loved Me, The Blues Mobile and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Based on a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor and ambulance conversion. Having seen a replica of this vehicle in real life it is one heck of a car. In a mad dash to get filming started the vehicle ended up being painted properly in a week and a half as props and set decoration thought the other was completing it. It was constructed in Hollywood and transported by train to Manhattan as it was too big to take on a plane. It was and still is nearly 20 feet long.

ECTO-1, returned to its former glory by Cinema Vehicles Services in Los Angeles.

I do have have slight niggle and I see it every time I watch the movie. When we see Ecto-1 speed out of the fire station the very first time, the footage is quite obviously sped up and doesn’t look real. I’m sure there was a reason, maybe the shot didn’t look great or they couldn’t get the caddy to turn the corner fast enough without the roof rack falling off. I’m not sure but it annoys me. It bounces off the sidewalk like a cartoon.

Leaves the Firehouse at ridiculous speed!!!!

There are so many elements to Ghostbusters that make it a perfect film, the creatures, the cast, the gadgets, the plot, the vehicle, the mythos, and the iconic logo all magically wrapped up in a neat package. Maybe one day I’ll strap on a pack and bust some ghosts.

Why not get yourself some reading material. There is plenty out there. I highly recommend the Ultimate Visual History. Some of the facts in this blog came from there. Who needs the internet for research.

A selection of my book collection.
Mentioned in the first but recreated for the 2016 film

One of my more comfortable purchases a few years back is my quilted jacket. It has a print of the proton pack on the back with printed straps that wrap to the front The elbow pads are a separate material and the badges are embroidered. It was a bargain from soem dodgy website a few years back and it’s great for the Halloween temperatures in the UK.

When it came to toys I got a set of action figures. Sorry for the squished photo but the cabinet is impossible to access properly due to lockdown. I’ll get better pictures when we get back to normal.

In 2017 Playmobil produced an excellent series of classic, Real Ghostbusters and new Ghostbusters figures, vehicles and the Firehouse. I would love them all but I only had room for one…

…and it had to be Egon Spengler.

If you were thirsty back in the late 90s it seems you only had one option.

Drink a Coca Cola…..

Erm…..

At the time there wasn’t much merch around but I do recall getting a few boxes of Shreddies to collect the waterslide transfers and put them on a bunch of my stuff.

Eventually Ghostbusters made its first UK TV premiere on Boxing Day 1987. There were a few cuts and tweaks to remove swearing and other inappropriate references.

I already owned the VHS copy so it was interesting to see the alternative cuts featured.

In the 80s video games were surprisingly a thing and although I never owned a Commodore 64, I do remember playing on this game. Great fun and a unique way to save your game by encoding an account with the amount of money you had, so you could turn off and go back to it without losing progress. Great fun overall.

The spiritual sequel to the first two films was released originally in 2009, for the PS3, XBox 360 and PC. It featured all four members of the original cast together for the last time and was written by Ackroyd and Ramis. You play a rookiee being trained to be a new Ghostbuster whilst meeting villains from the previous films including Vigo and StayPuft with a plot surround Ivor Shandor who will also be a feature in the new, new, Ghostbuster film, Afterlife. This game was remastered in 2019 for newer consoles and PC.

Overall a great experience and well worth seeking out if you are a fan.

In fact you you catch it on the EPIC store between now at November 5th 2020 the HD remaster of the game is absolutely FREE. for PC.

Recently anniversaries and a new female cast led film meant more interest in the Ghostbusters franchise including clever use of original footage mixed with new elements.

I can’t wait to see the new film coming up.

It has to be Egon Spengler’s grandkids right?! Can’t wait.

3 thoughts on “Best Decade for Films Ever – The 80s – Ghoststoppers!?

  1. Hi Splik, wow what a post! It was so packed with ghosties and ghoulies I thought I was gonna be reading it till next Halloween! But I ain’t complaining – I love it. That ‘Busters jacket you have is amazing. I know a guy who has a Proton Pack that is “fully operational” with lights and sound effects. His name is Johnny Jeeter (the ex WWE pro wrestler) and he has a few YT videos showing it off.

    (I sent him the designs for a saber I created for him)

    And I decided a while ago to combine the Star Wars and Ghostbusters franchises and came up with a lightsaber design inspired by ECTO-1, if interested you can find it here:
    https://ftsabersite.wordpress.com/2018/10/27/ecto-plasma-saber-inspired-by-the-1984-movie-ghostbusters/

    Anyhoo…thanks for a fun read and remember don’t cross the streams….that’d be bad!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Top post full of good memories and excellent info. Bravo, you put a lot of work into that. Love the quilted jacket, looks really cool. Been tempted for so long to get an Ecto1 ever since Playmobil released their versions (same as you not much space to display the collectables or even store them now, grrr!). Hard to imagine the original vehicle is 20 feet long! Again, top post!

    Like

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