Best Decade for Films Ever – The 80s – Don’t Feed them After Midnight!

With Ghostbusters being released in UK cinemas on the 7th December 1984. Gremlins, another fun 80’s film was released on the very same day.

Christmas in 84 was a busy cinema time, especially for monsters and ghosts.

In the UK this film caused a bit of a controversy.

Gremlins was submitted to the BBFC in June 1984, and the issues it raised for examiners were similar to those discussed during the classification of Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom only one month earlier (see the examiner reports for Temple of Doom here). The film’s distributor – Columbia-EMI-Warner – wanted a PG certificate for Gremlins, and it had already been rated PG in the U.S. Reflecting a complex mix of horror, adventure and comedy in an age rating that caters for family audiences is a careful balancing act for BBFC examiners, especially in this case as the examiners saw the film as a clear 15.  Without the benefit of 12 and 12A categories in 1984 the BBFC had a much more stark choice to make between the PG and 15 certificates.

https://www.bbfc.co.uk/case-studies/gremlins

Basically it had too much violence for under 15s as we didn’t have the 12A certificate at the time. This was mainly due to the kitchen scene in which a Gremlin is blown up in a microwave, plus the attacks on family members which could scare young kids whose parents might take to a PG rated film. This one ended up with a 15 rating in 1984 which did reduce the box office but did get to number 2 in the top ten movies behind Ghostbusters which had a PG rating and was suitable for a broader audience. Thankfully I was just old enough to go see it.

Closely following my visit to see Ghostbusters I was back to the Wallaw cinema to see Gremlins. There was one significant thing about the Wallaw is that at the end of the row there was a motor bike shop, with the long queue you’d start at the end looking in at the bikes until you got further down the wall towards the entrance. I was never into bikes and at that time you didn’t have mobile phones to stare into. Along the wall were upcoming or current movie posters which you could peruse until you got in.

This film introduced me to my first encounter with Joe Dante. I hadn’t seen Piranha or The Twilight Zone movie from the previous year at that point, but the following years included some great films which I eagerly went to see. Innerspace; I saw this at the ABC in Newcastle, Small Soldiers, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, and Matinee. I caught up with Amazon Women of the Moon and The ‘Burbs further down the line. With Steven Spielberg/Kathleen Kennedy presenting/executive producing and written by Chris Columbus it became a great production team combination. Chris Columbus also wrote The Goonies and went on to direct Adventures in Babysitting, Home Alone, Bicentennial Man, and two Harry Potter films.

The story, if you really need to know, involves Billy Peltzer’s father, an amateur inventor, who made things that eventually broke down. He was played by Hoyt Axton, who at that time was mainly known as a folk singer songwriter, he brought home a unique pet from a Chinatown shop as a Christmas present for his son. He was given three simple rules that must be adhered to.

  1. Don’t expose it to light.
  2. Don’t get it wet
  3. Don’t feed it after midnight

Simple rules you’d think would be easy to follow. It wasn’t until the less darker sequel when these rules were questioned. It’s midnight somewhere on the planet, right? Also I would presume that drinking beer is fine but water is bad. What percentage of alcohol to water would produce a reaction? And the biggy, SNOW!!! It’s Christmas, surely the snow would melt and they’d get wet….. enough plot holes. What about an iced whiskey?

Speaking of Gremlins and drinking, did you know there is a website that contains drinking games called drinking cinema? This one is for Gremlins….. http://drinkingcinema.com/game/Gremlins

The word mogwai is the transliteration of the Cantonese word 魔鬼 (Jyutping: mo1 gwai2; Standard Mandarin: 魔鬼; pinyin: móguǐ) meaning “monster”, “evil spirit”, “devil” or “demon”.

According to Chinese tradition, mogwai are certain demons, which often inflict harm on humans. They are said to reproduce sexually during mating seasons triggered by the coming of rain. Supposedly, they take care to breed at these times because rain signifies rich and full times ahead.

Gizmo is the cutest furriest little fuzzball you could ever meet. When he sings and makes cute vocal noises it’s the 80’s equivalent to the Mandalorian’s Child aka Baby Yoda.

Who is the cutest? I wouldn’t cuddle the Child. He might look cute but he’d be like cuddling a hairless cat. Not that I’ve cuddled any hairless cats but I get the idea.

In fact the voice of Gizmo was provided by none other than Howie Mandel, better known recently as one of the Judges on America’s Got Talent.

Watching poor Gizmo writhe in agony after the first droplet of water is spilled on him is heart-breaking. He looked so upset afterwards. This incident in Billy’s loft creates five more Mogwai including Stripe, another cute furry mohawked Mogwai with an evil streak.

They don’t treat poor Gizmo well at all.

Through further mishaps involving feeding the bunch of furry meanies chicken after midnight, Stripe and his buddies end up transforming into the Gremlins of the title after spending the night in hideous looking like sticky pods. Lovely. Following a smokey light show whilst poor Gizmo looked on Gremlins were ready to get out of the house after Stripe attacked poor Billy’s mom. That was after she managed to take out two Gremlins in the microwave and blender and Billy decapitates another. Very messy.

With the film set at Christmas, the town of Kingston Falls has a very familiar setting and was actually based on the “It’s a Wonderful Life”‘s town of Bedford Falls. A small town where everyone knows everyone else. In one kitchen scene “It’s a Wonderful Life”‘ is playing on the TV.

This just happens to be another of my favourite films of all times.

To Kill a Mockingbird

The set used for Kingston Falls is also familiar to fans of Back to the Future released one year later. It’s the Hill Valley Square and town hall. This is known as Courthouse Square and is actually on the Universal Studios backlot. It was also used in another film, To Kill a Mockingbird from 1962.

Obviously when you got one evil Gremlin it doesn’t take long before Stripe throws himself into a YMCA pool and creates hundreds more which take over the town of Kingston Falls. This is where the fun begins.

The town is filled with interesting characters most of them encountering the green beasts or meeting their ends.

Mrs Deagle, the Scrooge like cat lady hates Christmas and hates everyone in the town. It’s strange to feel happy that she ultimately gets offed on a super charged stairlift courtesy of the carol singing Gremlins.

Dick Miller plays Murray Futterman, a guy who has hates everything not made in USA and also tells us bout the Gremlins from World War II. He gets his comeuppence when his American made snow plow runs him through his house driven by the Gremlins he knew from the war.

Dick Miller is Joe Dante’s lucky charm and appeared in the majority of his films from Hollywood Boulevard in 1976 to Burying the Ex in 2014.

Dick Miller is one of those actors you’d see in a bunch of TV and films and recognise his face but not know his name. I’ve seen him in tonnes of things. He was a great actor.

We presume he was crushed but thankfully Murray was back for Gremlins 2 and he gets his own back with a gargoyle/gremlin joke. Dick Miller also appeared in many Roger Corman films.

One unlucky victim of the early attacks made by the Gremlins is on the poor science teacher who stays in school until 2:30am in the morning taking blood samples on a caged Mogwai. The teacher is played by Glynn Turman, a seasoned actor more recently seen in TV shows like Suits, Black-ish, Fargo, American Gods and How to Get Away with Murder. I’m sure there are rules on carrying out experiments on live unknown animals in school.

Billy is played by Zach Galligan and his girlfriend to be Kate Beringer, is played by Phoebe Cates, actress and teen magazine model.

In the heat of action there is a bizarre sidestep as she tells a dark and sad tale on why she doesn’t celebrate Christmas and how she discovered Santa Claus didn’t exist. This was visited again in the sequel in an excellent comedic moment.

Another reason kids under 12 shouldn’t see the film. The whole Santa thing.

Corey Feldman 80s teen star plays Pete. This was before his appearance in Goonies and rise ro 80s fame and after his appearance in Friday the 13th.

Last year in 2019 I saw Corey at Horrorcon UK. He was dressed in a gold jacket, slicked hair and mainly talked about his appearances in the Friday the 13th films. He looked quite the Hollywood star. His first Friday was also released the same year as Gremlins, from then he went on to other iconic roles in The Goonies, Stand By Me, The Lost Boys and also did some voice work like Donatello in the TMNT movies.

Horrorcon was a great event… it’s not every day someone brings out a live snake during the cosplay competition.

Judge Reinhold plays Gerald, a work mate who also has an eye on Phoebe Cate’s character. It was the same year in which he appeared in Beverly Hills Cop and a few years prior to his leading stint in body swap film Vice Versa. A well known face in the movies of that time and still works today.

There are lots of fun nods and cameos throughout the film including appearances by Chuck Jones the voice of Bugs Bunny in a bar scene, Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet, and the appearance and apparent disappearance of the classic Time Machine from George Pal’s The Time Machine. In attendance at the inventors convention were exec producer Steven Spielberg and composer Jerry Goldsmith. More on my love of the music later.

Looney Tunes : Back in Action

One of Joe Dante’s other films, Looney Tunes Back in Action features Daleks. Maybe he just likes robots and borrowing stuff from his other favourite films.

There is a Frank Capra, IAWL’s director’s instructional film being shown in the classroom. With Steven Spielberg executive producing a Gremlin is heard saying “Phone home” before pulling telephone cables out of the wall. Singing Gremlins in the movie theatre watching Disney’s Snow White. They also get to play the Star Wars arcade game in Dorry’s Tavern and there are lots of fun Gremlins vignettes throughout. Particularly when the gremlins take over the town.

The puppets were all practical effects in this film and were created by Chris Walas who worked on Return of the Jedi, E.T. and both Jeff Goldblum Fly movies. The pods and Stripes ultimate demise are very gooey effects and are reminiscent of the icky goo and puss sequences in The Fly.

Its extremely rewatchable on so many levels and I have watched this movie so many times. I originally had the VHS copy of the film until I upgraded to DVD. I presume I got it close to Christmas as this is the cover I ended up with.

My original VHS had the excellent John Alvin poster art with Stripe ripping through the cover and spoiling it. John Alvin also worked on the poster art for E.T.

At least the novelisation retained the soft and subtle artwork. I guess the audiences needed to know that the film contained green monsters and not just a mysterious box.

There is one particular cool idea that runs throughout the film. Rockin Rickie is the local DJ and we hear his radio show on occasion throughout the run time. It starts normally until he mentions the “Orson Welles crap” which refers to Orson Welles’ War of the World radio broadcast in which he was supposed to have reported from the site of a martian invasion. It was a play in which parts of it sounded like a real report. If you just happened to turn over after the intro, you might find yourself in what appears to be a real report of real Martians. Have a listen.

In Gremlins we hear but never see the invasion into the radio station and he tries to keep broadcasting. In the end TV media reports that the whole Gremlin invasion was due to mass hysteria. The New York Reporter reported a similar story connected to the Orson Welles play. Fortunately there was no connected mass hysteria in the mid West. Either way never trust the media.

Don’t forget to listen after the credits.

As usual I bought the poster magazine which were quite popular at the time and a few trinkets.

A couple of pieces were rubber figurines I spotted in a shop in Spain.

I also picked up a cheap Mogwai plushy with really scraggly fur and a mean look. I’d imagine at 12 inches tall it’s probably about the same time as the real thing. The colours aren’t quite right and the ears are a bit too small.

All I need now is one of those full size Gremlins, but they are a little out of my price range.

Let’s talk about something that happened in the late 90s with Toy crazes.

It was the electronic boom and virtual pets were the in-thing over several Christmases. In 1997 Tamagotchi’s were the thing to get banned in schools around the world.

In the UK these didn’t really catch on until later in 1998 with official versions and a slew of knock off virtual pets, Christmas 97 we were too busy trying to get all of the Teletubbies and finding our Argos and Toys R Us shops selling out in the frenzy to get the missing one.

I did get my Spice Girls merchandise. Sporty is currently sitting with my Britney Spears doll. 😀

In 1998 Tiger Electronics introduced a very familiar looking toy…

It’s not like they look anything like Mogwai is it? Who doesn’t want to take their own electronic furry pet home with them? Actually, everyone wanted them and they spent Christmas 98 on their present lists. They were supposed to listen to you and learn from you and over time if you treated them right they would love you. Or constantly say “Nay Nay” over and over again.

Thankfully in 1999 before Star Wars Episode I hysteria hit they released a licenced Gizmo Furby. Slightly bigger ears and the cute recognisable voice.

Gremlins is a great piece of horror comedy and a classic film. The sequel is brilliant too. We may visit that in the future.

One last thing before we scoot off into the snow bound winter. Gremlins wouldn’t be Gremlins without another 80s soundtrack.

Jerry Goldsmith was an amazing composer with some classics behind him in 1984 and many more years to come up until his death in 2004. Prior to Gremlins you will most definitely have heard his scores for Patton, Doctor Kildare, The Man from Uncle, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Our Man Flint, Planet of the Apes, Papillon, Logan’s Run, The Omen, Alien, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Poltergeist, and Rambo: First Blood. This is only a small selection of film and TV soundtracks he composed. Following Gremlins he went on to produce more Rambo, Star Trek the Next Generation (which was essentially the Motion Picture theme), Innerspace, Star Trek V (The score is excellent!), Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Star Treks Voyager, First Contact and Nemesis and Looney Tunes : Back in Action and soooo many more.

The Gremlins ragtime track had a very unique sound moving away from his usual full orchestra and moving into a very eerie electronic synth sound even adding strange Gremlin like wailing.

To offset this strange Gremlin sound a more gentler theme was found for Gizmo. Some orchestra and still a mix of synthesizer to add the gremlin edge to the theme. After all Gizmo is really a nice gremlin, who thankfully never eats after midnight. It’s also cute to hear Gizmo actually hum his own theme when we first see him in the Peltzer household.

Mrs Deagles theme is again heavy on the synths. Contrasting the gentle orchestra with the sharp sounds of electronic elephant footsteps.

I could go on, but the full main score wasn’t on the original mini album as it was taken up with some pop music tracks which were heard in the film. Very similar to the Ghostbusters album, a couple of orchestral/synth tracks mixed with pop music.

For Gremlins, the tracks on the mini album were :-

  1. Gremlins…Mega Madness – Michael Sembello (3:50) – Played in Dorry’s Tavern.
  2. Make It Shine – Quarterflash (4:10)
  3. Out/Out – Peter Gabriel – Played in Dorry’s Tavern when Kate is serving Gremlins drinks
  4. The Gift (4:51) – Jerry Goldsmith
  5. Gizmo (4:09)- Jerry Goldsmith
  6. Mrs. Deagle (2:50)- Jerry Goldsmith
  7. The Gremlin Rag (4:03)- Jerry Goldsmith

I still have this album on cassette.

On the full orchestral score album, available where you can download MP3s, but quite difficult to get in physical form, you get the full score plus additional tracks like Gizmo’s Trumpet… a rendition of Gizmo’s theme on kazoo. All in all a well deserved award winning soundtrack.

Jerry Goldsmith is one of my all time favourite composers alongside John Williams, John Barry, Alan Silvestri, James Horner, Henry Mancini, Ennio Morricone and a current rising star Daniel Pemberton. More on these in another blog.

See you next time, don’t get eaten.

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.

Best Decade For Films Ever – The 80s – E.T. Phone Home

Who the heck is Steven Spielberg? I’d never heard of him before E.T. The Extra Terrestrial.

I didn’t really pay to much attention to directors at that time. I’d seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind but it “wasn’t as good as Star Wars”, I’d not seen Jaws coz it was scary, and bizarrely I didn’t catch Raiders of the Lost Ark until it was on TV. I can’t understand how I missed that classic at the cinema, but I did.

E.T. for me was apart from waiting for the next Star Wars film was a big summer blockbuster. If you could attend a cinema somewhere you had to go see E.T.

At this time my Grandma was very much into her cute weird aliens and was a big fan of Yoda from Empire Strikes Back, which by this time she had seen.

It was E.T. frenzy that summer. Toys, badges, t-shirts, cuddly E.T. dolls and more. Tron didn’t get a look in.

“E.T. Phone Home” was the catchphrase of the moment and everyone and their sister would be quoting lines from the film. Including that one…. but wait.

An actor called Pat Welsh (1915-1995) provided the voice for E.T. and incidentally also provided the voice for Boushh, Princess Leia’s bounty Hunter disguise in Return of the Jedi, the following year.

She was discovered by Ben Burtt, the sound effects guy from the Star Wars films (he invented the sounds of R2, Lightsabres and laser blasts) and got her distinctive gravelly voice from smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. She was paid reportedly $380 for her services.

“E.T. Phone Home” was the line that Elliott and Gertie said in the film. E.T. him/her/itself actually said “E.T. Home Phone.”

I used to spend a lot of my summers down with grandparents whilst mum and dad worked and that summer during the yearly visit we headed to the old Ashton cinema to see what all the fuss was about.

We sat transfixed throughout the entire movie. It made us sad, happy, laugh and mostly cry during the more traumatic scenes. Having to say goodbye to E.T. at the end was a sad/happy moment for the whole audience. It tugged at all the heart strings. I loved it and probably saw it a few more times at the cinema.

It is chock full of iconic scenes, including poor E.T. getting left behind at the beginning, the initial meeting between Elliott and E.T. in a night filled with the sounds of crickets. Other scenes included the flying bike ride and the silhouette across the giant moon. There was lots of hugging and a lot of the time I felt like I needed to give Gertie’s a tissue for her nose.

All wrapped in a sometimes subtle and definitely rousing score by the great John Williams. Which obviously I had to own.

For an 10 year old Henry Thomas portrayed Elliott with a vast array of emotions, Drew Barrymore as Gertie was 6 years old and provided a lot of subtleties when acting against the creature at the time and according to co-star Dee Wallace playing the mom, Drew could easily burst into tears on cue.

Henry Thomas was perfect, and proved his young acting skills in this powerful audition which got him the leading human role.

The first thing we did — because I knew Henry was 10 and Drew was six and Robert MacNaughton [Elliott’s older brother Michael] was 14 or 15 I think — I shot the whole film in continuity. So we began at the beginning and ended at the end. So at the beginning of the movie, E.T. could have been a coyote out in the backyard. By the end of the picture on the last day of shooting, they were actually saying goodbye to E.T. And so there was an emotional curve that was taking place in everybody’s collective subconscious, just based on the fact that we were telling the story one page at a time, one day at a time.

Steven Spielberg for Entertainment Weekly (2012)

As a Star Wars fan I loved the pop culture references throughout the film. This included Elliott introducing E.T. to Star Wars figures, a Yoda Halloween costume that E.T. thought was someone from “home”, BMX bikes, my first encounter with a little game called Dungeons and Dragons.

As you grow into an adult with kids you get a different perspective of any film featuring families. In 1982 I felt like Elliott, and come to think of it… I still feel like Elliott, but still understand the struggles of a single mom with three kids to look after.

E.T. the creature was an amazing piece of work, created by Carlo Rambaldi, the same creature designer behind King Kong and the aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It was a mix of puppet and small people in a suit, Tamara De Treau, Pat Bilon and Matthew DeMeritt, a 12 year old boy who was born without legs used his hands to walk in the rubber suit.

From this film on I started to follow the director as he became more and more prevalent in the industry from his future directing endeavours to Steven Spielberg produced through TV’s Amazing Stories, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and even the produced and directed Always from 1989, a kind of Ghost story with planes and fire and a John Williams score.

That was one other constant with Spielberg’s directed movies, his use of John Williams creating the soundtracks from Jaws, Indiana Jones, Shindler’s List and beyond.

Buy either album now! I particularly love the Drew Struzan painted cover who also painted film posters for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, The Goonies, E.T. and the Muppet Movie to name a few.

By the end of it’s cinema run it became the highest grossing film of all time, beating the original Star Wars from 1977/78. That was until Jurassic Park took its place in 93.

When we first entered the cinema I remember seeing a souvenir stand with various versions of E.T. available including leather/vinyl, plastic and soft rubber versions of the character plus badges and other cool stuff.

I don’t remember that many souvenir stands in cinema’s much during those film days, but if it was there, I had to have something. I’m not sure at what point during the visit but my gran gave into my pleading but she happily bought me my very first E.T.

And here is that very figure.

It’s a hard plastic version with a pull string connected internally to plastic record. Very similar to the record featured in the Action Man Field Commander Backpack. I’m not breaking it open to see what colour the record actually is.

Just so you can see and hear the current state of the ET toy, here’s a short video.

The other figure is a curious thing. No indication that it was official and I’m sure I remember seeing these on market stalls, no branding and it kind of looks like ET, but not quite. I’ve seen other images saying it’s a bootleg, but I’m keeping it anyway.

I did have one of these soft vinyl plushy type ETs. They were very strange looking and made from what felt like a leather settee your parents would tell you to make sure you didn’t spill anything on.

Unfortunately my own version recently started to peel and I’ve stored it away in a safe place. I’ve no idea where it is. Probably in the same place they keep the Ark of the Covenant.

Another curiosity at the time was the good old sticker albums. This one below was produced by Panini with Minicards in London who would provide you with any missing stickers once the shops had stopped selling them.

I do seem to still be missing 39,105,106 and 108. If anyone has them, unfortunately I seem to have run out of any swaps. I also wish that my younger self was better at putting stickers in the album.

I also remember having the ET Storybook and novel which I’m sure had M&M sweets instead of the Reece’s Pieces in the film. According to articles they were going to be M&Ms in the film but Mars, Inc, the owner of M&Ms refused as they didn’t want them to associated with aliens.

What were they expecting? I guess at the time, most aliens in films and on video tended to bleed acid and burst out of your chest. There weren’t many cute aliens around.

A very recent find was a birthday card for my 15th from my mum and dad.

It featured the classic painting of Elliott and E.T.s fingers touching the iconic image based on the Michelangelo painting the Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City.

I’ve since inherited a couple of newer ETs from about 2012 when they rereleased the special edition of the film. A soft talking plushy one and an interactive edition. I’ve not had any batteries in the interactive one for a few years.

Speaking of the Special Editions. In 2002, to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the film they produced an extra special edition version, probably based on the Star Wars Special Editions released in 1997.

This featured new effects such as a CGI ET in places with blinking eyes and a more expressive face, extra added trees, and they infamously removed rifles from government officers and replaced them with walkie talkies. Have a look.

Both versions were released on DVD in 2002.

For it’s 35th anniversary in 2017 the Blu-ray and 4K releases featured the original untouched version. The 2002 is now not to be seen unless you have it in your collection. I might just have it somewhere.

I don’t have that one.

I think that just about exhausts my memories of the original film showing and things along the way.

I’m not going to mention the infamous Atari VCS video game that “brought down the entire video game industry” and got buried in a Mexican landfill because Atari needed to rid themselves of excess unsold inventory.

It was nice to see the sequel finally get released as an advert back in good old 2019. 🙂

See you next time.

As an extra special outro, why not look at some of my artwork from 1984. I did these in my last year of school.

Not sure where the stickers came from.