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After witnessing ghostly goings-on at the New York Public Library, a trio of parapsychology researchers—Drs. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), Raymond ‘Ray’ Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Peter Venkman (Bill Murray)—decide to go into business as a group of self-styled ‘paranormal investigations and eliminations’ professionals called ‘Ghostbusters’. After mortgaging themselves to the hilt, they establish a base of operations in a run-down firehouse and employ a secretary called Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) to oversee the switchboard. Before long an unprecedented surge in paranormal activity sees the Ghostbusters services in such high demand that they need to recruit a fourth member, Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson). It is around this time that a woman named Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) asks the team to investigate a strange occurrence in her Central Park West apartment. While Venkman puts all of his energy into getting a date with Dana, Egon and Ray try to determine the origin of Zuul, the strange demonic apparition that appeared in her refrigerator. They eventually learn that Zuul was a minion of Gozer, the Sumerian god of destruction, and that Dana's entire apartment building is a conduit for otherworldly energies, designed specifically to bring about the end of the word! Of course someone has to save the day, and who ya gonna call?

 Ghostbusters
When I think back to my childhood certain films immediately spring to mind. Classics such as Star Wars, E.T., Superman and even disposable fodder like Transformers: The Movie are all synonymous with my youth. Ghostbusters fits firmly into this category, as one of the biggest films of the early eighties and one of the most-quoted films of all time. Prior to this review I hadn’t seen the film in years (not since the original DVD release), so I was actually pretty fresh going in to it. This proved to be a bit of a mixed blessing, as my time away from the film allowed me to view it objectively, rather than as one of the films I’ve always loved, and although I still enjoyed it I felt strangely detached from the whole experience for reasons I couldn’t quite pin down.

Of course the film is still very funny, with some genuinely hilarious lines and delivery (‘Listen! Do you smell something?’), and the premise, while not wholly original, is novel enough. The performances are also spot-on; whether it’s Bill Murray’s deadpan humour, Dan Aykroyd’s wide-eyed enthusiasm, of Harold Ramis’ stoic delivery, each of the Ghostbusters is a fully developed character with a distinct personality offering different opportunities for humour. Supporting performances are also great, with Rick Moranis stealing almost every scene that he appears in. Okay, so some of the effects look a bit dated now, but that’s to be expected, and on the whole they’re still passable. To be honest I think the reason for my detachment is because I found certain parts of Ghostbusters genuinely scary as a kid, which simply isn’t the case now. Additionally, jokes that were decidedly risqué when I was nine are now standard fare. I still enjoyed the film, but it was a decidedly different experience through adult eyes.

 Ghostbusters

Video


Warning: if you do not like film grain, you will not like this transfer! Ghostbusters' 2.40:1 (1080/24p AVC) widescreen picture is just about the grainiest I've ever seen on Blu-ray, and some scenes contain so much grain that they are distractingly noisy, particularly when elements of the picture are shimmering. Detail isn't quite are good as I would have liked either, although it is significantly better than the DVD to the point that it occasionally reveals the limitations of the 80s effects (the Terror Dogs for example) and matte paintings. I also noticed a fair amount of telecine wobble in the opening scenes, with sporadic recurrences throughout the film. On the plus side, colour rendition is very good, presenting accurate, natural tones at all times. The image is very clean and contrast is also good, but the depth of the blacks varies depending on the amount of grain in any given scene, although things are solid for the most part.

All things considered I was pleased rather than blown away by the visual presentation. It's just not as impressive as some of the other high-profile catalogue titles I've seen, but it appears to be consistent with the intended look of the film and any deficiencies are likely due to source limitations as much as anything else, so I can't really complain. I'm aware that this sounds somewhat negative, but please don't get me wrong - Ghostbusters looks very good on Blu-ray, even if it doesn't have that 'knock your socks off' quality offered by the very best remastered titles.

 Ghostbusters

Audio


The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack drags Ghostbusters kicking and screaming into the new millennium, but like the video before it, the audio is a bit of a mixed bag. For one thing, fidelity isn't quite up there with the best, which is noticeable in everything from dialogue to sound effects. It's also a little uneven in its use of the various channels, with the centre channel doing most of the heavy lifting even when there are opportunities for effects to spread their wings. Things do improve as the film progresses, with the transformation of the librarian ghost an early indicator of good things to come (I got chills down my spine as her screams transitioned from the front to the rear of the sound-stage). Bass is satisfyingly deep; the hum as the Ghostbusters power up their proton packs can be felt in the ribcage, and the low, menacing growls of the Terror Dogs and the giant footsteps of Mr. Stay Puft are also highlights.

The score has a strong presence, although I found it to be a little unbalanced in the mix at times. The aforementioned dialogue is almost universally clear, with only one or two moments towards the end where it gets buried under the effects. It's hard to be too critical of this soundtrack because we are talking about a twenty-five year old film, but I have to admit to being ever so slightly disappointed. There are a number of missed surround opportunities and the whole thing sounds a bit 'flat'. It's not a bad effort by any means, but I was expecting something truly outstanding.

 Ghostbusters

Extras


One thing’s for sure, Sony has assembled a great collection of bonus material for this new release. Along with the old standard definition DVD content, the studio has commissioned some genuinely enjoyable high definition material, even if some of it does run a fine line between entertainment and shameless promotion.

CineChat: Do you have friends who also own a copy of the film on Blu-ray? Do you want to chat to those friends via some sort of IM interface while you watch the film? No, me neither.

Commentary with Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis and Joe Medjuck (01:45:08): This is the same commentary track that graced the various DVD releases of the film. It doesn't have the MST3K-style silhouettes that accompanied the participants on the first DVD release, but since that was mostly a gimmick I wasn't too concerned. What matters most is the content, and this track is both enjoyable and informative, with plenty of good-natured banter between the participants.

Blu-Wizard: This is a rather nifty feature that allows you to customise the way in which you watch the extras. You can choose to view the segments one after another without interruption by creating your own playlist, or you can choose to watch the film and branch out to the selected content at the appropriate time.

 Ghostbusters
Slimer Mode (01:45:08): This is the disc's BonusView track and for my money it is one of the better PiP tracks that I've seen on the format (although that could be because the subject matter is more interesting to me than most). There's plenty of new interview footage, behind-the-scenes content and pop-up trivia, and most of the cast and crew are on-hand to give their thoughts on the movie (although Bill Murray is strangely absent).

Ecto-1: Resurrecting the Classic Car (15:38 HD): This featurette takes a look at the restoration of the Ghostbusters' iconic mode of transport. The car was actually in pretty bad shape, with electrical issues and more than its fair share of rust. The restoration team stripped the car right back and replaced a lot of the damaged components, but they also upgraded quite a lot of the car's features and even included a high-tech audio-visual system! All things considered they did a pretty good job.

Making of Ghostbusters: The Video Game (11:18 HD): This short featurette takes a look at the upcoming Atari video game based on the Ghostbusters franchise. I can remember playing the old game back on my trusty ZX Spectrum, but the technological advances made in the last twenty five years look to have allowed for a pretty impressive spook-blaster. I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on it!

Ghostbusters Garage: Ecto-1 Gallery (05:27 HD): This is an animated still and video gallery, set to music from the film, and it details the process of restoring the neglected Ecto-1 to its former glory. There's a lot of overlap between this feature and previous one, but this doesn't have any of the interviews or narration.

 Ghostbusters
Ghostbusters: The Video Game Preview (01:43 HD): This is a short trailer for the forthcoming game. It seems a bit redundant given that there's already an eleven minute featurette dedicated to it, but I guess the Sony executives have to pay for those ivory back-scratchers somehow.

Scene Cemetery (07:40 SD): Yep, you guessed it, these are the deleted scenes. There are ten in total, with a 'Play All' option, but someone at Sony thought it would be a good idea to put an annoying disclaimer about image resolution in between each one (having said that, the video quality is very poor, even for SD). To be honest there's not really anything here that would have made the completed picture any better, but there is a scene from the Sedgwick Hotel that features an actor who looks vaguely familiar.

1984 Featurette (09:45 SD): Another standard definition feature, another bloody disclaimer. We get it already, the video is SD! Anyway, I enjoy these unsophisticated vintage featurettes, which were produced in a time before everything got incredibly slick and self-congratulatory. It's great to see the on-set footage and hear the cast and crew talk about the film as they're making it.

 Ghostbusters
Cast and Crew Featurette (10:53 SD): Aykroyd, Ramis and Reitman are interviewed at some point between Ghostbusters II and the year 2000. They discuss both films, their children's reactions to them (specifically their roles in them), the existence of ghosts (Aykroyd genuinely believes in them), the film's success, and its legacy.

SFX Team Featurette (15:22 SD): I thought this was going to be another vintage featurette, but it quickly jumps forward in time to find a much older Richard Edlund and company discussing the film's special effects. The featurette must have been filmed fairly recently, because the terracotta soldiers from The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor can be seen in the background. They talk about everything from animation and art direction, to matte paintings and models.

Multi-Angle Featurettes (05:12 SD): Three featurettes come next, each with alternate angles. Angle one is the raw, unedited on-set footage, while angle two shows you the footage from the completed film. The featurettes in question are 'Spook Central', 'She's a Dog' and 'Crossing the Streams'.

Storyboard Comparisons (06:26 SD): Three storyboard comparison sequences are also included, under the headings 'Slimer', 'Dogs Drag Dana' and 'Atop Spook Central'. The film runs in a window at the bottom of the screen with the storyboards at the top.

BD-Live: The disc also includes BD-Live features, but at the time of writing I couldn't access them.

 Ghostbusters

Overall


Sony had a difficult task on the hands with this one. Ghostbusters is one of the truly iconic 80s movies—in fact, I'd go so far as to say that it was a cultural phenomenon—but all things considered I think they've done a pretty good job. The feature looks and sounds better than it has in years and the new bonus material is actually quite interesting, which is something of a rarity on DVD and Blu-ray these days. I enjoyed watching the film again after all of this time, even if it is hard to believe that it's twenty five years old (it sounds even worse when you say a quarter of a century), and I recommend the disc to all children of the eighties looking for a trip down memory lane. Even if you weren't around at the time you’d do well to seek it out as an example of superior family entertainment.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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