Ghostbusters Annotated (Part Three)

In honor of the July 15 release of the new film, Deadshirt movie editor and known Ghostbusters obsessive Max Robinson attempts to pseudo-scientifically analyze the original 1984 film in a three-part commentary. Read Part One & Part Two before proceeding. 

48:38 – 49:20

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We’re back at Central Park West for the third and final round of annotations. Things were looking pretty grim for our heroes as they pondered the ever-growing Twinkie that is New York’s escalating paranormal energy levels.

Here we get our first real good look at the bonkers masonry that adorns the top of Dana and Louis’ building. Not to sound like a broken record, but the set here has so much great detail while still also being very sparse and simple. In particular, the bronze relief depicting the staircase we’ll see later on when Gozer finally manifests at the very end of the movie.

55 Central Park West having some creepy statues of giant dogs and a massive stone altar on top of it is a great example of how Ghostbusters merges the mundane with the supernatural. Especially when you consider that the actual, real life New York City has plenty of architectural oddities that are right up there with the Terror Dogs in terms of weirdness.

The effect of the Terror Dogs “hatching” from the statues themselves is one of this movie’s most underrated practical effects.

49:21 – 50:09

This shot here is really fascinating. We open on a semi-close up of Dana’s eyes as the elevator doors open and Weaver is playing her with this pained, worried expression. It’s a great emotional segway from the gloom and doom we just watched a few floors up.

The incredible—INCREDIBLE—gag in Dana trying to quietly sneak past Louis’ apartment and he *still* manages to catch her, as if he’s been waiting by the door all night. Sigourney Weaver’s obviously a great dramatic actress but the ease with which she pulls of an “ah shit” expression when she realizes Louis is going to try and talk to her yet again really reinforces just how good she is in this movie.

Louis-locking-himself-out-of-his-own-apartment count: 3.

50:10 – 51:20

Some intriguing details in Dana’s phone call with her mother at the start of this scene. “No, just the…the one time” is obviously in reference to the earlier Zuul manifestation in her kitchen. Dana’s “I will…..I won’t” and Weaver’s delivery imply this has been an ongoing topic of discussion between mother and daughter, with the takeaway here being that Dana’s mother is worried about her. It’s some fairly innocuous foreshadowing for what’s about to happen here.

51:21 -52:15

Some excellent camera work in the way our POV pivots around Dana before coming to a stop on the unearthly light pouring out of her door.

Perfect delivery in Weaver’s relatively subdued “Oh shit.”

This entire sequence is the only part of Ghostbusters you can really describe as “disturbing” and it’s surprising there isn’t more discussion of the underlying trauma implied in this scene. The film plays sort of fast and loose with whether ghosts can “touch” humans but Zuul’s ability to basically take over Dana’s entire apartment at will suggests the Terror Dogs are much higher on the supernatural food chain than say Slimer.

52:16 – 53:53

Meanwhile a few doors down, we’ve got Louis blasting “Disco Inferno” by The Trammps and things have gotten mercifully a lot less heavy.

You have to appreciate that Moranis’ Louis’ could just be an annoying nerd and it’d be enough for the movie to go off of but, no, Louis is an incredibly CHEAP nerd. The party scene really runs with this joke beautifully, from Louis offering his guests knock-off aspirin and wholesale smoke salmon to the reveal that Louis is justifying the party by only inviting his clients and writing it up as a business expense.

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Lest we forget Ghostbusters is an 80s comedy, Louis is oblivious to the fact that a statuesque babe is obviously into him. Peep the framed photo of Louis in his graduation cap and gown at 53:19.

Dana’s encounter with her Terror Dog counterpart was actually scary while Louis throws a jacket onto his personal demon. In general, this movie plays Moranis getting hunted by/possessed by Vinz Clortho with way more levity (probably because Moranis is first and foremost a comedian).

The practical special effects of Ghostbusters are so unbelievably good and the only effect that has really aged poorly is the film’s use of stop motion when the Terror Dogs are running. You have to admire the craft that goes into this particular effect though, especially given how rampant bad CGI is in blockbuster release even now.

The old woman who emerges into the hallway only to scream “HHH!” is one of the movie’s best quick jokes.

53:54 – 55:03

Louis’ run through Central Park as he’s pursued by Vinz actually follows some spatial reality, given that the real life (currently re-opened) Tavern on the Green is indeed a fairly short walk from 55 Central Park West. More snobs vs. slobs: the wealthy restaurant patrons only deigning to look over at Louis as he begs for his life for a second before returning to their meals.

55:04 – 59:12

Once you’ve seen the female extra with bright pink hair and the sunglasses, you can’t unsee her.

Peter arrives at Dana’s front door but now there is no Dana, only Zuul. Weaver playing Zuul as kind of a spaced out demon hippie is fun (as a contrast to the relatively staid Dana), especially her over the top frustration when Peter tells her he isn’t “the keymaster”.

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Murray’s unflappability in the face of the intense otherworldly weirdness going down in Dana’s apartment gives this scene some great energy. It’s kind of an inversion of Peter and Dana’s earlier scene in the apartment, in fact.

It’s interesting that this scene has gotten flack from viewers who think Peter is attempting to take advantage of Dana here when he’s comically freaked out by Zuul’s demand for (presumably ritualistic) sex. After nearly an hour of Peter’s aggressive horndog schtick, the shoe’s on the other foot.

59:13 – 100:04

Louis/Vinz Clortho is running around Columbus Circle, about two subway stops from where we last saw him. You get the sense that the Terror Dogs sort of take on aspects of their hosts, which is why Vinz in Louis’ body is a big dumb guy who talks way too much and mistakes a carriage horse for a fellow demon.

100:05 – 103:18   

So the NYPD just drops off weirdos with the Ghostbusters? “Alright.”

Moranis is rocking the now iconic colander helmet. More great worldbuilding in Vinz’ fond reminiscence of roasting shubs and zulls thousands of years ago.

The continuing joke of Egon either not knowing or not caring about Janine’s crush on him should feel mean, but it doesn’t, maybe because there’s a cute little bit of payoff later. Janine as a character tends to be sarcastically world weary but there’s something kind of humanizing in her sort of naively claiming to be “very psychic.” Egon’s little eyeroll is the cherry on top.

Peter telling Egon that he gave Dana/Zuul some Thorazine is the basis for the theory that Peter came to Dana’s apartment to nefariously drug her during their date. Let’s address that for a minute.

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Comedies of this era certainly have a very dubious track record when it comes to stuff like this but it’s far more plausible based off of what we’ve seen that Dana has a prescription for Thorazine (an antipsychotic) in her bathroom because she—reasonably—thinks she hallucinated the kitchen apparition at the beginning of the film in the throes of schizophrenia. All of this of course ignores that Peter is a psychologist/parapsychologist and not a prescribing psychiatrist.

Ghostbusters is a movie with ideas about gender that are certainly imperfect and definitely Of Their Time but I don’t think the movie’s creators (or Sigourney Weaver) would let something as offensive as an offhand date rape plot make its way into the film. We can probably all agree Peter *kissing* Dana’s comatose body is not great, however.

103:19 – 104:45

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This quick scene between Ray and Winston driving on the bridge is when we really start to get a bead on who Winston is as a character. There’s so much to dig into here, like Winston being a devout Christian while Ray is apparently agnostic (but can still quote Revelations from memory, intriguingly).

104:46 – 108:59

This shot of Peck angled from below so it makes him look bigger really works in tandem with Peck within the scene, clearly super self-satisfied that he’ll finally shut down these dangerous hucksters. Venkman’s chicken has come home to roost with a warrant.

Peck throws Peter’s earlier rudeness back in his face and confirms that this is really all just an ego trip for him. And the ConEd guy and police officer are just bystanders caught between Peck and Venkman’s tit for tat.  

Notice how Vinz doesn’t even run when the Containment Unit explodes around him. The best part of this scene is the normally mild Egon LOSING HIS MIND WITH ANGER and attacking Peck while the police try to separate them.

1:09:00 – 1:09:04

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Blink and you’ll miss it but there’s a Stay Puft advertisement painted on the side of a building as the pillar of energy shoots up into the air.

1:09:05 – 1:10:42

The movie’s second montage begins here as we enter into Act 3. The zombie cabbie is a pretty stark departure from almost every other ghost we’ve seen so far in terms of how it looks/operates, but it’s such a good design you don’t really care. The montage is also very effective in impressing on the viewer that, oh yeah, the Ghostbusters are the only thing keeping New Yorkers from getting chased out of the subway by ghouls. Well, *supernatural* ghouls anyway.

1:10:42 – 1:13:19

The third act of Ghostbusters doesn’t waste much time and we find Our Heroes trapped in lockup, including a very pissed off Winston. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Ray and Egon’s technobabble as to the structural makeup and history of Dana’s building is the exact kind of casual world building Ghostbusters is so good at. Every movie needs an exposition scene where the main characters are surrounded by chunky prison inmates.

Winston supplants Peter as the guy in the group with any common sense. Some great character beats in Egon splitting hairs over Winston calling Gozer a “moldy Babylonian god” and Winston’s subsequent exasperation.

Hey look, it’s Reginald VelJohnson!

1:13:20 – 1:14:29

We’re back at 55 Central Park West, where the ritzy tenants of the building are currently running out of the building with everything they can carry. Gozer’s apocalypse is truly the great equalizer.

It’s implied Zuul and Vinz Get It On here to finish the Keymaster/Gatekeeper (c’mon) ritual of summoning Gozer but because nobody wants to see Rick Moranis fuck, we only see the six foot tall Weaver dip and kiss the 5’6 Moranis.

1:14:30 – 1:18:01

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The scene in City Hall with Mayor Lenny and his team of advisors is full of excellent details, like the unnamed officials ominous declaration that “the walls of the 53rd precinct were bleeding” or the fact that Peck and the Ghostbusters are all covered in soot.

You have to love that everyone is just sort of exhausted and not having it here. Even Ray is pissed off. Venkman, because he is Venkman, can’t resist getting in one more smartass remark even with the threat of total cosmic annihilation right around the corner.

Nobody talks about it but everything with this kind of scumbag archbishop who walks into the room is genius. He’s on a first name basis with the Mayor and urges him to be pragmatic rather than, I don’t know, offering consoling words of wisdom from the good book.

Special credit to Winston in this scene for not only getting the best line in the entire film (“I’ve seen shit that’ll turn you WHITE”) but for visibly mortifying the random white fire commissioner with said line.

After Venkman convinces the Mayor that he’ll have scores of voters come election year if they let the Ghostbusters out to fight off the end of the world, we get the one-two punch of Lenny’s little smile and THAT HEAD NOD from the archbishop. This movie really trusts its audience to follow some great, subtle jokes.

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1:18:02 – 1:20:04

Speaking of the opposite of subtle gags, here’s the National Guard and a fleet of police cars to escort the Ghostbusters to the final showdown.

Ghostbusters essentially turns into a superhero movie when they arrive at Central Park West to a cheering crowd complete with praying holy men of various faiths. Venkman, naturally, is delighted by this and plays to the crowd. Look for the overenthusiastic extra with the red hair who they clearly had to overdub with lines because he keeps talking. Because we live in a truly astonishing world, here is an interview with him.

1:20:05 – 1:22:03

Gozer’s last ditch gambit to stop the Ghostbusters: A big pot hole. This was apparently an enormously expensive sequence to film, which is especially insane because it could very easily be cut from the film and you wouldn’t miss anything.

1:22:04 – 1:24:14

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Because oh yeah, we’re still watching a comedy, we watch the Ghostbusters laboriously climb 22 flights of stairs en route to Dana’s apartment. When the Ghostbusters find the “stairs that go up” that lead to Gozer, did Gozer create those stairs or were they always there? Something for all of us to think about.

1:24:15 – 1:28:29

What’s really incredible about the showdown between Gozer and the Ghostbusters as a set piece is that, on the surface, it’s four guys against a big matte painting. But because the entire film has built up to this and because there’s so much great tangible detail, we buy into the gravity of the scene.

Peter telling Ray to “go get her” is a callback to their initial run-in with the library ghost.

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Let’s talk about the design of Gozer for a minute, because it’s really excellent. The “bubbles” that cover Gozer suggest that there’s not really a costume here and the high heels on her feet aren’t so much shoes as they are her actual feet. It’s a completely alien character design that’s far from the more grounded designs of many of the ghosts. Between the haircut and Egon and Ray’s inability to determine if Gozer even has a gender, there’s a strong visual echo of David Bowie as well.

Gozer’s ability to use force lightning shoot psychokinetic energy from her hands places the Ghostbusters at the mercy of the same weapon they used against ghosts throughout the film.

1:28:30 – 1:33:48

There’s some outstanding payoff in Ray unwittingly choosing the Mr. Stay Puft as the form of The Destructor. Not only does it play on the joke that Ray is both buffoonish and an overgrown child, the actual appearance of Stay-Puft is an incredibly visual gag that’s foreshadowed for a careful viewer.

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Stay Puft’s as the film’s big monster is rather ingenious because, even though that isn’t an actual corporate mascot viewers would know, it draws on enough familiar design elements that we instantly know what he’s supposed to be and why Ray would accidentally summon him into existence.

Ghostbusters is a movie where a multiple-story marshmallow demon climbs a Manhattan co-op to try and kill Bill Murray. 

1:33:49 – 1:35:59

Ray, Winston, Egon and Peter cross the streams (there’s that foreshadowing) with the knowledge that they’re going to die, but there’s another kind of subtle joke in the fact that they survive that massive explosion completely unscathed (but still covered in marshmallow). After a whole movie of being covered in various slimes, Peter is the only Ghostbuster who isn’t coated head to toe in exploded Stay-Puft.

1:36:00 – 1:38:05

Venkman coming across Zuul’s charred remains and his silent anger at Ray for unintentionally making a joke about it is the only time in this movie Bill Murray plays the character with actual pathos. It’s a very quick moment that does so much to humanize Venkman after spending the entire film as a callous joke machine.

But this is Ghostbusters and everyone makes it out okay, so Dana and Louis are alive but stuck inside their doggy shells.

Ernie Hudson plays Winston’s genuine excitement to be alive so, so perfectly. “I LOVE THIS TOWWWWN HAHA!”

1:38:07 – 2:05:00

And here we are, at the end of the movie. There’s something very comforting about the last couple minutes of Ghostbusters leading into the end credits, it’s like visual chicken soup. Peter gets the girl, Janine embraces Egon and nobody loves Louis. It’s a very leisurely stroll to the finish line, the movie equivalent of leaving a good party. It’s appropriate that one of the last things we see is bystanders hawking bootleg Ghostbusters shirts, as if they’re now a fixture of the city. 

Post By Max Robinson (106 Posts)

Deadshirt staff writer. Conceived by the unholy union of Zeus (in the guise of a corn dog) and ED-209. Has written for City Paper, Courthouse News. Twitter famous.

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