Ghostbusters DVD Review

As I write this, we are mere days away from the 20th anniversary of Ghostbusters, which premiered June 8th, 1984. It's spectacular opening weekend brought in $23 million dollars, solidifying it as one of the top comedies of all times. The DVD release was one of the early discs to really take advantage of the format, though the horrible menus ruin the experience. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) play scientists, kicked out of Columbia University since their "science" didn't sit well with school. Tossed out on the streets, they decide to become the "Ghostbusters." Overnight the group becomes a huge success and hires another member, Winston Zedmore (Ernie Hudson). Soon, the EPA orders a shut down of their entire system causing a disaster and the city to be overrun by an evil force. It's up to the group to save the city and defeat Gozer. This is a movie that you will enjoy more if you watch a few times. There is so much entertainment here that you'll likely miss most of it the first time around. This is a wild sci-fi movie, one that would likely inspire more recent films like "Men in Black." This mix will only work if the performances are strong. Here, they are just outstanding. Bill Murray leads most of the movie but the scene-stealer here is Rick Moranis, a close neighbor to Dana Barrett, played by the also excellent Sigourney Weaver. Moranis puts on a great show as the "keymaster," and the movies later segments are better because of it. The special effects, now at least, are hit or miss. The commentary track (more on that later) mentions a few shots that should have probably been cut, but for 1984, these are just amazing. In fact, they would go on to win an Academy Award along with another one for best song. If by some chance you have never seen it or it's been a while, now you have a reason to re-visit it. (**** out of *****) Ghostbusters is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen. There is no pan and scan version available. This is a decent transfer with great color, solid black levels, and superb clarity. What knocks this one down a bit is some excessive grain and flickering. Almost every scene has something the resolution has trouble with and it really can get annoying at times. Still, the print has been cleaned up almost flawlessly with only minor instances of scratches and spots. It looks good, but it could certainly be better. (***) The re-mixed 5.1 sound is a nice touch, but a missed opportunity as well. There are plenty of opportunities for rear speaker usage but they never seem to kick in. A few sequences use them a little while, but rest assured your sound will almost always be coming out of the front speakers. The LFE channel is also used sparingly (check out the scene when their first power-up the proton packs in the elevator), but again, not as much as it should be. Regardless, voices are clear and understandable with soundtrack never sounding better. (***) This was one of the earliest discs to really pack on the special features, but the challenge is finding them. Sure the menu looks great with a rampaging Stay Puft Marshmallow man stomping along to the theme song, but it's completely disorganized and confusing. The same feature can be accessed from 3 different locations and just playing the movie will baffle those who are just now getting into the format. Anyway, here is what I THINK is a complete rundown of the features, but I very well may have missed something. The most obvious feature is the visual commentary, a great way to make a feature like this worthwhile. Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis, and associate producer Bill Mudjk are super-imposed silhouettes, pointing things out (literally) about the film as they go. Think Mystery Science Theater without the jokes and you'll get the idea. They all have a blast talking about the movie and pointing out mistakes. You'll get some great stories from the set as well. If you don't want the three people blocking the botom portion of your screen, you can just listen to the commentary. Scanning the menu could possibly bring you to the deleted scenes. There are ten in total and are of varying quality, but all of them are widescreen. There is a great one with Murray and Aykroyd walking in Central Park as bums. Not sure how it would have fit in the movie, but it's hilarious nonetheless. If the commentary wasn't enough, you can turn on "Tricks and Trivia," a subtitle track that gives you various information on the scene youíre watching. Up next, if you can find it, is a promotional documentary from 1984. It runs about ten minutes and shows some short clips of behind the scenes action. It's mostly just Reitman and the actors talking about the movie though. Next is a 1999 documentary that runs about a minute longer than the previous one. Various cast and crew talk about how it came to be and reminisce about the times they had making the film. The longest documentary is on the special effects team. Nearly the entire crew was brought back together for what seems like a recent interview. They'll talk over archive footage and about how some of the shots were accomplished for about 15 minutes. After this, you can see some multi-angle shots of three key sequences. Finally, you can check out some still photos along with sketches and some other movie trailers. (****) If this movie is not in your DVD collection, it should be. Excluding the menu problem, this is a great disc with an even better movie on it. There are so many classic quotes to be had, each one worth revisiting. If it is in your collection, it's a great way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a classic.


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