Remember 1984’s “GhostSmashers” aka “GhostStoppers”? Of course you do. With a star-studded cast featuring John Belushi (Peter Venkman), Dan Aykroyd (Ray Stantz), Jeff Goldblum (Egon Spengler), Eddie Murphy (Winston Zeddemore), John Candy (Louis), Sandra Bernhard (Janine) and Paul Reubens (Ivo Shandar/Gozer), the future-set supernatural comedy in which roving teams of ghost catchers protect humanity from the supernatural, directed by Ivan Reitman, cost a whopping $300 million to make, featured hundreds of monsters, including a giant marshmallow man, and spawned not one but two sequels; the second of which got smoothly underway recently with the full, gracious participation of all of the original cast.
Ok, all of that happened in a parallel universe, where casting decisions went the other way, Dan Aykroyd’s original script got the green light, where perhaps dogs and cats live together in mass hysteria…but we got “Ghostbusters” instead. We wouldn’t trade.
On the anniversary of its release on June 8, 1984, we’ve set ourselves the unenviable task of trying to dig out some of the more obscure factoids related to the hugely successful film. Unenviable, because its long, long status as one of the most beloved comedies of all time, compounded with the maturing of some of its original audience into blog-writing, trivia documenting, speculation-crazy fans means that there’s very little of the canon left unmined. I mean, is it even possible that there are five things any fan (loosely defined as “a person with a heartbeat”) doesn’t know about this movie? But we’re nothing if not foolhardy round these parts, and so we stoically strap on our proton packs and deliver a few world-weary quips to our teammates, before facing down our own personal Gozer and risking total protonic reversal. Here, then, are five things you may not know about “Ghostbusters.”
1. “This is Casey Kasem. Now, on with the countdown.“
The cast is peppered with notable bit parts and cameos, and even the extras are worth sifting through.
Ludicrously prolific and priapic porn star Ron Jeremy appears as an extra in a scene outside Ghostbusters HQ. Jeremy would go on to star in the film’s inevitable porn parody, 2011’s disappointingly titled “This Ain’t Ghostbusters XXX.” While we feel he would have been a lock for porno Peter Venkman in his prime, here instead his role in the X-rated flick is that of “library ghost,” making him the porn version of Ruth Oliver, who plays the indelible ghost in Ivan Reitman‘s film. Oliver herself boasted only two acting credits to her name, and actually carved out a more famous career as a Hollywood astrologer, while her daughter Susan Oliver went on to be a successful TV actress on the likes of “Days Of Our Lives.” And TV was where Annie Potts (Janine) also found the majority of her success — she starred in the long-running show “Designing Women” for its entire run, while William Atherton (Walter Peck) and Reginald VelJohnson (policeman in the jail) would reunite in extremely similar roles (Atherton a “dickless” sleazeball, VelJohnson a cherubic cop) in the first two ‘Die Hard‘ movies (not to mention playing Carl Winslow on hit sitcom “Family Matters“).
Roger Grimsby plays himself as the New York Anchor of “Eyewitness News,” a job he held from 1968-1986, as do Larry King and Joe Franklin of “The Joe Franklin Show” (“How is Elvis and have you seen him lately?”). Casey Kasem, longtime host of “American Top 40” and the voice of Shaggy from “Scooby Doo,” also plays himself, but only as a voice on the radio, while his wife Jean is the tall, pneumatic blonde with whom Louis dances at his party. Speaking of blondes, Jennifer Runyon, the pretty college girl Venkman hits on in the opening scene, is Roger Corman’s niece by marriage, and when Louis is being attacked beside the Tavern on the Green in Central Park, there’s a young girl celebrating her birthday inside who went on to be popstrel Debbie Gibson, though you really can’t ever make out her face. Finally, the library ghost puppet used in the finished film was a replacement for the original which was deemed too scary for younger audiences. The rejected puppet, however, was repurposed for use in the following year’s “Fright Night” — we like to think as this one, but we can’t be sure.
2. “I don’t believe in any of that stuff.“
Writer and star Dan Aykroyd is a true believer.
Aykroyd, who had the original idea about teams of ghost catchers who behaved like pest exterminators or firemen but for supernatural phenomena, actually drew on his very real interest and belief in spiritualism. Indeed, it’s something in the way of a family business for him as his great-grandfather was an avowed mystic who was in contact with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about spiritualist matters; his grandfather carried on the family tradition; and his father, Peter Aykroyd, even wrote a book about the seances that were held in the family home in those times — stories he passed on to his son Dan, who wrote the introduction. Dan is also a UFOlogist and a card-carrying member of the American Society for Psychical Research, if those guys carry cards. Hey, for $70 a year you can find out! So a lot of his psychical research fed into the original screenplay, like the name “Gozer” which is quoted in connection with a famous (and partially, at least, debunked) poltergeist story that occurred in London in 1977 – The Enfield Poltergeist. That title has itself been optioned, with a film apparently currently in development, but we wouldn’t advise any breath-holding there. In any case, Aykroyd’s very real fascination and faith in this area (he apparently has witnessed phenomena himself, such as “ectoplasmic tubes of light” on the stairs of his childhood home) led Ivan Reitman to state in the book “Making Ghostbusters – The Screenplay” that he feared Aykroyd meant all of this “rather seriously,” and so he brought in Harold Ramis to collaborate with him on the screenplay rewrite.
3. “I read a lot myself. Some people think I’m too intellectual.“
The film spawned not one but two novelisations.
This being the mid-80s, “Ghostbusters” was released at the very pinnacle of the novelisation craze. The first of the two books based on the screenplay to make it into print was by Larry Milne, published in the U.K. and simply titled “Ghostbusters.” That was the one this writer owned and repeatedly read (and yes, we do understand there is a special circle of nerddom reserved for those who not only rewatch a beloved movie ad infinitum, but reread it…). Anyway, it hews very faithfully to the film, though presumably to the film in its unfinished state (as was the practise with novelisations, the author would often be working from a cruder edit or even early script draft, in order to have the book on the shelves simultaneously with the film’s release). Written in the present tense, strangely, if our memory serves really the only thing it expands on that didn’t make it into the theatrical release is the budding love affair between Janine and Spengler (I seem to remember he compliments her clavicles at one point), though it does also include rather nice pithy sketches of our heroes, like “Nobody has explained the facts of life to Spengler. He worked them out for himself on a pocket calculator and vaguely suspects he came up with the wrong result.” That probably made me snort milk out of my nose all over my pedal pushers.
The following year the second version hit the shelves, written by Richard Mueller, this time called “Ghostbusters: The Supernatural Spectacular.” According to those in the know (or rather, the reviewers on Amazon) it is superior to the Milne version in terms of style and artistry and adds greater backstory to the characters.
4. “I love this town!“
Despite only being partially filmed there, Ghostbusters is regarded as a quintessential New York movie.
While the fact that it has a certain catchment area and is a vital resource for the surrounding community is probably cited as the reason Hook and Ladder 8 firestation on 14 North Moore Street in Tribeca got saved from a recent firehouse cull threatened by wily ol’ Mayor Bloomberg, “Ghostbusters” fans rallying to its defence probably didn’t hurt. For yes, it is the Ghostbusters HQ, and as such, an integral part of any self-respecting cinephile’s tour of New York City (some nice shots of it here). However, those bothering the actual fireman for a peek inside should know that there’s no pilgramage value there — all the HQ interiors were shot in a disused firehouse in L.A., one that was also built in 1912, hence the neat matching of exterior and interior detailing. But with a slightly altered logo painted on the sidewalk outside, and the same fireman/ghostbuster motif available on Ladder 8 FDNY merchandise, the association is there to stay.
Of course the firehouse is not the only real-life New York location you can spot in the film: Columbia University, the New York Public Library, Central Park, the apartment block overlooking Central Park, The Tavern on the Green Restaurant — all these exteriors are used, along with some of their interiors at times. Had budget and logistics allowed, indeed, the film would have featured the mother of all New York landmarks: originally the 112.5 ft Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (the height was a compromise between the 100ft and the 125ft variously suggested to Reitman), was to rise out of the water beside the Statue of Liberty, to give us a sense of its size. With Lady Liberty standing at 111.5 feet without her pedestal, they would have made a beautiful couple. But that turned out to be impractical and so the majority of the film’s supernatural events take place uptown, proving, if nothing else, that ancient Sumerian gods have expensive taste in real estate. And the statue got its moment in the limelight eventually with a key role in the vastly inferior sequel.
5. “No offense guys, but I’ve gotta get my own lawyer.“
The famous Ray Parker Jr vs Huey Lewis copyright case has an unresolved postscript…
Well, no, we couldn’t get through a post about “Ghostbusters” without mentioning its iconic song. Ray Parker Jr was nominated for an Original Song Oscar for the theme tune, but lost out, in a particularly memorable song category, to Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called To Say I Love You” from “The Woman in Red” (seriously though, the other nominees were the two big songs from “Footloose” and Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” – tough year). Of course, “Original” Song is somewhat ironic, as famously the singer was sued by fellow ’80s soundtrack stalwart Huey Lewis for ripping off his band’s “I Want a New Drug” for the theme’s main riff. That they then settled out of court, you probably did already know. However waaay later, in 2001, the two were at loggerheads again as Parker filed suit against Lewis over comments Lewis made on a VH1 “Behind the Music” episode. Parker claimed that Huey mentioning the fact that the out of court settlement actually entailed him being paid off, violated the terms of the non-disclosure agreement the antagonists had signed. And you can see his point: settling out of court amicably could mean anything, but that Lewis was given money suggests an admission of culpability on Parker’s part. However, try as we might (and we really have) we cannot find any post-2001 reference to this new lawsuit and have no idea who won — so we’re offering a 35ft-long 600lb twinkie to any of you who can definitively tell us.* In the absence of that information, we going to have to assume that either the suit was dropped by Parker, or settled out of court as well. Which in itself opens up the tantalising prospect that, in the cyclical way of things, in a few years time Parker will shoot his mouth off about that case and Lewis will counter sue… and eventually society will devolve into Lewisites and Parkerites who battle eternally across the blasted wastelands of the planet.
We dunno, anyway – call us tin-eared, but we don’t think these two songs sound anything alike:
Ghostbusters is ranked as the 78th biggest-grossing film (domestically) of all time, one spot above fellow 1984 release “Beverly Hills Cop.” However it is second to the Eddie Murphy vehicle (the shooting of which, coincidentally, meant that Murphy had to turn down the role of Winston Zeddemore which was originally written with him in mind; the role was subsequently rewritten and somewhat reduced) in the 1984 B.O. charts, where “Beverly Hills Cop” actually rides high. How so? It was actually “Ghostbusters”’ rerelease in 1985 that saw it take in the requisite few mil more to boost its gross beyond that of Axel Foley’s.
*twinkie offer not real or legally binding.