❉ An essential purchase for anyone who grew up adoring Ghostbusters.
Ghostbusters (1984) is surely one of the most beloved and iconic movies of a decade that was rich with genre classics. The science fiction-comedy crossover has delighted generations since its release and it has had such an influence that its D.N.A. can be seen in everything from Stranger Things to Shaun of The Dead, from Men In Black to R.I.P.D. It spawned a sequel, 1989’s Ghostbusters II and a controversial, gender-swapped reboot, Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters (2016).
Spin offs have included two successful animated series – The Real Ghostbusters (1986) and Extreme Ghostbusters (1997) as well as a plethora of video games, comics and toys.
With a direct sequel to the original two films due on March 5th 2021 (delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic), there has been no better time than to look back at the making of the original film itself. Cleanin’ Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters is a real celebration of the original film and comes across as a sincere labour of love. UK siblings Anthony Bueno (director) and producer Claire Bueno have clearly put their heart and soul into this documentary, it started as a kickstarter campaign and the brother and sister duo travelled all over the United States gathering interviews of over forty members of cast and crew.
Most of the big players are interviewed here, Dan Ackroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson, Ray Parker Jnr and Director Ivan Reitman are amongst many other pivotal players (but no Bill Murray and Rick Moranis, sadly).
In my humble opinion though, it’s the interview footage with the late writer / actor Harold Ramis (Egon Spengler) that justifies the purchase of this film on its own. It is so heartwarming to see the great man recalling stories from the film’s production with such obvious warmth and affection. He recalls “When you have a great idea. When you really know what you are doing, you feel confident about it. You are laughing to yourself and it feels really fresh… I’m not saying these things write themselves but there is just a real easy flow to it”. You just get the impression he absolutely loved every minute of it.
There is also much fun to be had in listening to the stories of the actors who had lesser parts including Alice Drummond (who played the frightened librarian). The documentary even interviews Steven Tash and Jennifer Runyon, who played the students that were the subjects of Peter Venkman’s ESP tests. Both of whom, it has to be said, have aged remarkably well.
An enthusiastic Dan Ackroyd explains how the film’s roots were inspired by his Great Grandfather, Dr. Samuel Ackroyd, who was a psychic researcher and obsessive about all things paranormal. Ackroyd takes us through his original vision for the the film, in which was initially to star his Saturday Night Live co-stars and close friends, Eddie Murphy and John Belushi. This was not to be, of course, as Belushi died of a drug overdose in 1982 and Eddie Murphy had signed on for Beverley Hills Cop. Belushi would have played Peter Venkman, the role that went to Bill Murray.
With the original film having made a lasting impact since childhood, director Anthony Bueno has assembled a comprehensive documentary for both fans and film lovers alike. It features interviews with director Ivan Reitman, and lead cast Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson. Additionally, it hallmarks the extraordinary achievements made by cast and crew working in visual effects era before the game-changing Jurassic Park.
The film contains never before seen archive material much from the personal collections of members of the creative team themselves, it’s a lasting testament to the craft of filmmaking teamwork and inventive puppeteering when faced with adverse time constraints and all manner of technical challenges.
Ghostbusters so obviously has its cinematic roots in the black and white films of Abbott and Costello and Bob Hope, and this is discussed too.
The documentary is very well-edited and flows so well with lovely 80’s style animations illustrating many of the anecdotes, intercut with scripts, storyboards and the original film footage.
Famously, Ghostbusters was one of the first comedy films to really utilise special effects and this is explored in detail. When the production started, the team had considerable budget restrictions and a thirteen-month window in which to complete the film.
Creature designer and creator Steve Johnson reveals that the scene which features a skeletal taxi driver was basically his audition: “They said, we’ve got two weeks, we have to be in NYC on location filming a fully animatronic zombie cab driver. You go away and make it. Then go to New York and shoot it. If it works, will give you the job”.
The section that focuses on the evolution and realisation of the Slimer character is truly fascinating. Even more so when you find out that much of the character was actually based on James Belushi and was a way of including him in the film.
In these days of such much CGI in Hollywood films, it is really interesting to hear how the film’s iconic scenes were achieved by practical means. One of the really great aspects of this documentary is that we hear from crew members who worked on the special effects but were sadly never credited.
Perhaps the most impressive sequence focuses on the development of the Mr. Stay Puft Marshmellow Man. As a kid, this was always my favourite part of the film and watching how it was actually made put a huge grin on my face.
Of course, you can’t make a documentary on Ghostbusters without mentioning the legendary theme song. Ray Parker Jnr tells of how a pest control commercial saved the day when he was only given three days to come up with the song.
Ernie Hudson (Winston) reveals how he found the first week on set really frustrating, whilst Sigourney Weaver comes across as really funny and clearly revelled in the ‘possession’ of her character (Dana).
At a running time of 2 hours 8 minutes, Cleaning Up the Town… may be a tad too in depth for the casual viewer but for anyone who, like myself, grew up adoring this film, this documentary is a must have companion piece.
Whilst, for the sake of completeness, it would have been nice to have Bill Murray and Rick Moranis onboard, the interviewees included (particularly Harold Ramis) make this an essential purchase for any fan of 1980s genre cinema.
Blu-ray extras :
❉ Filmmaker Intro
❉ Deleted Scenes
❉ Additional Tales
❉ John DeCuir extended interview
❉ Fan Art
❉ European Premiere
❉ 20-page ‘Making-of’ Booklet
❉ ‘Cleanin’ Up The Town: Remembering Ghostbusters’. Certificate: 12A, UK, 2019, running time 126 mins. Released on Blu-ray in UK by Screenbound, 22 June 2020. RRP £14.99. Available for pre-order from Amazon: https://amzn.to/3d9gvTP
❉ David Geldard is a contributor to We Are Cult and loves Sci Fi & Horror, Doctor Who, Starburst Magazine, Stranger Things, The 60’s Avengers, Twilight Zone, The X-Files, cult movies and weird shit. He tweets as @BungleSir.