Theatrical release poster
David E. Blewitt
|June 8, 1984
Following their first encounter with a ghost, misfit parapsychologists Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) lose their jobs at Columbia University. Unable to research their discovery, the trio establish a paranormal exterminator service known as "Ghostbusters" in a retired firehouse. Lacking customers and faced with dwindling funds, they are eventually hired by the Sedgewick Hotel to investigate a haunting. At the hotel, they use their proton packs and ghost trap to capture their first ghost and deposit it in a "containment unit" located in the firehouse basement. Paranormal activity begins to increase in New York City, and the Ghostbusters become celebrities containing it, while at the same time becoming increasingly burdened by the hectic schedule. The group later hire a fourth member, Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), to help them cope with the demands.
The Ghostbusters are hired by Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), whose apartment is haunted by a demonic spirit called Zuul, a minion to Gozer the Gozerian, a fictitious Sumerian shape-shifting god of destruction. Venkman takes a particular interest in the case, competing for Dana's affection with her neighbor, Louis Tully (Rick Moranis). As they investigate, Dana is possessed by Zuul, which declares itself "The Gatekeeper", and Louis by a similar demon called Vinz Clortho, "The Keymaster." Both demons speak of the coming of the destructive Gozer, and the Ghostbusters plan to keep the two apart. Thereafter, the Ghostbusters' office is visited by Walter Peck (William Atherton), a lawyer representing the EPA, who arrests the team for operating an unlicensed nuclear device in their basement and orders their ghost containment grid deactivated, unleashing hundreds of captured ghosts onto the city. Freed from the Ghostbusters' custody, Louis/Vinz advances toward Dana/Zuul's apartment while the escaped ghosts create havoc throughout the city.
Consulting blueprints of Dana's apartment, the Ghostbusters learn that it was built by mad doctor and cult leader Ivo Shandor, who designed the building as a gateway to summon Gozer and bring about the end of the world, claiming humanity was too sick to survive after the horrors of World War I. The Ghostbusters are brought to the mayor's office and freed in order to combat the paranormal activity, but are unable to prevent Dana/Zuul and Louis/Vinz from summoning Gozer and arrive just in time to witness the two transforming into giant terror dogs which sit a the side of Gozer who initially appears as a woman (Slavitza Jovan). Briefly subdued by the team, Gozer disappears, but her voice echoes that the "destructor" will follow, and instructs the team to choose the form that the destructor will take. Venkman, holding that this means that whatever they imagine will appear as a destroying force, urges his comrades to avoid giving form to the destructor by clearing their minds. Unable to keep his mind blank, Stantz remembers a beloved corporate mascot from childhood, "something that could never, ever possibly destroy us," whereupon the destructor arrives in Stantz's chosen form of the giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and begins laying waste to the city. To defeat this manifestation, the team decides to merge the energy streams of their proton packs (against which they were advised earlier in the film) while directing these against Gozer's entrance. The plan succeeds, banishing Gozer back to whence it came, sealing the gateway between the worlds, and destroying the Marshmallow Man in a single explosion. Soon thereafter, Dana and Louis are freed from the ashen remains of their charred terror dog forms. As hundreds of New Yorkers wipe the melted marshmallow goo from their brows, the Ghostbusters are applauded by the city's population.
Three misfit parapsychology research professors that specialize in ghosts, Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), are kicked out of a New York City University after their research grants are terminated.
Their first investigation is a haunting at the New York City Public Library and after seeing some symmetrical book stacking they encounter a ghost that runs them out of the Library.
After having their research grant terminated, they decide to take matters into their own hands and start a business named Ghostbusters, a "professional paranormal investigation and elimination service", out of an old firehouse, using a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Ambulance dubbed "Ecto-1" to get about the city and hiring Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) to handle the phones. Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) of 55 Central Park West, comes to the Ghostbusters and asks for their help. The Ghostbusters do a few tests to determine that she isn't crazy as she recounts a paranormal experience in her kitchen centering around the name "Zuul". Peter seizes the opportunity to get romantically closer to Dana, and goes with her to the apartment. Using the Ghost Sniffer he checks out the place, finds nothing in the main room, and bedroom. Dana then directs him toward the kitchen where he finds eggs that cooked themselves on the counter, but gets no readings on the Ghost Sniffer despite using it correctly.
Meanwhile, their funds are nearly dried up eating a Chinese food dinner when Janine gets a call from a serious client, and she rings the alarm bell. The Ghostbusters run and get dressed, then leave in the Ecto-1. They show up at the Sedgewick Hotel where the manager informs them about problems with a resident ghost. Following a "successful test" of the equipment, they split up to search the hotel for the ghost. Peter finds the ghost which then slimes him. Egon calls Ray to tell him that the ghost is now in a ballroom. They enter the ballroom and as they attempt to capture it, they destroy the room and make a lot of noise. Despite their lack of familiarity with the new technology-- complete with a warning from Egon that if they inadvertently 'cross the streams' they could kill every living thing and destroy themselves on a molecular level-- the first capture is a success, and they find themselves an overnight sensation across both New York City and the nation. As the amount of calls grows, the team is required to hire a fourth member, Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson). An unwanted side effect of their new-found popularity produces Walter Peck (William Atherton) from the Environmental Protection Agency. He comes to the firehouse trying to inspect the storage facility which Peter refuses to let him do.
One night Dana enters her apartment and is talking on the phone to her mother; after the call she gets grabbed by arms that burst out of her chair. She is taken in to the kitchen where she becomes possessed by Zuul. Meanwhile, Louis Tully (Rick Moranis), another resident of the apartments, is hosting a party for his fourth anniversary of becoming an accountant, when Zuul's counterpart demon appears in the form of a Terror Dog (mistaken by some as a bear or a cougar). Louis flees and the Terror Dog chases him out of the building and across Central Park to a restaurant where it possesses him.
Peter arrives at Dana's apartment for their date. He quickly realizes that she has been possessed, as her new personality tries to wantonly seduce him. Peter is sorely tempted but ultimately nobly rejects her advances, at which point she begins growling fiercely and levitating above her bed.
Louis, similarly possessed, stumbles around Central Park seeking Zuul until the cops bring him to the Firehouse and ask Egon if he'd take him, as he is exhibiting strange behavior. Egon recognizes that Louis is possessed by Vinz Clortho, aka the "Keymaster". Peter later calls Egon to tell him about Dana being possessed by Zuul, aka the "Gatekeeper".
Walter Peck obtains a court order to shut the containment grid down, and unable to stop him, the team flees the firehouse as the grid collapses and hundreds of freed ghosts flood the city. In the chaos, Zuul awakens and Vinz Clortho escapes and makes his way back to 55 Central Park West where he finds Zuul laying seductively on her sofa, the two demons unite with a passionate kiss and walk toward an ominous staircase leading up to the roof. Peck orders the Ghostbusters arrested while the ghosts create panic across the city. While waiting in jail, the team recognizes that Dana's apartment building was a huge super-conductive antenna, designed and built expressly for the purpose of pulling in and concentrating spiritual turbulence. The mayor (David Margulies) orders the release of the Ghostbusters from jail, allowing them to get to work to prevent the potential catastrophe overriding Peck's demands.
Assisted by the police and Army National Guard, the Ghostbusters make their way to the top of 55 Central Park West. They are too late to prevent Dana and Louis from completing the ritual for the coming of Gozer. As they open a dimensional gate on the top of the building, they are transformed into their demonic Terror Dog forms. When Gozer (Slavitza Jovan) emerges in a female humanoid form, the team tries to shoot her with their packs, but fail to harm her. Gozer disappears and tells them to select the next form it will take, and though the team tries to empty their minds, Ray is unable to. Ray thinks about the most innocent thing he could imagine: a benevolent advertising mascot called the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. The team finds that a giant version of the cute corporate icon has begun to lay waste to the city as it makes its way to the apartments and starts climbing the building.
Egon realizes that the only way to end the destruction is to reverse the particle flow through the gate by crossing the streams, resulting in "total protonic reversal" which would destroy Gozer and the inter-dimensional gate. The plan is risky at best, with only a very slim chance of their survival. As the giant creature reaches the top of the building, the team executes Egon's plan, causing the gate to seal itself, creating an explosion and burning the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man away into large amounts of liquid marshmallow fluff. The Ghostbusters find that they have all survived, and that Dana and Louis have returned to their normal human forms. The team is cheered by the crowd of onlookers as they leave the building and drive away.
The concept was inspired by Aykroyd's own fascination with the paranormal, and it was conceived by Aykroyd as a vehicle for himself and for his friend and fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus John Belushi. The original story as written by Aykroyd was very different than what would be eventually filmed. In that version a group of Ghostbusters would travel through time, space and other dimensions taking on huge ghosts (the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man was just one of many). Also, the Ghostbusters wore S.W.A.T.-like outfits and used wands instead of Proton Packs to fight the ghosts; Ghostbusters storyboards show them wearing riot squad-type helmets with movable transparent visors.
Aykroyd pitched his story to director / producer Ivan Reitman, who liked the basic idea but immediately saw the budgetary impossibilities demanded by Aykroyd's first draft. At Reitman's suggestion, the story was given a major overhaul, eventually evolving into the final screenplay which Aykroyd and Ramis hammered out over the course of three weeks in a Martha's Vineyard bomb shelter. Aykroyd and Ramis initially wrote the script with roles written especially for Belushi, Eddie Murphy and John Candy. However, Belushi died of a drug overdose during the writing of the screenplay, and neither Murphy nor Candy could commit to the movie due to prior engagements.
In addition to Aykroyd's high-concept basic premise and Ramis' skill at grounding the fantastic elements with a realistic setting, the film benefits from Bill Murray's semi-improvisational performance as Peter Venkman, the character initially intended for Belushi. The extent of Murray's improvisation while delivering his lines varies wildly with every re-telling of the making of the film; some say he never even read the script, and improvised so much he deserves a writing credit, while others insist that he only improvised a few lines, and used his deadpan comic delivery to make scripted lines seem spontaneous. The Ghostbusters DVD credits Ramis with writing nearly all of Murray's lines.
Louis Tully was originally conceived as a conservative man in a business suit played by comedian John Candy, but Candy was unable to commit to the role. The role was taken by Rick Moranis, portraying Louis as a geek. Gozer was originally going to appear in the form of Ivo Shandor as a slender, unremarkable man in a suit played by Paul Reubens. When the change was made to have Gozer be an androgynous 'rock star', Grace Jones was considered. In the end, the role was played by Yugoslavian model Slavitza Jovan, whose Eastern European accent (later dubbed by Paddi Edwards) caused Gozer's line "choose and perish" to sound like "Jews and berries" to the crew's amusement.
Harold Ramis had no intention of acting in any role in the film. He planned on only helping Aykroyd write the screenplay. However, the crew struggled to cast the role of Egon Spengler, even after renowned actors such as Chevy Chase, Michael Keaton, Christopher Walken, John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd and Jeff Goldblum were considered. Feeling he knew the character best since he created him, Ramis accepted the role of Egon. He credits this move in revitalizing his acting career, as Ramis had focused mainly on off-screen work such as writing and directing before this.
Winston Zeddemore was written with Eddie Murphy in mind, but he had to decline the role as he was filming Beverly Hills Cop at the same time. If Murphy had been cast, Zeddemore would have been hired much earlier in the film, and would've accompanied the trio on their hunt for Slimer at the hotel and been slimed in place of Peter Venkman. When Ernie Hudson took over, it was decided that he be brought in later to indicate how the Ghostbusters were struggling to keep up with the outbreak of ghosts.
Gozer's temple was the biggest and most expensive set ever to be constructed at that time. In order to properly light it and create the physical effects for the set, other stages needed to be shut down and all their power diverted over to the set. The hallway sets for the Sedgewick Hotel were originally built for the movie Rich and Famous in 1981 and patterned after the Algonquin Hotel in New York City, where Reitman originally wanted to do the hotel bust. The Biltmore Hotel was chosen because the large lobby allowed for a tracking shot of the Ghostbusters in complete gear for the first time. Dana Barrett and Louis Tully's apartments were constructed across two stages and were actually on the other side of their doors in the hallway, an unusual move in filmmaking.
A problem arose during filming when it was discovered that a show was produced in 1975 by Filmation for CBS called The Ghost Busters, starring Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker. Columbia Pictures prepared a list of alternative names just in case the rights could not be secured, but during the filming of the crowd for the final battle, the extras were all chanting "Ghostbusters", which helped the producers to insist that the studio buy the rights to the name.
For the test screening of Ghostbusters, half of the ghost effects were missing, not yet having been completed by the production team. The audience response was still enthusiastic, and the ghost elements were completed for the official theatrical release shortly thereafter.
Ivan Reitman had a trailer run to keep interest going In the middle of the film's initial release. It was basically the same commercial that the Ghostbusters use in the movie, but with the 555 number replaced with a 1-800 number. It allowed people to call and reach a recorded message of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd saying something to the effect of, "Hi. We're out catching ghosts right now." They got 1,000 calls per hour, 24 hours a day, for six weeks. Their promotion was similar to that of a calling service offered by the production of The Empire Strikes Back.
- "Ghostbusters (1984) - Box Office Mojo". Boxofficemojo.com. January 15, 1985. http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=ghostbusters.htm. Retrieved December 6, 2012.