Ghostbusters Turns 15 in Style

Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts. Directed by Ivan Reitman. Aspect ratio: 2:35:1 (anamorphic). Dolby Digital 5.1. 107 minutes. 1984. Columbia/TriStar COL04139DVD. PG. $29.98

Everyone's favorite nerdy but ultra-cool ghost-hunting team is back. Directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, Ghostbusters took the world by storm in 1984. A rare form of comedy and supernatural special effects, Ghostbusters is one of the top-grossing films of all time (number 19, at $221 million). And make no mistake—it had one of the most popular theme songs of the era. It's now celebrating its 15th anniversary with a knockout DVD that's one of the most complete titles put out this year.

Ghostbusters has been deconstructed by various critics as a commentary on the growth of the small business and the bureaucratic nightmares of government agencies. (Ramis reveals that a grad student did a paper on the Environmental Protection Agency based on its portrayal in the film.) Beyond that subtext, Ghostbusters is a combo of cool gadgets dreamed up by Aykroyd (a professed fan of the paranormal), cartoony special effects, and great comic acting, especially from the wry, laconic Bill Murray.

Ray Stanz (Aykroyd), Egon Spengler (Ramis), and Murray's Dr. Peter Venkman (the names are priceless) play three academics specializing in parapsychology. When their renegade approach to their field (which is supposed to be plain ol' psychology) gets them kicked out of the comfy/flabby world of academe, they decide to go into the ghost-trapping business. Soon, paranormal activity takes an upturn in New York, and the demand for their services is more than they ever imagined and makes them media darlings. Meanwhile, musician Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver in a rare comedic role) has some mysterious goings-on in her Central Park West apartment, and the Ghostbusters come to investigate. What's brewing is an event of Biblical proportions, a spectral takeover of New York with Dana and her accountant neighbor Louis (Rick Moranis in a role intended for John Candy) as unwitting pawns in the event.

Ghostbusters is presented in digitally remastered anamorphic widescreen with top-notch picture quality. The animated "neuro-wands" look especially good, even in this age of digital effects. (Not the same can be said for the stop-animation demon dogs, but it's forgivable.) Sound is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, which resonates nicely in such scenes as "the light is green, the trap is clean."

A number of extra features make repeated viewing especially fun. The director's commentary track includes a conversation among Reitman, Ramis, and associate producer Joe Medjuck, in a video option in which their silhouettes appear in front of the film à la Mystery Science Theater 3000. Even more technical information is provided in the "Script Notes" option, where subtitled production information runs along with the film. Deleted scenes are also presented, as well as two featurettes (one from 1984, the other from 1999), an SFX-team documentary, production photos and storyboards, and a feature that allows viewers to compare rough-cut scenes (sans SFX) with their finished counterparts by using a DVD player's Angle feature to toggle back and forth.

The producers of this disc went beyond the call of duty in presenting Ghostbusters—entirely fitting for a classic that is as enjoyable now as it was in 1984.

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