To celebrate the 35th and 30th anniversary, Sony has released a 5-disc Ghostbusters 1 & 2 collection housed in steelbook packaging. The set consists of the same 4K UHD movie discs that were released individually in 2016, a Blu-ray of each movie with a few new special features, and a fifth Blu-ray disc solely consisting of Special Features (old and new).
The Production: 4/5
Ghostbusters – 4.5/5
Something supernatural is afoot in New York City, with hauntings on the rise, and three parapsychologists (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis) find a way to trap and incarcerate ghosts, forming the Ghostbusters. Cellist Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) enlists the ghost exterminators when eggs begin to pop out of their carton and fry on her countertop, and a portal appears in her refrigerator inhabited by a terror dog. Peter Venkman (Murray) is sent to investigate, finding very little evidence of any paranormal activity, but becomes smitten with Dana, agreeing to solve her problem. With their business booming, the Ghostbusters are quickly shut down by Walter Peck (William Atherton) from the EPA for illegal disposal of hazardous waste, and thus releasing all of the captured ghosts to run free in New York City. This all leads to the film’s climax, as they soon discover that Dana Barrett is living in a building that is a gateway to the demigod Gozer the Gozerian, who is bent on destroying the world. Dana and her neighbor Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) are the lock and key, quite literally, to freeing Gozer, and it is up to the Ghostbusters to save the city (and the world) from being erased from existence.
In the summer of 1984, I was one of three visual effects supervisors on a student-produced science fiction epic called Odyssey Through Time as part of Cinekyd’s summer program. What I remember most from that summer was the crew, especially my two colleagues George Gakoumis, Jr. and Eric Kurland, quoting many of the best lines from Ghostbusters as part of their normal dialogue with each other within days of its initial release. Credit has to go to the film’s writers Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis (who also played Raymond Stantz – the heart of the Ghostbusters; and Egon Spengler – the brains, respectively) as well as the improvisational talents they shared with Bill Murray. Ivan Reitman was one of the top comedic directors in Hollywood in the 1980s and early 1990s, having made Meatballs and Stripes (both with Murray and Ramis), Twins, Dave, and Kindergarten Cop. But none of those films matched the success of Ghostbusters, not even the 1989 sequel. Sigourney Weaver showed her knack for comedy, standing toe to toe with Murray and actually helping draw out one of his best comedic performances. Rick Moranis is perfectly cast as the geekish accountant Louis Tully who has a habit of locking himself out of his apartment. Ernie Hudson is sorely underused as the hired hand brought in as a script device to help explain the paranormal science for the audience. Richard Edlund’s visual effects hold up for the most part, but at times look a bit cheesy by today’s standards. Overall, Ghostbusters is a film that is practically timeless, as fresh today as it was over 30 years ago.
Ghostbusters II – 3.5/5
Five years after the events in the first film, the Ghostbusters have disbanded, forced out of business by lawsuits from just about every government agency at every level, trying to recoup for the damages caused by Gozer, and slapped with a restraining order forbidding them to capture ghosts. Egan Spengler (Harold Ramis) has moved back on campus at Columbia University, conducting psychological experiments at the Institute for Advanced Theoretical Research. Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) has opened an occult bookstore. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) hosts a local talk show called World of the Psychic. And Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) got married to a violinist, had a baby boy named Oscar, got divorced, left the orchestra, and is now helping to restore paintings for Dr. Janosz Poha (Peter MacNicol) at the Manhattan Museum of Art. When Oscar’s baby carriage gets away from Dana and starts weaving in and out of traffic by itself on the busy streets of Manhattan, she enlists Egan and Ray to look into the matter, but asks them to keep Peter out of it. Obviously, that doesn’t last long, and Peter is soon reunited with Dana, realizing that she was probably the best thing that ever happened to him. Meanwhile, back as the museum, Janosz becomes obsessed with a large painting of sixteenth century tyrant Vigo the Carpathian (Wilhelm von Homburg from Die Hard), who begins to come to life within the painting, and enlists Janosz to help him find a child that he can possess and return to life by the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. The Ghostbusters soon learn that there is a pink mood slime flowing under the city in the abandoned pneumatic train tunnels, all leading to the museum. The slime feeds off of negative energy given off my humans, and is helping Vigo gain his power. When Oscar is kidnapped by Janosz (in a sequence that pays homage to The Wizard of Oz), it is up to the Ghostbusters to change the polarity in the mood slime and use one of New York’s most recognizable icon to break through the negative slime, defeat Vigo, and save both Oscar and the city.
Sequels can be tricky, as the built-in audience wants something familiar, but not necessarily the same story told again. And that’s where Ghostbusters II falters, using the same basic storyline as the first film, but changing the villains and adding a few other twists. The inside joke the film does have some fun with is how it was clearly stated in Murray’s contract that he was not to be slimed in the second film, and setting up possible sliming situations for his character. The comedic teamwork is still there, with Murray once again as the front man, but both Aykroyd and Ramis do get a slighlty larger share of the laughs this time out. Murray and Weaver continue the chemistry from the first film, but the odd pairing of Annie Potts reprising her role as Ghostbusters receptionist Janine Melnitz (now decked out in bright colored outfits and hair) with Rick Moranis’ Luis Tully (now the Ghostbusters’ lawyer) is a bit too broad for the movie. And poor Ernie Hudson is once again underused as the everyday middle man with whom the audience can relate to.
Is Ghostbusters II a bad movie? Not really, it’s not even a bad sequel now that it has some distance from the overpowering anticipation that audiences and the studio had upon its initial release. There is no way any film can live up to that, especially a film that was so beloved as the original. Director Ivan Reitman and his team took their best shot, and for the most part, they succeeded. Most of the effects (this time contracted out to ILM) are an improvement over the previous film, but there was also a huge leap in technology in those five years, particularly in the digital realm. The only thing ILM didn’t get quite right was the character of Slimer, who had to be recreated from scratch.
3D Rating: NA
Ghostbusters – 5/5
Ghostbusters is a film that was completed back in the days when visual effects were completed optically, a product of a very analog world, where the only thing a computer could do was record and playback a camera movement. For this 4k UHD release, Sony has gone back to an actual film source, scanned the print at 4k resolution, and retimed the color and lighting using HDR. The result is one of the most organic-looking discs released in the format thus far. Many will likely enjoy it, some will probably hate it. This is not the sharp, sterile style of transfer like Deadpool or The Revenant (both taken from 4k masters), as those were both captured digitally during principal photography. Ghostbusters was photographed by the late Laszlo Kovacs in 35mm and 65mm (for effects shots), using a very fast film stock that results in a rather grainy image. Non-cinephiles may be bothered with the inherent film grain, but I never found it distracting. It actually reminded me of how it looked when I saw the film theatrically back in 1984. Colors are natural and consistent, flesh tones are perfect, and contrast is excellent, providing very fine black level detail throughout most of the film (that’s not crush you are seeing – it’s film grain). If this is how classic films are likely to appear on the format, I’m all in!
Ghostbusters II – 5/5
For Ghostbusters II, Ivan Reitman chose Michael Chapman to lens the picture, who has a very different style than Laszlo Kovacs, this time opting for a more fine grain film stock, resulting in a much sharper appearing image overall. And as with the original Ghostbusters, the sequel was also completed and composited on film, and that is what Sony used to create the 4k master for this UHD release. Colors are vibrant and natural, never blooming or appearing oversaturated. Fine detail is also exceptional, and the image exhibits some additional depth over all previous home video releases, yet still retains natural film grian. Contrast is perhaps the biggest winner, resulting in a much brighter and refined image.
Ghostbusters – 4.5/5
As part of Sony’s audio policy regarding 4k UHD discs, Ghostbusters has been remixed in Dolby Atmos, and is backwards compatible to Dolby TrueHD 7.1. Since my original review in 2016, I upgraded one of my home theater rooms to Atmos 5.1.2, and the film still sounded exceptionally well. Dialogue was clear and understandable, never getting lost in the mix. Elmer Bernstein’s score and the many pop songs used throughout fill the room nicely, utilizing all available channels, including LFE for nice bass response. Sound effects are also used discretely, never sounding gimmicky as some multichannel remixes from matrixed surround masters sometimes do, although there was no obvious use of the height channels. Instead, they are used to help fill the listening area. Ghostbusters has never sounded better.
Ghostbusters II –4.5/5
Sony once again provides a new Dolby Atmos remix of the film, which is backwards compatible to Dolby TrueHD 7.1. Ghostbusters II was released theatrically in the Dolby Stereo Spectral Recording format, which allowed for a wider dynamic range, even with an optical soundtrack, and gave the sound designers a lot more room to play around with. Comparing the DTS-HD MA 5.1 to Dolby Atmos, it is pretty clear that the big difference is an improved lower end (something I noticed with Warner/HBO’s Atmos remixes of Game of Thrones) and a wider soundstage to place the effects, although there was no obvious use of the height channels. Instead, they are used to help fill the listening area.. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout, never getting lost in the mix. Randy Edelman’s score (using some of Elmer Bernstein’s cues from the original) fills the room nicely, and the discrete surrounds are used to great effect to spook the audience.
Special Features: 5/5
This 5-disc set comes housed in a two-spindle steelbook case. It is a rather handsome looking case, but I found it very difficult to remove the discs from these spindles. That being said, all of the Special Features (except where noted) can be found on the three Blu-ray discs. Don’t be fooled, as the movie discs use the same menu design as their previous Blu-ray release.
Fan Commentary: Eric Reich of Ghost Corps hosts this fun commentary track featuring Trot Benjamin and Chris Stewart of the Interdimensional Crossrip podcast, Ashley Victoria Robinson of the Geek History Lesson podcast, and prop replica expert Sean Bishop.
Audio Commentary with Director Ivan Reitman, Writer/Actor Harold Ramis, and Associate Producer Joe Medjuck: This is the original commentary track that accompanied the movie’s 1999 DVD debut, and is also available on the Ghostbusters 4K UHD disc.
Slimer Mode Picture-in-Picture: Carryover from the previous Blu-ray release.
Tricks & Trivia: A new subtitle track featuring various tidbits of facts and trivia about the film.
Ghostbusters II (Blu-ray):
Audio Commentary with Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd, and Joe Medjuck: The three discuss the making of the film, although there are quite a few quiet spots.
Special Features (Blu-ray):
** Ghostbusters **
Scene Cemetery: A total of 17 deleted scenes, some new, some old, including ECTO-1 Parking Ticket (1080p; 0:26), Pulling Up to Fort Detmerring (1080p; 0:42), Fort Detmerring Ghost (1:37), Louis Encounters Woman (1080p, 0:33), Louis Encounters Muggers (1080p; 0:24), Central Park Bums – Raw Takes (1080p, 5:09), Nobel Prize Aspirations (1080i, 0:31), Stake (upscaled 1080i; 1:04), Dana (upscaled 1080i; 0:47), Honeymooners (upscaled 1:18), Winston (upscaled 1080i; 0:55), Bums (upscaled 1080i; 0:48), Busy (upscaled 1080i; 1:30), Promotion (upscaled 1080i; 0:38), E.P.A. (upscaled 1080i; 0:23), Puft Hat (upscaled 1080i; 0:33) and “No Louis!” (upscaled 1080i; 0:40).
Ghostbusters TV Commercial (1080p; 0:27): The commercial seen in the movie.
Ghostbusters TV Commercial – Outtakes (1080p; 5:01)
1984 ShoWest Exhibitor Reel (1080p; 12:11): Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray introduce rough clips from the film in a reel that was shown to theater owners trying to sell them into booking the movie.
A Moment with the Stars – Original EPK Featurette (upscaled 1080i; 15:11): Prepackaged question and answer sessions that were common for local news and entertainment reporters in the 1980s.
1984 Featurette (upscaled 1080i; 9:32): Carryover from previous releases.
SFX Team Featurette (upscaled 1080i; 15:21): Carryover from previous releases.
Cast and Crew Featurette (upscaled 1080i; 10:52): Carryover from previous releases.
Alternate TV Version Takes (upscaled 1080i; 1:30): Carryover from previous releases.
Who You Gonna Call: A Ghostbusters Retrospective (1080p; 24:04): Carryover from previous releases.
ECTO-1: Resurrecting the Classic Car (1080i; 15:37): Carryover from previous releases.
Multi-Angle Explorations (upscaled 1080i; 5:22): Carryover from previous releases.
Storyboard Comparisons (upscaled 1080i; 5:37): Carryover from previous releases.
Ghostbusters Music Video by Ray Parker Jr. (upscaled 1080i; 4:18)
Photo Galleries (1080p)
Teaser Trailer (1080p; 1:28)
International Teaser Trailer (1080p; 1:04)
Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 2:15)
30th Anniversary Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 1:32)
** Ghostbusters II **
The Oprah Winfrey Show: Cast of Ghostbusters II – June 1989 (upscaled upscaled 1080i; 43:17): The cast sit down with Oprah prior to the sequel’s theatrical release.
Ghostbusters II Original EPK (upscaled 1080i; 41:37): Original behind the scenes look at the film.
Scene Cemetary (1080p; 7:24): Carryover from previous releases. Seven deleted scenes, including Dana’s Curse, El Gato the Cat, Sewer Invitation, Louis’ Secret, Peter’s Concern, Jack Buys It, and Driving Miss Liberty.
Time Is But A Window: Ghostbusters II and Beyond (1080p; 16:16): Carryover from previous releases.
On Our Own Music Video by Bobby Brown (upscaled 1080i; 4:35)
Theatrical Teaser Trailer (1080p; 1:07)
Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 2:26)
International Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 2:32)
Unfinished Teaser Trailer (1080p; 1:46)
** The Real Ghostbusters **
“The Real Ghostbusters – Pitch Concept Pilot” – A Fan Restoration by Robert Barbieri (1080p; 3:52): I’m not entirely sure what this is supposed to be, other than a series of confrontations with Slimer, set to the movie’s theme song. Colors are overly saturated and contrast is blown out of proportion.
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy (in UHD where available) on Movies Anywhere.
This five-disc set is highly recommended for ultimate fans of the original Ghostbusters, although I’m a bit surprised Sony did not offer a 3-disc Blu-ray edition.