Release Date(s)1984/1989 (September 16, 2014)
Studio(s)Columbia Pictures (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A-
- Overall Grade: A-
There’s just no way that I’m going to get through this review without telling you how much I love Ghostbusters, so I’ll just say it: I LOVE Ghostbusters. There are many reasons for it. Nostalgia plays a big factor because I’ve been watching it since I was a kid. The other reason is that I respect it as an adult for being one of the most perfect comedies ever made, as well as being a well-made movie that required a lot of craft, both on the set and in the editing room. It’s also one of the funniest and most inventive movies ever made.
And just so I don’t bore you with covering a lot of ground that’s already been well-covered, I don’t think I’ll go into talking about the original Ghostbusters all that much for this review. After all, Bill has already covered it in a previous Blu-ray release of the movie. It should go without saying that we here at The Bits love the first movie. So instead, I think I’ll talk a little bit about Ghostbusters II, as it hasn’t gotten a lot of coverage here previously because of its virtual non-existence on DVD and Blu-ray.
Ghostbusters II, for most people, is a disappointing follow up to a really great movie. Some say it’s basically the same plot as the first movie done over again, while others maintain that it’s less believable and more goofy than the first movie. There’s truth in a lot of that, but you can’t deny that there’s some great stuff in Ghostbusters II. Despite the fact that, in the movie, the citizens of New York City seem to have forgotten about the existence of ghosts, the opening act of this movie is really rather entertaining. Seeing the Ghostbusters picking up the pieces after being hounded by lawyers, federal agencies, and politicians and put out of business after the events of the first movie is the most interesting bits in the movie, and some of the funniest. Bill Murray, who is arguably the closest to a single star even though the movie is more on an ensemble, doesn’t seem all that interested in the playing this part again. He seems bored, and I’m not just referring to his character. He has a lot of funny lines, but he doesn’t seem as into it as he was the first time around. You rarely ever even see him in the Ghostbusters uniform and he spends most of the movie trying to put back together his broken relationship with Dana, which keeps him out of the main plot a lot more than you’d want him to be.
As I said though, there are some positives. The first act is pretty great, and the new character of Janosz is a welcome addition. Like Louis Tulley from the first movie, he has some of the funniest lines. He also functions as somewhat of a villain, but you never really see him in that light because of how appealing comedically he is. Viggo the Carpathian is, of course, a weak villain compared to Gozer from the first movie. Gozer, at least to me, has a more interesting backstory, which is explained during the police station scene in first movie. Viggo the Carpathian, more or less, is a Dracula-type. And I don’t mean that he’s a vampire, but the real Dracula, who supposedly killed lots of people in his time. Viggo is a lot like that, and I can’t help thinking of Dracula when they talk about Viggo’s backstory. And this is a nitpicky thing, but all of the slime should have been green and not pink.
One could say that the cartoon TV show and toy line influenced the second movie a lot, which is debatable, but as a pair of movies, Ghostbusters 1 & 2 are very much entertaining. The second one isn’t as good, obviously, but it’s definitely not a chore to sit through. It has some good stuff in it, like I mentioned, and having seen the evidence of a Ghostbusters sequel, I sincerely hope that a third one never gets made. I have a feeling that the recent 30th Anniversary screening of the movie in theaters was a way of the studio getting a feel for how interested people are in this franchise, and a deciding factor in whether or not they want to move forward on another sequel. I love these characters and I don’t want to see new versions of them or new characters brought in to portray them, or even new characters altogether. Making a Ghostbusters movie without all of the people behind the original idea just wouldn’t work for me. And even with the original people behind a sequel, it still didn’t turn out that well. A remake/reboot/sequel is bound to happen eventually, of course, but one can always hope that it doesn’t.
Film Ratings (Ghostbusters / Ghostbusters II): A+/B+
But enough about my thoughts on this franchise. Let’s get into the meat of this review. First of all, the transfers for these movies were done in 4K resolution, as promoted on the rear cover of this release. I saw the theatrical presentation of the 30th Anniversary screening of Ghostbusters and it looked pretty spectacular, so my concern was that the downgrade from 4K to 1080p was going to lose a lot of the fine quality. Technically, it is a downgrade, but this is a pretty amazing transfer. People who have seen the previous non-4K remastered Blu-ray release of the first film that Bill covered will be surprised at the improvement in overall clarity, as well as the upgrade of the second film. First of all, there is a more refined layer of grain that appears a lot more natural than before. The color palette is also more accurate, although skin tones don’t always appear to be. The outdoor sequences, and even scenes in the fire house, have some deep, robust colors that really jump out at you. Even the lighter colors have more flair to them than before. Blacks are mostly deep, but appear to have some light crush from time to time. Unfortunately, that’s something that no release will probably ever get totally right. Still, there’s a great amount of image detail, especially in the background, than ever before. Contrast and brightness looked mostly perfect to me, although I noticed a couple of shots that were a little bit too dark next to others. And there are no anomalies to report that I can spot after a couple of viewings. Ghostbusters II looks slightly better that the first overall, but it’s because of the increase in budget over the first film. The special effects look a lot better and there’s less heavy grain to deal with, but both are still equal in terms of video quality.
For each of the film’s soundtracks, you get a multitude of audio options. For Ghostbusters, you have six of them: English, Japanese, and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD and French, Spanish, and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital. For Ghostbusters 2, you have ten: English 5.1 DTS-HD; French, Russian, and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital; German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish (Castilian and Latin American) 2.0 Dolby Digital; and last, but not least, Portuguese mono. I will, of course, be covering the English 5.1 DTS-HD tracks. For both films, the dialogue is almost always a priority in the mix, being very clean, clear, and audible, while both sound effects and score have been given a boost. The sound effects, in particular, have had some major low end added to them. Notable spots in the film that reflect this would be the library ghost and the terror dog in Dana’s apartment, which are much louder than the rest of the soundtrack with a lot more rumble to them. They’re mixed just a bit too high, in my opinion, as they tend to cover up some of the dialogue sometimes. It doesn’t happen often, but enough to warrant a mention. I can’t say that the soundtracks provide a great deal of envelopment or directionality from speaker to speaker, but the soundscapes are well-prioritized. Dialogue is usually front and center while score and sound effects fill the surrounding speakers. It should also be noted that a lot of these soundtrack options are new (the DTS tracks, in particular) and that some of the previous options from previous releases have been left behind, which is too complicated to get into, so I won’t bother. Basically, if you speak another language other than English, you may want to check previous releases before committing to this one. My only major gripe is that I would have liked to have had the film’s original soundtrack in lossless quality to go with this new spiffy presentation, but oh well. The DTS track will have to suffice. Like the soundtracks, there are multiple subtitle options for both movies, as well: English, English SDH, Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian and Portugal), Romanian, Russian, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), Swedish, Thai, and Turkish. This is a region-free release, so no matter what language you speak, you should be covered.
Now let’s get into the extras, of which there are both positives and negatives. While there’s certainly plenty of great material carried over from previous releases, there’s still a lot of material that’s NOT been included, which is the sticking point for me on this one. I’ll get to all of that in detail in a bit, but let’s take a look at what you DO get with this release. Carried over from previous releases to the Ghostbusters Blu-ray is an audio commentary with Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis, and Joe Medjuck; the Slimer Picture-in-Picture Mode, which acts as a documentary of sorts; the Ecto-1: Resurrecting the Classic Car featurette; the Ghostbusters Garage: Ecto-1 art gallery; the original 1984 featurette; a cast and crew featurette; a SFX team featurette; the Scene Cemetery section featuring ten deleted scenes (Stake, Dana, Honeymooners, Winston, Bums, Busy, Promotion, E.P.A., Puft Hat, “No Louis!”); a set of Multi-Angle Explorations (Spook Central Exploding, She’s a Dog, Crossing the Streams); and some Storyboard Comparisons (Slimer, Dogs Drag Dana, Atop Spook Central). New to this release is a Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary Print Collection art gallery; Who You Gonna Call?: A Ghostbusters Retrospective, which is an interview with Dan Aykroyd and Ivan Reitman; a set of alternate takes from the TV version of the movie; the “Ghostbusters” music video by Ray Parker, Jr.; and a trailer. On the Ghostbusters II Blu-ray, ALL of the extras are new, as this was a bare bones release previously. You’ll find Time is But a Window: Ghostbusters II and Beyond (again with Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd); the Scene Cemetery section featuring seven deleted scenes (Dana’s Curse, El Gato, The Cat, Sewer Invitation, Louis’ Secret, Peter’s Concern, Jack Buys It, Driving Miss Liberty); the “On Our Own” music video by Bobby Brown; a teaser trailer; and two theatrical trailers. Since this is a Digibook release, there are also several pages inside that talk about the movies a little more, plus bios on all of the main people involved in the making of them. There’s also a personal note from Ivan Reitman, a paper insert for Sony Rewards and code for Digital HD Ultraviolet, plus a miscellaneous promotional insert.
Now before I start complaining, I want to be clear on this. I appreciate the effort that went into putting all of this material together, especially for Ghostbusters II. I was very excited when I heard that they were finally putting some extras together for the movie. It’s not my favorite, but I’m interested in learning more about it. All of the material for both films that’s been included is interesting and entertaining, and definitely worth your time to sort through. Unfortunately, I have to take issue with it a bit because it’s sorely incomplete. First of all, there was a Criterion laserdisc release of the movie a long time ago that featured an additional deleted scene that has never been carried over to other releases, as well as some behind the scenes video material. From the original DVD release, missing also are the behind the scenes photos and publicity materials. Missing from the Double Feature Gift Set DVD release is the material found in the insert booklet, which was called a “Ghostbusters Scrapbook.” And from the very first Blu-ray release, both the Making of Ghostbusters: The Video Game featurette and Ghostbusters: The Video Game preview are both not here, but not really missed, in this case.
Die-hard fans of these movies will note the exclusion of some key deleted scenes that we’ve been seeing stills of and hearing about for years since each movie’s release, some of which were used as parts of montages in both movies. From Ghostbusters, these include Ray and Winston investigating a place called Fort Detmerring (a piece of which is used in the movie’s middle montage), Louis, as the Keymaster, attacking a group of thugs, the Ecto-1 rejecting a parking ticket, and more of Janine and Egon’s burgeoning relationship that never came to be. I’m sure that there’s lots of more deleted material that we don’t know about, as well. The aforementioned Criterion laserdisc also contained the movie’s original teaser trailer, which interestingly didn’t use the “Ghostbusters” theme song as it hadn’t been recorded at that time. Oh, and the trailer that’s been included on this release isn’t the actual original trailer, but a recut version that very closely resembles the original, so count that as missing, as well. I also remember seeing TV spots for the movie when I was young, so count that, too. And just for my own personal fandom, it would be nice to be able to read the movie’s original screenplay AND the shooting script, as they were both drastically different. I’d also love to see an outtakes/gag reel, which I’m sure exists. Reitman has even referred to an improvisational sequence during the “choose and perish” scene when one of the Ghostbusters mistakenly hears it as “Jews and berries.”
As for the Ghostbusters II extras, I’m really pleased to get anything at all because of how ignored it has previously been on home video, but there are definitely some missing bits that I wish had been included. If I remember correctly there were one or two TV specials about the movie when it was first released, which might have been dug up for inclusion. There was also a music video for Run DMC’s version of “Ghostbusters,” as well as some TV spots. I also wouldn’t have minded an audio commentary, the original screenplay, and some behind the scenes photos and publicity materials, as well. But one of the biggest sticking points for me is the non-inclusion of even more key deleted scenes that fans have been chomping at the bit to see. They include a possibly longer version of the scene in Ray’s Occult bookstore, more of the Ghost Jogger sequence, more of Louis hunting Slimer in the fire house, some interplay with Louis’ cousin (played by Eugene Levy, who was deleted from the film altogether), more dialogue outside of the museum, a ceremony in front of the Statue of Liberty (a piece of which is in the movie during the end credit sequence), a possible scene involving the removal of the old Ghostbusters sign outside of the fire house, Egon and Ray running tests on the slime, more of the jewelry store ghost problem as seen in the movie’s middle montage, possible footage of the Ghostbusters in the museum lobby before their first investigation of the Viggo painting, the full Ghostbusters commercial (part of which is seen in the film), and perhaps the most famous deleted footage from Ghostbusters II, a sequence wherein Ray is possessed by Viggo while driving the Ecto-1. Again, a piece of this can be seen during the movie’s middle montage. I’m sure there’s a multitude of alternate takes, as well as an outtakes/gag reel, and possibly more material that we don’t know about. Judging from the deleted scenes that were included with this release, I’m inclined to think so.
For a future release, I’d love to see a long-form three to four hour documentary on the making of both films, interviewing as many people involved with each production as possible and utilizing previous interview material for those who aren’t available. It seems a shame that a movie franchise as big as this one only has pieces of interviews here and there and a few featurettes to represent itself. That just seems like a real missed opportunity to me. I am especially interested in the actual making of the movie, particularly with the art department and special effects, which doesn’t seem to get much attention since most people just view these movies as simply comedies. Now I don’t expect to see ALL of the missing material on a future release that I wish had been included on this release because that’s just not likely. However, I think if Sony DOES start including at least some of this material, then they will win over both myself and die-hard fans, and they came pretty close with this one. Because other than wanting each film’s original soundtrack, they’ve nailed each film’s video presentation. It’s unsurprising as they usually do quality work in that department. I just think they need to archive their supplemental material a little more, and maybe connect with fans to see what they are looking for in these releases and listen to them. I hope that in some small way, this review might help to accomplish that if anyone from Sony is reading this. In all honesty, I actually would have preferred that the money spent on re-releasing the first film to theaters to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary was instead spent on each film’s supplemental material.
I’m going to close this out by saying that this is a top-notch release, and if you can get the Limited Edition Gift Set with all of the swag (pictured below), that would be great too. Despite my mixed feelings about the extras, this is a definitive release for both films, that’s for sure. You should definitely pick it up and check it out.
- Tim Salmons