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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 8/3/99

Collector's Series - 1984 (1999) - Columbia TriStar

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Ghostbusters: Collector's Series Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B-/A+

Specs and Features

107 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 48:34, in chapter 15), Amaray keep case packaging, "live" audio/video commentary (with Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis, and Joe Medjuck), original featurette, 1999 featurette, 4 theatrical trailers (Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2, Groundhog Day and Stripes), 10 deleted scenes, subtitle text notes from Don Shay's book Making Ghostbusters, gallery of production photographs, conceptual drawings, SFX featurette, "before & after" SFX comparisons, storyboards with scripts excerpts or split screen film comparison, DVD-ROM features (including cast & crew bios, trivia & web links), film-themed menu screens with animation and music, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, Close Captioned

"Dum, dum, dum, dum, da, da... Who ya gonna call?"

Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Sigourney Weaver star in this hit 1984 comedy about a team of rough-around-the-edges paranormal investigators, who figure out a way to make big bucks by ridding people of their ghosts, spooks and specters. Murray plays Dr. Peter Venkman, a university psychology researcher, who spends much of his time "testing" his prettier female students, and dabbling in para-psychology. When he and his partners, Dr. Stantz (Aykroyd) and Dr. Spengler (Ramis), get kicked off the university gravy train, they're in desperate need of a way to make a living, and continue their work. Using their newly-developed ghost-hunting equipment, the trio decide to go into business as professional Ghostbusters ("We're ready to believe you," their TVs ads say). Enter one Dana Barrett (Weaver), an upscale New York musician who's apartment is becoming the epicenter of spook central, and the Ghostbusters suddenly have a client that leads to something BIG (cosmically speaking).

Ghostbusters is the funniest movie I've ever seen in the theater. I was in high school when this movie came out, and several friends and I went to see it, having NO idea what to expect. I don't think I'd ever laughed that hard in a movie before, and when Mr. StayPuft finally appeared, I literally had tears running down my face I was laughing so hard. Looking back on it years later, okay... there have been funnier movies. But few have hit MY funny bone this hard since.

Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis are absolutely in their element, with glib one-liners and funny, off-hand comments dropping like flies here. Aykroyd and Ramis, who also wrote the script, set Murray up time and again for perfect punchlines. And sight gags and physical humor abound here -- just try not to laugh as Murray tries to wipe ectoplasm off his hand, and ends up flicking it in his eye. This is absolutely great stuff. Rick Moranis even manages to pull off a very funny subplot, as Mrs. Barret's geeky, health-conscious neighbor, who gets possessed by the spirit of the "keymaster" and runs around looking for the mysterious "gatekeeper". I won't blow any gags here, despite the fact that I'm sure most of you have seen this film. But on the off chance that you haven't, there's never been a better time to check it out... or a better way.

To be fair, the video and audio quality on this Columbia TriStar DVD aren't outstanding. Which is not to say their they're bad either. The video is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and you can tell that the folks at Columbia really worked hard to get it looking as good as possible. The color is accurate, if a bit muted, with only light film grain visible. The contrast is generally good, but there's somewhat of a lack of detail in the blacks. The reason for that, is that there's a lack of detail in general. The print used for this transfer was of fairly good quality (and I'm sure it was the best available), but it exhibits that softness that a lot of films from the early 80s show. The result is that there isn't a lot of crisp detail here -- this is not reference quality. That said, the picture is still generally good, and remains entirely watchable.

The audio is on about the same level of quality as the video. It's been remixed for Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, but it still comes off a bit lifeless. The mix is very front-centric, with only occasional rear channel use (and none of it is especially aggressive) during special effects sequences. Bass seems adequate, but the dialogue comes across flat-sounding, and is at times overwhelmed by sound effects and music. Still, while this is not an especially immersive mix, it's not really bad either -- it's adequate, and you get used to it.

But these issues aside, it's the extras that make this a truly great DVD. And you get LOTS of extras (and I mean TONS), some of which are really unique, and haven't been tried on DVD before. To start with, you get all of the usual stuff, like theatrical trailers, trivia, a photo gallery, deleted scenes, and various production featurettes. Just the fact that SO much of that sort of material is included here, would be enough to make any DVD fan excited (there's no less than 10 deleted scenes, 3 featurettes, 4 trailers, hundreds of photos, etc...). But Columbia TriStar has gone a step further, with a host of nice touches. For example, the gallery of conceptual art is set up so that as you look at each drawing, it appears to be laid out on an studio artist's drafting table. You have the option to compare several scenes in the movie with and without special effects, and it's been set up so that, by using your remote's angle button, you can jump back and forth from the work print to the final film. It's even been frame-matched, so the jump is seamless -- you can go back and forth several times during the scene, while watching on-the-fly. You can look at the film's original storyboards with script excerpts, or as compared to the final filmed scene, in split-screen. And that's not even the best of it. One of the subtitle tracks contains not another language (only English is on the disc), but production notes on the film, excerpted from Don Shay's book Making Ghostbusters -- almost the whole text of the book is here. And if you're like me, and you love commentary tracks, you're in for a real treat here. Not only can you listen to commentary with Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis, and Joe Medjuck (the director, writer/actor, and producer respectively), you can actually SEE them as well! Columbia has shot video of them watching the film against a screen in silhouette, and has encoded this visual information on another subtitle track. In this way, by using your remote's subtitle select and on/off buttons, you can turn on the "video" of them at any time during the movie, as well as the audio. The effect is rather like watching an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 -- you see them pointing at the screen, while you hear them laughing and talking -- it's very, very cool. Big kudos go out from all of us here at the Bits to the design team on this DVD. It's an extremely impressive piece of work.

But the big features aren't the only things that stand out here. It's also the little touches that make you happy with this DVD. Many people don't think of menu screens as terribly important to the DVD experience, but the very best DVDs use animation and sound in their menus, to really immerse you in the experience of the film. And they also make exploring the disc's contents easy and intuitive, by streamlining navigation. The menus here are absolutely outstanding, ranking right up there with those on the Alien: 20th Anniversary Edition DVD. You start out hovering above Dana Barrett's building in New York City, complete with traffic on the streets below, and the StayPuft Marshmallow Man stomping between the buildings. From here, you can opt to play the movie, activate the "live" commentary track, or jump to a specific scene or extras. Choosing the "scene selection" option for example, then leads to a 3D fly-through animation, where you zoom closer to the building, and several of its windows open up to reveal moving images of the various scenes, which you can then select. Want to go to a later scene? No problem -- the "next" button is already highlighted, so there's no need to press 3 or 4 buttons just to get to the next page (a VERY nice, and rare, ease-of-navigation feature). And let's say you're deep into the extras, and want to go to another area of the disc. Again, no problem -- most of the disc's major sections can be accessed from anywhere in the disc, so there's very little chance that you could miss anything. These menus are extremely well planned and implemented -- again, our compliments to the folks who came up with them.

Ghostbusters the movie is one of the funniest you'll ever see. And Ghostbusters the DVD is certainly one of the very best discs so far this year (right up there with the aforementioned Alien and Columbia's new Taxi Driver: SE). I'd say that it also easily ranks as one of the best examples of the DVD format thus far. Whether you're a fan of the movie, or just the kinds of features DVD can offer, this disc is absolutely not to be missed. If you haven't done so already, just get yourself a copy now. Trust me, you won't regret it.

Bill Hunt
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