A smarmy professor abuses his position to give a sexy coed false confidence while physically punishing a more talented male student gets ousted from his position along with his two colleagues because his department lacks faith in his research. The damsel in distress ends up hooking up with the desperate geek neighbor guy she has been politely avoiding for probably years before she ends up with this professor turned super hero celebrity instead of the talented musician we first see her with.
That’s the basic plot of the original “Ghostbusters,” currently available to view online at Amazon Video ($3.99). What kind of person would this story appeal to?
There’s no denying the pop culture hook of the soundtrack, especially the theme sound written and performed by Ray Parker, Jr. That hit song spent three weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was nominated for an Academy Award (Best Original Song) and has a fun, bouncy spirit to it that is not always apparent in the movie.
The MTV video also uses an attractive blonde woman and clips from the movie. While the woman is threatened and she is asked about “an invisible man sleeping in your bed,” she is modestly in a lace camisole and tap shorts. The video includes children and cameo appearances by Chevy Chase, Irene Cara, John Candy, Melissa Gilbert, Ollie E. Brown, Jeffrey Tambor, George Wendt, Al Franken, Danny DeVito, Carly Simon, Peter Falk, and Teri Garr.
The original movie and the 2016 begin the same. The location of a ghost appearance is introduced. In the 2016 version, the witness is given lines. He’s a tour guide who plays up the rumored haunting of an infamous mansion. The original focuses on a librarian, an older woman with a blouse and thin bow-tie neck ornamentation under a long chunky cardigan. She has no lines at this point. She is one of 10 witnesses. (In the 2016 movie, the professor vying for tenure wears a similar blouse at the beginning.)
From there, the scene switches to the (Weaver Hall, Department of Psychology, Paranormal Studies) lab. Parapsychologist Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) is conducting an experiment with a male student and an attractive blonde female student. He allows the female student to believe she shows promise of clairvoyance while pretending that the male student is providing only incorrect answers and giving the male student an electric shock. Venkman then sets up a date with the female student. Venkman is that creepy professor grooming his next conquest.
Venkman and his colleagues Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykrody) and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) receive news that a ghost (“free-floating full torso vaporous apparition” who “scared the socks off some poor librarian”) is present in the New York Public Library. A skeptical Venkman questions the witness, asking if she has a history of mental illness in her family or if she is menstruating. The threesome confront the ghost, but are frightened off when innocuous female figure transforms into a monster.
Dean Yaeger informs the three men that they have lost their funding. Yeager feels Venkman in particular has abused his position as a “dodge or hustle” and adds, “Your theories are the worst kind of popular tripe, your methods are sloppy and your conclusions are highly questionable.” After losing their professional positions at the university, the threesome rent an unused firehouse, fix it up and form a paranormal investigation and containment service and begin making those horrific stilted TV commercials.
At this point, the movies damsel in distress is introduced, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver). Returning home with groceries, she has to politely turn down the interested geek from the apartment down the hall, Louis Tully (Rick Moranis). Once safely in her unbelievably spacious apartment, she unpacks her groceries. On the counter she places a bag of Stay Puft Marshmallows and a carton of eggs. The carton opens and the eggs break and explode, cooking on the counter. A strange light emanates from her refrigerator. Looking in, she sees a floating building, flames and creatures and she hears a voice of Zuul, a Sumerian shape-shifting god of destruction.
By the time she consults with the Ghostbusters a few days later, the company has just acquired a broken down hearse that has yet to become the famous Ghostbusters car. The company now has a receptionist/secretary, Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts), who is flirting with Egon. When Venkman goes to investigate, he sees no evidence of Zuul, but hits on Barrett.
As Venkman leaves, Tully appears and, as part of a running joke, locks himself out of his apartment. Down to their last dollars and eating Chinese food, they finally get a call. In their Ghostbuster mobile they head to the swanky Sedgewick hotel. The hotel manager informs them the staff was always aware of disturbances on the 12th floor, but things were getting out of hand. The manager wants to keep everything quiet and discrete, but the team shoot up the place, but capture their first ghost, the voracious green Slimer. Ghostbusters become famous and business booms, requiring them to hire a fourth member, Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson).
Venkman manages to bump into Barrett as she is leaving her work with a male musician.Venkman is determined to prove himself to Barrett. He tells her who Zuul is and then makes a date with her.
When Venkman returns to the company headquarters, a lawyer for the Environmental Protection Agency forces the Ghostbusters to shut down their containment system, thousands of ghosts are set free. The resulting explosion also ends with the arrest of all four Ghostbusters
During this time, Dana Barrett becomes possessed with Zuul and Louis Tully becomes possessed by another demon. Zuul and the other demon (Tully) hook up and they become supernatural gargoyle-like hounds of hell, ready for the coming of a more powerful demon, Gozer.
While in custody, from consulting blue prints for the Tully and Barrett’s apartment building, the Ghostbusters discover a cult leader named Ivo Shandor constructed the building to hide a gateway temple for Gozer to enter this plane of existence and end the world. Released from jail, the team then hurries to the building. But Gozer appears in the form of a woman in a tight jumpsuit. Gozer tells them that they will choose the form of the destructor which is, spoiler alert, a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
In the end, the lecherous professor gets the girl, but after the geek down the hall has sex with her. Nothing this sleazy happens in the 2016 version which ends with a friend risking her life for another friend. Sure, Kristen Wiig’s character, Dr. Erin Gilbert, is embarrassingly infatuated with Chris Helmworth’s himbo receptionist, but Gilbert doesn’t isn’t predatory like Murray’s Venkman.
The original had some cringe-worthy moments and didn’t develop Ernie Hudson’s character Winston Zeddemore enough. “Ghostbusters” may be a classic movie, but it isn’t a perfect movie nor a great movie. “Ghostbusters” benefited greatly from the popularity of Murray and Akryod and SNL, but it hasn’t aged well and I’m not talking just about the fashions.