This is one that completely blind-sided me. I moved back to Texas in 1984 and was working for a defense contractor. A group in my section was working on a project called “Tankbreaker.” It was a little missile that would home in on a tank and wipe it out. Anyhow, we were called to a section meeting, and two of the executive assistants had composed this cute presentation. It was a slide show accompanied by music, and there was a cute tune. The graphics showed a Soviet tank superimposed with a crossed-out circle, “no tanks.” And the tune played, and when it got around to the part where it said, “Who’re you gonna call?” they substituted in “Tankbreaker.”
So I told one of the gals who did this that it was a nice tune, but where did it come from. Did I ever get a roasting. Had I never heard of Ghostbusters?
Anyhow, I subsequently caught the movie when it came on TV, and it’s now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia. Here’s a rundown of the plot.
The opening sequence has a prim lady librarian in the New York City Public Library, and she is moving with a measured pace among the stacks. She has a cart, and she is reshelving books. Behind her back books start moving themselves from one shelf to another. She doesn’t notice at first. Then in the card file system (they don’t have these anymore), the drawers start opening by themselves, and presently cards are flying out of the drawers and spraying amongst the rows. The noise alerts the librarian, and she turns around and sees the chaos. She screams and runs in panic. Then comes on the title graphic and the theme music starts to play.
Only, at this point in the movie there is (are) no Ghostbusters. There are three odd-ball researchers living off grants at Columbia University. Two are doing research into supernatural phenomena, such as ghosts. The other, is Professor Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), who is conducting research into psychic abilities. Here he has hired two students to participate in his work, which is to explore whether negative feedback can bring out latent abilities. He has two students, one a nerdy guy, and the other a comely coed, and it’s obvious he’s making a play at the girl. He has a set of Zenner cards, of which there are five kinds, each with a different symbol. He alternates between the boy and the girl, and when the boy guesses wrong he throws a switch, delivering a painful shock to the boy. The girl never gets it right, but Venkman conceals this and always rewards her with praise.
The boy quits in disgust and charges out of the room. Venkman tells the girl they need to do more research after hours.
Then Venkman’s two friends charge in with a report from the library. They have their instruments, and they want Venkman to come with them to look for a ghost in the library. The two friends are Dan Aykroyd as Raymond “Ray” Stantz and Harold Ramis as Egon Spengler. It’s during this sequence we get to hear Venkman utter those immortal words, “Back off, man. I’m a scientist.”
Presently they spot the ghost, a wisp of vapor in the form of a lady librarian left over from the 19th century. They initially draw back, but then they decide to approach her. She shows her true nature, and they flee into the street.
Meanwhile, Columbia has become fed up the three hangers on and has withdrawn their grants, closed their facilities, and banished them from the campus. Staring unemployment in the face, they decide to go private. They form Ghostbusters, adopting the logo shown above. They move into an unused firehouse, and they hire a woman to answer the phone. Then they wait for the phone to ring. And they wait.
Enter Dana Barrett played by Sigourney Weaver, a sharp contrast from Warrant Officer Ripley of the space tug Nostromo. Now she’s a concert cellist, returning to her Central Park West apartment by cab with a load of groceries. When she enters her apartment, the TV is mysteriously on, and a commercial for the newly-minted Ghostbusters is playing. She looks. She think’s that’s strange. She starts putting away the food stocks, when mysteriously the egg carton springs open, and eggs start exploding and cooking themselves on the counter top. She hears a noise coming from the refrigerator. She cautiously approaches it. People in the audience are screaming at her, “No, no! Don”t open that door!” She opens the door and is greeted by hideous monster, which description and background I won’t get into.
We next see Dana showing up at the Ghostbusters store seeking resolution. Peter, still pining for the days of coeds gone by, leaps into the breech. He insists on coming by Dana’s apartment to check out things. He gets nowhere with Dana.
The phone actually rings. The manager of a swank hotel has a ghost problem. Can Ghostbusters help? They come charging, arriving in their Ghostbusters wagon, lights flashing and sirens blaring. They approach the assignment like a squad of Navy SEALs.
The first encounter—not so good. Peter comes, Peter sees, Peter gets slimed. Get ready for it. Here it comes. “He slimed me.”
But there is success, and the team departs the hotel with the bad fellow locked safely in an apparition-restraining box. More good news. Peter gets a date with Dana. Before he can arrive she encounters difficulties. It turns out her upscale apartment building was originally constructed as a conduit to an ancient goblin. As she sits in a chair, hands come out through the fabric and restrain her, and the chair slides into her bedroom, from which emanates an unearthly light.
Peter arrives for the date to find Dana much transformed.
He coaxes her to bed, but that only reveals additional surprises.
To cut to the conclusion, a smart aleck EPA official orders Ghost busters to cease operations forthwith, and he commands a technician to shut off the power to the goblin containment facility. All hell breaks loose, and goblins run rampant through midtown Manhattan. The Park West building erupts, spewing lightning and masonry.
When the ghost busters arrive they find Dana and her nerdy neighbor Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) transformed into manifestations of the evil goblin. It’s a great opportunity to show off Weaver’s fantastic legs.
You guessed it. The ghost busters are triumphant, and they deploy their proton pack weapons to defeat the demigod Zuul and save the day.
They are heroes (for the moment) and Peter and Dana are a couple (for the moment). We see in the sequel that the moment has come and gone, and I will be posting a review of the sequel on Sunday. Keep reading.