Ghostbusters (1984)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Sigourney Weaver
Extras: Documentaries, Commentary Track, Production Notes, Deleted Scenes, Storyboards, Featurettes and more

I guess we all have had weird ideas and our own dreams and ideas about the ways to riches at one point or another. I am sure none of it was as outrageous as the one you’ll get to see in "Ghostbusters", and I am not sure how many have been as controversial. Director Ivan Reitman created "Ghostbusters" in 1984 with the help of Saturday Night comedian Dan Aykroyd and writer/actor Harold Ramis, who are supported by Bill Murray, Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver in this hilarious comedy. Little did they know at the time that they were creating a cinematic phenomenon that would rise to instant cultdom and would still inspire legions of fans 15 years after its release. Now, just in time for the film’s 15th Anniversary, Columbia Tristar Home Video is releasing what could be the ultimate special edition of the film ever. We have taken the disc and checked if it can live up to the expectations, if it can indeed eclipse all previous releases of this amazing film.

The story starts when the scientists Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) are fired from their university one day. Too long have they been the sideshow attraction of the campus rather than what you would consider serious researchers and scientists. Paranormal research has never been one of the director’s pet subjects and the men’s clumsiness and inability to turn up results only adds to the overall chaos on campus.

In order to raise money to further support their work, the three eccentrics decide to open their own business as Ghostbusters. Incidentally, New York exhibits an increasing number of paranormal appearances at the same time and soon the Ghostbusters find themselves working on their first assignment. Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) had a strange encounter in her kitchen, when eggs took on a life of their own, jumping from their shells, and the interior of her fridge turns into a portal to a sinister looking place.

Investigating the case – and the woman – the Ghostbusters quickly detect increased paranormal activities in this particular building and assume it has some kind of implicit attraction to ghosts. In the meanwhile more apparitions and incidents occur across town, putting the entire city in a frenzy, and soon the Ghostbusters find themselves in higher demand than they could have ever expected. In a battle that seems hopeless, the Ghostbusters manage to capture and isolate one ghost after another, cleanly accumulating them all in their unique storage facility. Unexpectedly things take on an interesting turn when Dana and her nerdy neighbor Louis (Rick Moranis) become unwillingly tools in the resurrection of Zuul, the master of all ghosts. The Ghostbusters now have to face their ultimate challenge.

"Ghostbusters" has long found its place in our hearts and its satirical view on environmentalists, over-inflated politicians and mind-numbing bureaucrats has become legendary. The film manages to wrap all its harsh social criticism and cynicism in a colorful and extremely entertaining comedy spectacle. Although the film is benefiting a lot from the atmospheric cinematography and the detailed production design, this film is clearly carried by the odd-ball performances of the masterful comedians on the screen. The acting is hands-down funny and oftentimes seems more real than real. It is certainly a result of the chemistry between the actors, but must also be attributed to the amazing skills of talents like Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd. Oftentimes they manage to get the best out of a particular scene by ad-libbing and improvising the most magical moments, completely setting the script aside and doing what they do best – improptu stand-up comedy. Just by watching this movie you can tell that the people have had the time of their life, playing with propped plasma rifles, having goo smeared all over their faces, and standing in the middle of the most chaotic set Hollywood has known at the time.

When Columbia Tristar Home Video made the initial announcement for this particular release, you could hear people literally gasp in anticipation. The list of bonus supplements for this disc was not only seemingly endless, it also contained a number of features that were never heard of and that would clearly push the current DVD technology quite a bit. Interestingly the disc looks just as unsuspecting as any other disc when you pull it from the packaging. It has the same weight, the same look and the same texture – I stayed away from checking the taste. But boy, I tell you, this disc is packed! Loaded, would be the better word. Some of the features on this release are simply spectacular and mind-boggling. The most amazing part of it is how well it all integrates into the movie’s overall feel, and how immersive these materials become. Addicting, I should say. Whatever you touch upon on this disc, it exhibits a love for detail, a love and respect for the movie and some kind of addictiveness that I have never seen before. Geee, it’s even harder to get away from this DVD than it was from the computer game that came out with the movie’s release back in 1984 – and that one was pretty good. For the first time ever, this disc allows you to experience and re-experience the same movie over and over and over again, adding new layers information and supplements every time you watch it.

Take the <$commentary,commentary track> for example. Although the disc contains a regular running-length <$commentary,commentary track> by director Ivan Reitman, co-producer Joe Medjuck and actor Harold Ramis, Columbia added a new layer of experience to the feature. From the disc’s menu you can select a "Mystery Science Theater"-like silhouette of the commentators that is placed as an overlay on top of the actual film. Due to the added visual cue it vastly increases the feedback and impact you get out of the <$commentary,commentary track>, and is the coolest special feature I have seen in a long while, taking a slightly worn and aged feature to completely new heights. When I started watching the film I was constantly torn between watching the plain film first, or going along with the commentary right off the bat. I must have switched back and forth a hundred times, until I opted for the prior, only to return to the commentary moments later. It’s hopeless. This <$commentary,commentary track> is sheer fun!

Adding just as new a spin on a traditional feature, is the way how Columbia approached this disc’s production notes. Instead of giving you printed liner notes or static text screens that are completely detached from the actual movie, „Ghostbusters" can give you background information about the film while you watch it. If you ever wondered which exact scene has been referenced in the production notes of a film because you don’t remember it shot by shot, here’s the answer to that. You have all your information as you go along the film, and once again, it is a great new way to enhance this feature, and to make use of DVDs enhanced capabilities and interactivity… And it gives you a good excuse to watch the film yet another time – as if you needed one. And make sure, not to miss the deleted scenes and the featurettes that come on the disc as well.

Unfortunately the disc’s „Tricks and Trivia" section is a little misleading. Instead of taking you to a true trivia section, this menu entry actually takes you to the above mentioned feature-length production notes.

„Ghostbusters" is presented in an <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> transfer on this disc, restoring the film’s 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is flawless, coming from a very clean print. The picture has a very good definition and well defined edges, without being over-enhanced. The color reproduction is the best I have seen for this film, with natural fleshtones, strong and well saturated colors and hues, and deep solid blacks. The level of detail is very good and the overall impression of the image is outright stunning, especially considering the film’s age and the fact that many films of that particular period did not hold up nearly as well. Don’t even try to look for compression artifacts on this disc – you won’t find any.

The disc also contains a <$DD,Dolby Digital> <$5.1,5.1 channel> surround soundtrack. While the surrounds are nicely integrated, the film’s bass extension is rather moderate. Only in a handful of scenes it reaches down to give the scenes more punch. Nevertheless the soundtrack is well produced and balanced and has an impressive clarity to itself, due to the good spatial integration of the 5.1 re-mix. Elmer Bernstein’s tension loaded musical score is also represented gloriously on this release, making the film even more fun to watch, although the soundtrack is probably the area where you will notice the film’s age the most. One of the reasons why „Ghostbusters" became such a memorable film was because everything came together so nicely, and this presentation on DVD clearly consolidates this impression.

Alltogether the verdict is crystal clear. „Ghostbusters" is the coolest DVD in the market. Not only is the transfer and presentation of the film prisitine, it takes DVD as a medium to new heights, giving you features you cannot find on any other video format. It is a stellar release that is the ultimate showcase disc for DVD in terms of flexibility and there can be no doubt, that this disc has to go into every DVD owner’s collection. Even if you’re not particular fond of the movie – which would surprise the hell out of me – you have to experience the innovative approach Columbia has taken here. Undoubtedly we are seing the introduction of a new generation of DVD with this spectacular release.