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Ever since the day I purchased my first Laserdisc player, I wanted to own the best possible version of GHOSTBUSTERS. Back then, I would venture into my favorite Laserdisc shop once a week and ask if they heard any news about a Letterboxed version of GHOSTBUSTERS. Of course, the question got tiresome after a couple of years, but a Letterboxed GHOSTBUSTERS finally appeared under the auspices of The Criterion Collection. When I purchased my DVD player, again I couldn't wait for to own the best possible version of GHOSTBUSTERS. However, this time around I thought that the wait wouldn’t be quite so long, since Columbia TriStar's early advertising materials indicated that GHOSTBUSTERS would be released on DVD very soon. Now even though GHOSTBUSTERS was "promised" for DVD, the "official" announcement took almost as long to materialize as that first Letterboxed Laserdisc. Well, I am happy to say GHOSTBUSTERS has finally appeared on DVD and the disc is well worth the wait.

For the six people out there who never saw GHOSTBUSTERS, let me describe the plot of this supernatural comedy. Three University professors who specialize in parapsychology are forced into the private sector when the school cuts off their funding and throws them out into the street. Using the knowledge they've gained doing their paranormal research, doctors Venkman (Bill Murray), Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Spengler (Harold Ramis) set themselves up in business as the Ghostbusters. At first, this trio of ghost exterminators finds business slow. Then suddenly, Manhattan Island is besieged by supernatural activity, with the Ghostbusters reaping the benefits of countless hauntings. With the level of ghostly activity is well beyond the Ghostbusters' wildest dreams, the scientists soon discover the true cause of the paranormal occurrences on the doorstep of their first client. It seems that Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) lives in the building that the Ghostbusters deem "spook central" because of its unique properties to channel supernatural energy. The building becomes the doorway to doomsday, when an ancient demonic force crosses over into our realm. 

As the situation in New York City grows progressively worse, it is up to the Ghostbusters to save not only Dana, but also the rest of the world from Armageddon. On the surface, the plot of GHOSTBUSTERS sounds dark and scary. However, the screenplay by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis takes a tongue-in-cheek approach that keeps everything light and very funny. Bill Murray is utterly hilarious as the scientist with the personality of a flimflam man. Aykroyd and Ramis get their share of laughs, however Aykroyd has a number of moments in the film that rival Murray’s for their hilarity. Rick Moranis also gets some big laughs as Louis Tully, the nebbish accountant that live across the hall from Dana Barrett. The cast of GHOSTBUSTERS also features Annie Potts, William Atherton, Ernie Hudson and David Margulies.

Columbia TriStar Home Video has made GHOSTBUSTERS available on DVD in a great looking wide screen presentation that includes the 16:9 anamorphic enhancement. The source material used for the transfer is very clean, with few noticeable blemishes and little apparent film grain. GHOSTBUSTERS has been framed in its original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio and is as sharp and detailed as the film is ever likely to be on NTSC video. The transfer is somewhat softer looking than a brand new film, but that is the nature of 15-year-old film stocks and not a weakness in the transfer. Actually, the superior nature of the transfer brings out the shortcomings in the film’s optical special effects, which are evidenced in the visible garbage mattes around a number of the ghosts and other inserted objects. Color reproduction offers natural looking flesh tones, although saturation seems a bit subdued. Blacks are deep black and the image has reasonably good contrast. Digital compression artifacts are concealed by the use of dual layer technology and first rate DVD authoring. 

GHOSTBUSTERS has been upgraded to a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack for this release. The new mix fully displays its mid-eighties heritage, with its limited use of the surround channels providing some ambience and occasional effects. Since the surround channels are used sparingly, the soundtrack lacks the enveloping effect one would find in new film. There is a strong forward soundstage with good channel separation and cleanly reproduced dialogue. Bass reproduction is pretty good, and Elmer Bernstein’s score (as well as the other music) sounds far better than it has in the past. Subtitles are provided on the DVD in English.

Columbia TriStar Home Video has pulled out all the stops to make GHOSTBUSTERS a terrific collector's edition DVD. The interactive menus contain animation, music, sound effects and full motion video. There is a really cool 3-D interface that I thought to be fun and something that could be exploited on many other titles. Of course, the menus provide the standard scene selection feature, but more importantly, one uses the menus to access the disc's impressive array supplements. First and foremost GHOSTBUSTERS offers an inventive "live" video commentary with silhouetted version of director Ivan Reitman, associate producer Joe Medjuck and writer/star Harold Ramis. The commentary is presented in the style of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000, with the participants appearing in front of the image as though they were sitting in front of the viewer in a movie theater. Yes, the silhouettes move and point at the screen- that's why they call it a "live" video commentary. Since the silhouettes are a function of the subtitle feature, they can be switched off to allow one to listen to the commentary with an unobstructed view of the film. The commentary itself is a whole lot of fun and filled with choice tidbits making it a "must listen" for fans. 

Other supplements include two featurettes; one from the original release and one newly prepared for this DVD. Unfortunately, the new one omits interviews with Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis. However, the DVD does include storyboards with a split scene comparison, production photos, conceptual drawings, deleted scenes, a documentary with the special effects team, special effects before and after, theatrical trailers, production notes (via the subtitle function) and DVD-ROM specific features. The only thing that isn't included on the DVD is the music video for the hit song GHOSTBUSTERS by Ray Parker Jr..

GHOSTBUSTERS is still a whole lot of fun and you can't go wrong with this feature rich DVD. Absolutely recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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