Ghostbusters appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I saw Ghostbuster theatrically and have owned it on VHS, laserdisc and two DVD releases. While never dazzling, I thought the Blu-ray offered easily the most attractive home video rendition of the film.
Prior editions had trouble with sharpness, and a bit of softness occasionally interfered with wider shots. However, most of the movie looked pretty well-defined. This wasn’t the crispest presentation I’ve seen, but the movie usually demonstrated good clarity. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, though, and edge enhancement was absent. Other than bouts of moderate grain, source flaws weren’t a factor. The movie looked clean and lacked anything more than a small speck or two.
In terms of palette, flick remained fairly gray, and the characters appeared as though they’d not seen the sun in a while. I felt satisfied with the colors of this transfer and felt they demonstrated the appropriate visual design. Blacks were also quite good, and low-light shots seemed fine. Though the image showed its age and teetered on the brink of a “B” grade, I liked enough of it to give it a “B+”.
The Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Ghostbusters also worked well. Ghostbusters didn’t use a tremendously broad soundfield, but it definitely opened things up more than usual for a flick of its era. Music showed nice stereo dimensionality, while effects spread smoothly across the front. As one might expect, the various ghost-related scenes offered the best opportunities for movement and activity, so the soundtrack provided the most action in its second half. The surrounds added good life during those spook segments. They kicked in good reinforcement of the spirits and Ghostbuster attacks, so they became reasonably active partners in the action.
Audio quality held up well over the last 25 years. Only a smidgen of edginess ever interfered with the lines, as they usually seemed clear and concise. Music showed good range and vivacity, and effects appeared well-rendered. The various elements showed nice definition and offered a good punch in the louder moments. Distortion wasn’t a problem, as only a little crackling ever crept through into the mix. This was a well above average track for a mid-80s flick.
How did the picture and audio of the Blu-ray Disc compare to those of the most recent DVD release of Ghostbusters? Both demonstrated definite improvements. The picture looked considerably cleaner and better defined, while audio appeared more natural. I thought the 2005 DVD suffered from excessive LFE usage; its bass was often boomy and distracting. The Blu-ray featured appropriate low-end and seemed natural and clear. Without question, the Blu-ray provided easily the best home video representation of the film.
The Blu-ray offers most of the supplements from the last DVD along with some new ones. I’ll note Blu-ray exclusives with blue type.
We begin with the same audio commentary found on the old disc. It includes a running, screen-specific chat with director Ivan Reitman, co-writer/actor Harold Ramis and associate producer Joe Medjuck. They discuss the project’s origins and the development of the script, improvisation and characters, casting, visual effects, sets and locations, and general anecdotes.
At its best, this track offers a nice take on the film, and I certainly can’t fault the scope of the material. However, too much of the time, we simply hear quotes of movie lines, praise for the flick, and laughing at the gags. Occasional dead air also mars the proceedings. There’s definitely enough good information on display to make this a useful commentary, but the flaws mean that it doesn’t ever become a great one.
An interactive Slimer Mode gives us information throughout the movie. It uses pop-up windows to provide some text facts as well as interviews with various folks involved in the production. We find notes from Reitman, Ramis, Medjuck, writer/actor Dan Aykroyd, film historian Paul M. Sammon, animation supervisor/creature design consultant Terry Windell, visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund, visual effects art director John Bruno, associate producer Michael C. Gross, creature design consultant Bernie Wrightson, and actors Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson, and William Atherton. The comments cover the original story treatment and its evolution into the final script, cast, characters and performances, the production timeline and related pressures, creatures and effects, science and influences, sets and locations, the Ecto-1 and other props, the theme song and score, and a few other production topics.
We get a pretty good array of information from the “Slimer Mode”. The text boxes are the most inconsistent side of things. Many of these – especially the ones about characters – just repeat information we get during the film itself. They do occasionally offer some fun “facts” about various locations, though.
As for the interviews, they tend to be useful. They pop up less frequently than I’d like, especially during the film’s second half, but they come around often enough to avoid frustrations. “Slimer Mode” isn’t the best of the interactive Blu-ray pieces I’ve seen, but it’s engaging enough.
For more about the film’s iconic automobile, we go to Ecto-1: Resurrecting the Classic Car. In this 15-minute and 37-second piece, we hear from Aykroyd, Ramis, Sony Pictures Consumer Products director Keith Hargrove, Cinema Vehicle Services owner Ray Claridge, Cinema Vehicle Services mechanic Mark Mazure, and Cinema Vehicle Services shop manager Sam Salerno. We get a few notes about the Ecto-1 and its modern refurbishment. The show offers a moderately interesting look at the work put into bringing the car back to life.
In addition to a one-minute and 42-second Ghostbusters – The Video Game Preview that simply shows shots of the game, we get The Making of Ghostbusters – The Video Game. It runs 11 minutes, 18 seconds and includes remarks from Ramis, Hudson, Atherton, Aykroyd, Hargrove, Sony Pictures Consumer Products VP, Licensing Mark Caplan, Terminal Reality president Mark Randel, Terminal Reality lead level designer Andy Dombroski, Terminal Reality lead game designer Stephen Cluff, Terminal Reality lead animator Angel Gonzalez, Terminal Reality creative director Drew Haworth, executive producer John Melchior, and actors Annie Potts and Ryan French. We learn a little about the development of the new video game. It looks like it might be fun, but this featurette exists as nothing other than promotion.
A running photo montage comes to us with the five-minute and 27-second Ghostbusters Garage: Ecto-1 Gallery. This shows the state of the vehicle pre-restoration and as it went through refurbishment. It’s mildly interesting at best.
As implied by its title, the 1984 Featurette was produced at the time of the movie’s theatrical release and runs nine minutes, 45 seconds. It's essentially a puff piece but it's a lot of fun. Due to lots of good footage from the set, it offers more depth than the usual promotional featurette, and the brief interview clips with the principals are very entertaining. We hear from Reitman, Weaver, Aykroyd, Edlund, production designer John De Cuir, and actors Bill Murray and Rick Moranis. Murray proves especially amusing as he tosses out his usual wisecracks. We don’t learn tons about the movie, but we enjoy the ride anyway.
We also get a circa 1999 Cast and Crew Featurette that goes for 10 minutes, 53 seconds. This one only includes interviews with Ramis, Reitman, and Aykroyd. We hear about the project’s origins and the recruitment of the team members, story issues, their kids’ reactions to the movie, impressions from the set, and the flick’s impact on their careers. It's got a few decent moments but it’s not as much fun as the older one. Murray, Weaver, and Moranis are sorely missed, and it lacks all the interesting behind the scenes shots. I also would have liked more about making the flick and less of Aykroyd’s unconventional ideas about the supernatural.
Finally, a third SFX Team Featurette provides 1999 interviews with much of the special effects crew. It lasts 15 minutes and 23 seconds and includes remarks from Edlund, Bruno, Windell, technical animator Annick Therrien, visual effects editor Conrad Buff, chief matte artist Matthew Yuricich, model shop supervisor Mark Stetson, chief visual effects cameraman Bill Neil, matte department supervisor Neil Krepela, mechanical effects supervisor Thaine Morris, visual effects still photographer Virgil Mirano, and matte artist Michelle Moen. We learn how the team came together, various challenges – including the budget – and how they accomplished the flick’s main effects and visual elements.
It’s entertaining, partly because of the "old school" methods that were used – I can't watch "Slimer" fly around the chandelier without laughing now that I know how they did it - but also because the participants don't just focus on the technical work. They also provide insight into the other aspects of the production. Although I wish it were longer, it's a fine featurette.
What else? There's a section called SFX: Before and After that lets you view shots with or without effects. You can view the way they looked in the finished film and they way they appeared in the rough cut before the special effects were added. It offers some decent material but nothing special.
We also get a bunch of storyboards, which are provided in a couple different ways. Split-screen comparisons are offered for three different scenes; the storyboards appear on the top of the picture while the actual film images appear on the bottom. We get these for “Slimer” (2:13), “Dogs Drag Dana” (2:09) and “Atop Spook Central” (2:04). These are okay, but never terribly fascinating.
Ghostbusters features ten deleted sequences in the Scene Cemetery. The shortest segment is 17 seconds long, whereas the lengthiest goes for 84 seconds; in total, we get seven minutes, 39 seconds of footage. None of these are fantastic - you can see why they weren't used - but they all are fun. The best of the bunch provides a bit that features Murray and Aykroyd in different roles.
Does the Blu-ray lose anything from the earlier releases? Yup – for reasons unknown, the disc drops a large collection of production photos and storyboards. The 2005 DVD ditched some components from the 1999 version, and those remain missing here. That means we still lack the original subtitle commentary and the Ghostbusters trailer. Both DVDs included (different) booklets; neither form of booklet reappears here.
After 25 years, Ghostbusters remains a comedy classic. I’ve seen this movie at least 30 times over that quarter of a century. And you know what? It still makes me laugh. The Blu-ray offers very good picture and sound with a pretty nice roster of extras.
As a longtime Ghostbusters fan, I’ll have to hold onto my old DVDs because they include some supplements that don’t reappear here. In terms of movie presentation, though, the Blu-ray acts as by far the best rendition of Ghostbusters we’ve yet received. It’s not perfect, but it’s easily the strongest home video edition to date.
To rate this film, visit the Double Feature Gift Set Edition review of GHOSTBUSTERS