Welcome to “Friday Favorites” which highlight some of my favorite movie-related things.
Ghostbusters came out the year I was born (which was a good year for movies), but I didn’t get a chance to see it on the big screen until 2011. I was amazed, but not completely surprised, at the reaction from the crowd, who clearly loved it. I knew it was one of my favorites, but I didn’t realize that the jokes were still funny to everyone else. And while there are many things to love about Ghostbusters, for me the highlight of the film is this:
There’s a lot to love about this scene. The set is seriously impressive, considering it was built for a comedy. At the time, it was one of the largest sets ever built, and featured a multi-story backdrop of the city which allowed Ivan Reitman, the director, to film the action from a variety of different angles. The effects, both visual and sound, are still solid, with some detailed models for Mr. Stay Puft to terrorize.
The premise behind the scene is hilarious, of course. Asking the victims to choose the form of their own destruction is a clever twist, and the idea of a giant, killer corporate mascot is brilliant and hilarious. (It occurs to me as I write this that the scene feels like something Joss Whedon would have written.) But what really makes this scene so great is the dialogue and the delivery.
Unlike other, modern comedies, there aren’t a lot of punchlines or zingers in Ghostbusters. The humor comes from the characters and their interactions, as well as their reaction to paranormal events. The humor comes from all of the little moments, like Ray trying to shrink into the background before the guys realize that he was the one who made the choice. Bill Murray’s delivery of, “What did you do, Ray?” is a favorite in my household. In fact, everything Bill Murray says, from his sarcastic, “Nice thinking, Ray,” to his indignant, “Nobody steps on a church in my town!” is pitch perfect. It shows a bit of the New Yorker spirit behind Peter Venkman. Every bit of dialogue seems like improvisation (which much of it was), especially his line, immediately following the clip, about trying to get the Marshmallow Man laid.
I find myself quoting this scene during everyday conversation more often than I’d like to admit. “What did you do, Ray?” is an obvious one, but I frequently throw out an, “I’m terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought,” whenever I can. (It actually works really well, because you can substitute any adjective for “terrified”. “I’m hungry beyond the capacity for rational thought.”) And “Mother puss-bucket!” is my go-to swear word, especially when I don’t know who might be listening.
What’s equally clever is that such a silly movie about nerdy, cowardly scientists catching ghosts has such an epic ending, yet it never feels out of place. In some ways, the appearance of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is always a surprise, no matter how many times you’ve seen the film. It’s just so unexpected and random. It’s no coincidence that they tried to replicate the scale of the ending in the sequel, though this time with Ray, Venkman, Egon and Winston controlling the giant monster.
What do you think? What’s your favorite scene in Ghostbusters? Have you gotten a chance to see it on the big screen? Am I the only one who regularly says “Mother puss-bucket”? Let me know in the comments!
I really enjoyed this post, Ghostbusters is a true masterwork and one that was the template for the current run of funny blockbusters. Robert Downey Jnr’s Tony Stark owes a debt to Peter Venkmann with his sardonic pseudo indifference and irreverence in the face of immense danger. It is also, as you point out, a great New York movie. I love Manhattan and when I was there earlier this year surrounded by movie locations it was the Ghostbusters spots I searched out, including a pilgrimage to the Hook and Ladder Company building in TriBeCa. It’s all on my blog somewhere.
I love Manhattan too, though it’s been too long since my last visit. I’ve never made it to the Hook and Ladder Company building, though it’s been on my list. Thanks for the comment!
I actually had to google StayPuft Marshamllow Man to see whether he was real (a real corporate logo) or not. When I saw the film, I swore I remembered that Marshamllow Man from my childhood (clearly not, as I grew up in the late 50s/60s). It’s a measure of the designers/writers awesomeness that they created something so iconic that I “remembered” it.
That’s awesome! I think for a while they made StayPuft as a tie-in to the movie. It seemed totally believable as a logo.
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