Too hot to handle. Too cold to hold.

The two ’80s-hallmark Ghostbuster films have arrived in what is to be presumed the terminal set. Then again, with studios these days often double-dipping more than the ice cream stand down the road from my house, there should be at least fifteen or so more versions coming out — including Ghostbusters: The Signature Golden Platinum Ultimate Special Edition Ultimate Super-Terrific Megaset!

You know how it goes down. In Ghostbusters we meet Doctors Peter Venkman (Bill Murray, Caddyshack), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd, Trading Places), and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis, who, along with Aykroyd, wrote the screenplay). After getting kicked out of Columbia University, these underachieving paranormal researchers start their own company, a firm dedicated to the investigation and elimination of the supernatural: Ghostbusters. With proton accelerators strapped to their backs and a bevy of pyrotechnics at their disposal, and with fourth member Winston Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson), the Ghostbusters make a name for themselves in the Big Apple by zapping and trapping any and all nasty little specters.

Meanwhile, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver, Alien) and Louis Tully (Rick Moranis, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) find themselves smack in the middle of a spiritual barnburner, when an ancient god returns to Earth to wreak havoc. Iconic displays of Bill Murray getting slimed by special effects and a gigantic Marshmallow Man walking through the streets of Manhattan follow.

The sequel reunites the Ghostbusters after a cabal of greedy trial lawyers have sued them into destitution because of the property damage they caused saving the world. But a malevolent supernatural force residing in a painting brings the guys back together. Always a lightning rod for phantasms, Dana Barrett is enveloped in this new spookiness when an ancient sorcerer named Vigo returns from the netherworld through a painting, intent on taking over and shrouding the land in darkness and blah blah blah.

Turns out he draws his power from the negativity shared by all New Yorkers, which has manifested as a river of psycho-supernatural, mood-altering slime. Again, the fate of the world is in the hands of the quartet of ghost-roasting smartasses, but now they’ll have to call in reinforcements, of the female, French-constructed national memorial ilk.

I’ll cut to the chase here. If you already own the previous Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2 releases, there isn’t anything mind-blowingly compelling on this new release to make you ditch the old ones and fork over the bones for this set. However, if you don’t own the films and have been thinking about making a purchase, these discs are your best bet.

Here is my quick two cents on the movies themselves: While the sequel is inferior to its predecessor, both Ghostbusters movies are relentlessly watchable. Special effects, slime, incoherent ramblings about prehistoric evildoers, and Bill Murray make for high entertainment. The first film is jammed with memorable sequences, from the initial run-in with Slimer (who would go on to play a pivotal role in the film’s marketing and animation spin-off) to the stampeding Staypuft monstrosity to the classic line from Venkman: “It’s true. This man has no dick.” The sequel lacks this iconic imagery. While the filmmakers certainly tried to top themselves with the Statue of Liberty roaming the streets of New York, it just came across as silly. And Vigo the Carpathian can’t hold a candle to Gozer, that kick-ass Pat Benatar demigod. And don’t get me started about that nerve-shattering theme “On Our Own” by Bobby Brown, which causes enough negativity to produce an ocean of mood slime. Still, Ghostbuster 2 is a fun romp, as goofy as the first and populated by likable characters.

About this gift set, now. The packaging is very cool, with the box done up in a glossy, green-slime (or ectoplasmic, if you will) cover. Inside are the two films, housed in slim discs, plus a “collectible” booklet. It’s an attractive, tight little presentation and will look pretty cool on anyone’s DVD rack. But even the finest cover art does not a fine DVD make. Even if Michelangelo himself had designed the art for Gigli, that doesn’t mean the actual film is worth anything. Actually, in that highly improbable situation where Michelangelo would possess the impressive foresight to anticipate the release of a film called Gigli in the 21st century and create a specific design to be used for said release, yeah, I guess the disc might be worth something.

Whatever, I’m getting sidetracked here. Basically, the good news is that the enclosed versions of the films, while not the be-all and end-all of special editions, are okay. Both films are presented in anamorphic 2.40:1 widescreen (not 1.33:1, as the cover suggests). The picture quality is far from ideal for both, hampered by grain and poor colors, but certainly not unwatchable. The transfers do leave much to be desired. Each film also comes with 5.1 tracks. They work fine, but I would have liked to see more aggression in the surround use and LFE mix.

Ghostbusters comes with a fun filmmakers’ commentary with Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis, and Joe Medjuck. In it you’ll learn about the travails of shutting down several New York City blocks for filming, how plotlines were ignored in the follow-up (Ego and Janine’s budding romance), and what that marshmallow actually was. A handful of deleted sequences are mildly interesting. Also included are several straightforward, dated behind-the-scenes featurettes. Ghostbusters 2 gets the royal shaft in the bonus department, carrying with it only two episodes from the animated The Real Ghostbusters. Sure, that was a cool cartoon, but come on, there’s nothing else out there for this film?

The Verdict
Yeah, this is a flagrant double-dip, but the court acknowledges the low price tag, snazzy packaging, and decent presentation of the films. The accused is released…but take Bobby Brown with you!

 

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