Cleanin' Up The Town: Remembering Ghostbusters


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Cleanin' Up The Town: Remembering Ghostbusters
"Bueno supports the interviews with clips from the film and behind-the-scenes archive footage chosen not just for colour but to let us see what is under discussion at every stage."

Made on a budget of $30m, to an incredibly tight deadline, Ghostbusters confounded all expectations by becoming the biggest hit of 1984 (knocking Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom off the top spot) and over three decades later it still stands up well. Anthony Bueno, who made a well regarded American Werewolf In London documentary in 2009, sets out here to explore its origins, development and production from the very first inkling of an idea to the last-minute rush to finish shooting and special effects work when its name was already on cinema billboards.

A decade in the making, this is a tremendously thorough piece of work. There's no Bill Murray or Rick Moranis but apart from that practically everyone involved is interviewed. Bueno approaches the story in linear order - which, it seems, corresponds fairly well to how Ghostbusters was shot - and packs in a huge amount of detail at every stage. The fact that we hear from the kind of crew members who usually get overlooked means that there are lots of great stories here that haven't been shared before, plus we get a really comprehensive insight into the production and a proper understanding of the scale of the thing. Given that it really stretched the bounds of the effects technology available at the time and that much of the time the creative team were basically winging it, fitting all of this into just a few short months, with some scenes at the mercy of the weather and belligerent New Yorkers, was an achievement hitherto underappreciated.

There's a great deal here on the changing story structure that will intrigue fans. We get to see the different ways that the film could have developed, including several which, frankly, would have been unlikely to result in anything particularly watchable. There's a lot of background on the character of Winston, whose role unfortunately ended up being cut down a lot, plus some great input on the development of the smaller roles and a discussion of the things that the actors later had to put up with having shouted at them in the street - especially unfortunate for William Atherton.

If Murray and Moranis' absence is a disappointment, the enthusiastic participation of Sigourney Weaver goes a long way towards making up for it. She speaks of her delight at being offered the role and we hear something of the lengths she went to to get it. It's clear that the rest of the cast and crew were starstruck in her presence, hesitant to do anything that might offend despite the fact that she was having a great time and wasn't bothered by any of it - indeed, it emerges that being possessed was her idea and that she had to be asked to tone it down.

Bueno supports the interviews with clips from the film and behind-the-scenes archive footage chosen not just for colour but to let us see what is under discussion at every stage. The result is a masterclass for budding filmmakers, even though much of what's depicted is much easier to do digitally today. It's the rough edges that really make Ghostbusters, the contrast between the absurdity of the central story and the mundanity of its setting, and Bueno depicts the production in a similar way. Although you really can't go into this without having see Ghostbusters, it's an excellent film in its own right and will really give fans what they've been waiting for.

US cut

An extended version of this film has been created for the October 2021 US release, with 27 more minutes of interview footage. Some of this includes reference to US-specific brands which wouldn't make much sense to viewers elsewhere, and there's additional focus on the importance of the film as, in Sigourney Weaver's words, "a love letter to New York." The editing here isn't quite as smooth, with a couple of awkward transitions, but that's more than made up for by the quality of the material. Those who own the DVD released in the UK should note that it goes beyond the extra scenes included there. Keep watching through the credits because there are clips interjected there too.

Reviewed on: 02 Jan 2020
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Cleanin' Up The Town: Remembering Ghostbusters packshot
A documentary about the making of the original Ghostbusters.
Amazon link

Director: Anthony Bueno

Writer: Anthony Bueno, Claire Bueno

Starring: Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis, Sigourney Weaver, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Alice Drummond, Annie Potts, Ray Parker Jr

Year: 2019

Runtime: 122 minutes

Country: UK


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