While standing in the lobby of a 100-year-old hotel, in San Antonio, recently, a woman and her husband approached me and asked: “Is it true that this hotel is haunted?” I gleefully replied “Well, most of the original staff knows about the 12th floor. The disturbances, I mean. But, it’s been quiet for years.”
Internally elated that I had the extremely rare opportunity to quote a line from Ghostbusters (Sedgewick hotel manager), my audience hadn’t a clue what I’d done. If you’re reading this article, you’d have probably shot me a quick smirk, knowingly, because unlike the couple, you’re a Ghostbusters fan.
Ghostbusters stands in a class of its own. With 33 years of steam, the film still draws instant recognition and appreciation the world over. Who, at this point, doesn’t know the answer to the question; “who ya gonna call?” It was a minor miracle for any film to get screen time in 1984 given that it was, in my opinion, the best year of movies in my generation. 1984 spawned films like The Terminator, Indiana Jones, The Never Ending Story, Sixteen Candles, on and on. Like so many other films of the year, Ghostbusters is a modern classic.
Reading Milne’s novelization of the movie is a great way to re-live the story and, in some ways, to experience nuances that you never quite captured watching the film. In a few magical moments, you’ll even have a chance to “see” scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor of the movie. Where Milne clearly had his work cut out for him was in his attempt to bring development to characters whose on-screen versions were portrayed by the likes of Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, and Moranis. In that way, I don’t know if anyone could have succeeded. The most detailed of his depictions were of Bill Murray’s character, Peter Venkman, who he describes as a liar, pervert, and a cheat. In the darkest of ways, his Venkman is detestable; a coward. I couldn’t help but realize that, despite my resistance, it was all true! Venkman really was a bastard! He hit on his students and on his clients. He contributed nothing and took the spotlight at every opportunity. I asked myself how I never realized this all before and I came to this answer; Bill Murry is Venkman. If Murray can make you like Phil from Groundhog Day or Frank Cross from Scrooged, he can surely make you like Peter Venkman.
Probably the furthest from his on-screen counterpart was the depiction of the 4th Ghostbuster, Winston Zeddmore. Described as a “Large, powerfully built black guy” whose resume included attributes like “Electronic countermeasures…Strategic Air Command…Black belt in karate…small arms expert.” This explains a lot! Have you joined me in feeling like you didn’t know Winston and, in particular, why on earth they hired him on-the-spot? He was a total badass! Not nearly the out-of-work plumber I made him out to be in my mind. “If there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you tell me”. No, not this Winston.
If you’re a fan, read the novelization. It falls short of the film in the same way that people usually say “the book was better” but what would you expect from a 167-page novelization? For me, I feel like I know my beloved characters better and, in that way, it’s totally worth the read.
Book by Larry Milne
Based on the screenplay by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis
Original Publication Date: 1984