Release Date(s)1984 (June 7, 2016)
Studio(s)Columbia (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A-
Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Sigourney Weaver star in this hit 1984 comedy about a motley team of paranormal investigators who make big bucks by ridding NYC residents of their ghosts, spooks and specters. Murray plays Dr. Peter Venkman, a university scientist who spends as much of his time “testing” his female students as he does dabbling in para-psychology. When he and his partners, Doctors Ray Stantz (Aykroyd) and Egon Spengler (Ramis), finally get booted from the university gravy train, they decide to use their newly-developed ghost-hunting equipment to go into business as professional Ghostbusters (“We’re ready to believe you,” their TVs ads say). Enter Dana Barrett (Weaver), an upscale New York musician whose apartment is becoming the epicenter of spook central, who quickly leads the Ghostbusters onto BIG things... you know, cosmically speaking.
Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis are absolutely in their element here, delivering a constant stream of glib one-liners and funny, off-hand comments. Aykroyd and Ramis, who also wrote the script, set Murray up time and again for perfect punchlines. And sight gags and physical humor abound here – good luck not laughing as Murray tries to wipe ectoplasm off his hand and ends up flicking it in his eye. Rick Moranis even manages to pull off a very funny subplot,as Mrs. Barrett’s geeky, health-conscious neighbor, who gets possessed by the spirit of the “Keymaster” and runs around looking for the mysterious “Gatekeeper”. This is great stuff – absolutely classic big-screen comedy.
When Ghostbusters was first released on Blu-ray, there were many complaints from fans about the quality of the transfer – particularly the amount of coarse film grain visible in the image – despite the fact that cinematographer László Kovács had personally supervised and approved the Blu-ray transfer and color timing before his death. More recently, though, Sony remastered Ghostbusters from the original film elements and re-issued the Blu-ray downsampled from a 4K scan. That 4K image is finally available for veiwing in its full resolution on Ultra HD Blu-ray, enhanced with a new HDR color timing pass. Presented in the proper 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio, the image obviously still reveals modest film grain and the anamorphic lenses used occasionally give the edges of the frame a bit of optical softness. Both of these things may be off-putting to younger viewers, who aren’t used to seeing movies shot on actual film anymore. But I think this image represents a good compromise – there’s almost certainly been some grain reduction employed, yet the film still retains its original photochemical texturing. What’s more, when you look closely, you start to realize that you’re seeing a lot more fine detail in this image than you ever have before. The film’s color palette has always been a bit muted, but the colors too are more vibrant here than ever before. The High Dynamic Range really adds to the viewing experience, lending extra pop to the paranormal elements and enhancing the depth and dimensionality, though the blackest areas of the image are still occasionally a bit crushed-looking (as they always have been – it’s inherent in the negative). While the video quality here certainly isn’t in the league of newer films shot digitally in 4K (and my grading above reflects this), it looks terrific for a catalog title that’s over thirty years old. More importantly, this is without a doubt the best that Ghostbusters has ever looked on disc, besting the previous Blu-ray by a good measure.
The film’s audio is available here in a new English Dolby Atmos mix prepared by Tim Hoogenakker at Formosa Group (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible). As with the video, this new mix is a notable improvement on the Blu-ray audio. This obviously isn’t going to compare to newer film surround sound, but the Atmos mix delivers great dynamic range and the revised staging brings out all the little nuances of the film’s soundtrack. I think you’ll find that the height channels are used to great effect here to expand and lift the soundstage in the film’s various paranormal sequences – particularly during the hunt for Slimer and the climatic fight with Zuul and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Additional audio options on board include 5.1 Dolby Digital in Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Castilian Spanish, Latin Spanish, and Thai (reflecting the fact that this format has no region coding), with optional subtitles available in English, English SDH, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Castilian Spanish, Latin Spanish, Swedish, and Thai. Whew.
The only extra on the 4K disc itself is an optional feature-length audio commentary by director Ivan Reitman, star Harold Ramis, and producer Joe Medjuck – the same one that’s found on the previous Blu-rays. Of course, the package also includes the recent “Mastered in 4K” Blu-ray release, which uses this same transfer though obviously without HDR. It offers the same commentary, plus the Slimer Picture-in-Picture Mode, the Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary Print Collection gallery, 5 documentary featurettes (Who You Gonna Call?: A Ghostbusters Retrospective, Ecto-1: Resurrecting the Classic Car, Cast and Crew, SFX Team, and the original 1984 featurette), the Ghostbusters Garage: Ecto-1 gallery, the Scene Cemetery of deleted scenes (including Stake, Dana, Honeymooners, Winston, Bums, Busy, Promotion, EPA, Puft Hat, and “No Louis!”), alternate TV version takes, Multi-Angle Explorations (including Spook Central Exploding, She’s a Dog, and Crossing the Streams), Storyboard Comparisons (including Slimer, Dogs Drag Dana, and Atop Spook Central), Ray Parker, Jr’s Ghostbusters music video, and the film’s theatrical trailer. You also get a Digital Copy code on a paper insert.
[Editor’s Note: Given that nearly all 4K releases are multi-disc sets, with the extras often included on separate BD discs, our extras grades for these 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray reviews will reflect the bonus content across all discs in the set.]
If this is an example of the kind of quality we can expect from older films on the 4K Ultra HD format, then all I can say is: “Bring ‘em on!” I can’t wait to see Labyrinth, The Fifth Element, Lawrence of Arabia, Das Boot, and other deep and classic catalog titles like this. For vintage films, it’s important to remember that the goal of a 4K presentation isn’t to deliver an absolutely pristine or perfect image… it’s simply to deliver the very best possible experience of the film. So, for longtime and expert cinephiles at least, the chance to see beloved older films in this level of quality is a real treat.
- Bill Hunt