The entries on this website normally come from my comfortable corner of suburban Surrey but today I am blogging from the rather more American cinema-centric location, New York City.
Alicia Keys described New York as ‘a town that is famous as a place of movie scenes’ and she wasn’t kidding. If you tried to compile a list of great movies that use The Big Apple as a backdrop you would come up with some wonderful genre-defining classics; An Affair to Remember, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Apartment, King Kong, Miracle on 34th Street, West Side Story, American Psycho, Dog Day Afternoon, Taxi Driver, Manhattan (obviously), Planet of the Apes (kind of), When Harry Met Sally (indubitably) and a little film called Citizen Cane.
Still, when I was planning my trip there was only one film location that I knew I definitely had to search out…
The Ghostbusters HQ.
I say ‘search out’ rather than ‘see’ because that is what makes Ghostbusters a great New York movie. There are so many famous Manhattan movie sites that you trip over them in the city every time you turn a corner you turn but Ghostbusters, inexplicably linked to the city as it is, doesn’t feature the key landmarks in the way so many other films do. The Empire State Building is essential to An Affair to Remember and King Kong and everyone who knows Manhattan connects it with The Brooklyn Bridge. Even When Harry Met Sally, a film that doesn’t dwell on the tourist trail, has a key scene at the Washington Square Arch. Ghostbusters found buildings tucked away somewhere and made them iconic. It doesn’t feature the landmarks as much as it creates new ones. Ghostbusters showed off New York less as a place where people visit and more as one where they live and work, and Kick Ass and Black Swan are contemporary examples of movies that have followed this model.
The first key location in Ghostbusters is The New York Public Library which is a bit of a tourist spot but is featured here just because it is the local library rather than that classic building with the stone lions outside. The shots of the ‘Spook Central’ apartment building were filmed at 55 Central Park West (not the San Remo apartments a few blocks north of it as was confidently stated by the guy giving us a tour round Central Park in his horse drawn carriage).
Incidentally, the Sedgewick Hotel where they catch Slimer isn’t actually a real place at all. The lobby scenes were shot at the Biltmore Hotel in LA although the hotel corridor set was based on the Algonguin Hotel in West 44th Street.
The courtyard outside the Metropolitan Opera House where Peter Venkman waits to see Dana Barrett is a very real location (it also features in Black Swan) as is the object of my pilgrimage; the Hook and Ladder building at 14 North Moore Street in Tribeca, about a mile north of the World Trade Center site.
This building, now famous as the Ghostbusters Headquarters, is a working fire station and when I arrived there this afternoon I found someone else geeking out at it’s cinematic significance. (This guy was insisting that his girlfriend photograph him kissing the building, it is always reassuring to discover that there are people out there more nerdy than me.) I was clearly very excited to visit this location and even without the Ghostbusters connection it is a very charming building with some nice old school architecture, placed as it is in a very glassy and quite modern metropolis.
None of this would matter though if the film were not so great. My family and I were in the world famous toy store FAO Schwartz yesterday and none of us, least of all my kids were excited about it being one of the key locations in The Smurfs because that film is totally forgettable. Ghostbusters is a superb film and, like all of the best comedies, would still work without the laughs with its engaging and original story. The three leads are all fully rounded characters and very likeable so it is a pleasure spending time with them. They also have effortless chemistry and play off one another perfectly. This formula of filling a film with strong yet individual characters who are almost flukishly successful in fighting evil, all the while spouting witty one liners is great when it is executed successfully. Ghostbusters got it spot on and made it look easy as did last year’s phenomenally successful Avengers Assemble which owes its 1984 predecessor a considerable debt. The star of Marvel Studios’ ensemble pic is clearly Robert Downey Jnr’s Tony Stark/Iron Man. His roguish, womanising, egotistical yet loveable hero with the effortless gags that serve as a punchline to any situation is basically a modern day Peter Venkman, with a beard and an expensive suit.
Ghostbusters remains a joy to watch no matter how many times you see it and if it is a film you’ve not watched for a while I urge you to do so again soon. I am very pleased today to have stood on the road that once had the tyres of Ecto 1 discreetly screeching across it.
Now I need to go and find the castle from The Fisher King.