Oh, to have been a Ghostbuster! They keep telling us that fewer people have played James Bond than walked on the moon but an even more select group of people were Ghostbusters. If ever there was a way to secure your place in Hollywood history it was by putting on that grey jumpsuit and a proton pack and making sure you didn’t cross the streams.
It sounds like I am being facetious but Ghostbusters is genuinely one of the greatest film comedies of all time and sadly now one of its writers and stars has passed away.
Harold Ramis will quite rightly be celebrated as the writer/director of Groundhog Day (and there are already plenty of other obituaries out there fully detailing his career) but it was the creation of Egon Spengler that was undoubtably his finest filmic moment.
There are some actors that have something so great on their CV that they will always be loved no matter what else they do. Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller, Cary Elwes as The Man in Black and of course Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker are the obvious examples of this and, although two of these men have had illustrious careers since, they could never have hoped to do anything quite so good again. The same is largely true of Harold Ramis in Ghostbusters.
You could argue that Dan Ackroyd and Bill Murray managed to move out from the shadow of this film so why couldn’t he? When you think about though, they didn’t did they. Not really. It’s Ghostbusters, come on!
If Aykroyd is the heart of Ghostbusters and Murray is the wit then Ramis is the brains, the soul and the dead pan integrity. It was him even more than his co-stars that made the film different from anything else we’ve seen. Men in Black got closest but consider Tommy Lee Jones in that film and you realise that his similarly straight faced Agent K is a caricature by comparison.
Harold Ramis as Egon Spengler is a great comedy performance with a little bit of Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Chaplin all mixed up in his unshakeable, unemotional, uncommunicative paranormal scientist. He certainly isn’t as showy as Aykroyd and Murray in the film but their parts only shine because they have him to play off. The greatest straight men are anything but straight and we shouldn’t ignore their brilliance because of the personalities they stand next to. Often their skill and humour is more subtle and restrained than their excitable, slap sticking, gag cracking compadres.
Remember these exchanges and tell me I’m wrong:
Dr. Egon Spengler: There’s something very important I forgot to tell you.
Dr. Peter Venkman: What?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Don’t cross the streams.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Why?
Dr. Egon Spengler: It would be bad.
Dr. Peter Venkman: I’m fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, “bad”?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
Janine Melnitz: You’re very handy, I can tell. I bet you like to read a lot, too.
Dr. Egon Spengler: Print is dead.
Janine Melnitz: Oh, that’s very fascinating to me. I read a lot myself. Some people think I’m too intellectual but I think it’s a fabulous way to spend your spare time. I also play raquetball. Do you have any hobbies?
Dr. Egon Spengler: I collect spores, molds, and fungus.
Winston Zeddemore: Hey, wait a minute. Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey! Hold it! Now, are we actually gonna go before a federal judge, and tell him that some moldy Babylonian god is going to drop in on Central Park West, and start tearing up the city?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Sumerian, not Babylonian.
and on finally reaching the top of the stairs leading up to the devastated remains of Dana Barrett’s apartment, where he is certain to face a supernatural foe of unfathomable power and malice, he looks at the crumbling architecture and says: “Art Deco, very nice.”
Good bye Dr. Spengler, you will forever live on through that one movie, immortality guaranteed. We don’t even need to consider everything else you did.
Although on that, let’s just say that a Twinkie represents the normal amount of influence a humorist has on American cinema. Based on Ramis’ early work with National Lampoon and the Saturday Night Live crowd, it would be a Twinkie thirty-five feet long, weighing approximately six hundred pounds.