Are you a fan of Merchant/Ivory films? Do you like the idea of naive travelers in exotic lands? Has the existential meaning of life escaped you? If you answered yes to any of these questions this film might be up your alley. You may notice however, that I did not ask if you were a fan of Bill Murray. The reason I skipped that is simple, fans of Bill Murray’s will be disappointed in this movie and wondering where the snark is. Although he co-wrote the screenplay and does add a bit of his sensibility to the character, this is ultimately a misfire because his character is passive, introverted and disillusioned with life, which are all things that Bill Murray characters usually are not.
This is a remake of the same novel that was done by Tyrone Power in 1946. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that film but I suspect it would be a little more meaningful if the “Lost Generation” was part of your audience. A contemporary version of the story might have featured soldiers with PTSD, and their alienation from the country that they served in combat. The good times of the roaring twenties and the fall that accompanied the Great Depression set up a context that most audiences were not able to identify with in 1984.
In 1984, I taught at Cal State Northridge, and I regularly discussed movies that I had seen or was looking forward to. One of my students engaged me in a conversation about the upcoming summer films and asked what I most wanted to see. I remember mentioning the “Indiana Jones” film and the new “Star Trek” movie as the ones I most wanted to see. When I asked him what he was looking forward to, without a moment of hesitation he said, “Ghostbusters”. I was a little surprised. I knew it was coming and I’d read about it in “Starlog” magazine, but I did not think there was that much “want to see” value there. Boy was I wrong. Opening weekend was huge, crowds were enthusiastic and the movie played like gangbusters (not ghostbusters).
The design on the poster is now iconic, the “universal no” symbol imposed on top of a cartoon ghost was graphic and funny but it looked a little childish to me so I had probably dismissed the picture a little. With my students enthusiastic thumbs up, I put this film on my list to see that summer and the rest is history. “Ghostbusters” was the number one film at the box office seven weeks in a row, the number two film for six weeks, and three other non-consecutive weekends returned to the number one position during the summer months. It was the biggest film of the summer and was the second biggest film of the year. For many of you it may be the one film from 1984 that you know well because it spawned a sequel, a cartoon series and incessant talk of a third episode for the last twenty-five years. Continue reading →