One of my most vivid childhood recollections is attending the cinema in the hopes of seeing Ghostbusters (1984), the Ivan Reitman science-fiction comedy horror about four intrepid men who must save New York City – and indeed, the entire world – from destruction at the hands of paranormal beings from another dimension. Note that I didn’t actually see Ghostbusters at the cinema when I was a child: the particular session that we (the family) had planned to enter had sold out. All these years later, it remains the only time that I have attended a multiplex only to learn that the session has reached capacity. Indeed, those were the last dying days of a now bygone era, when it was commonplace for cinema audiences to line up around the block for movie tickets (okay, so it still happens at the Astor on occasion). Fortunately, another 1984 blockbuster, Joe Dante’s Gremlins (1984) was playing at the same cinema. Ah yes, that’s another thing you don’t see at the multiplex these days: the presence of more than one film that you are really desperate to experience. Ghostbusters was our first preference that day but my brother and I were equally enthusiastic about seeing Gremlins (which we did, and believe me, it scared the living daylights out of me—hey, I was six!)
My first glimpse of Ghostbusters came in the form of a sneak peak on The Mike Walsh Show back in 1984. Those were the days before the internet and illegal online downloads pretty much ruined the prolonged building of suspense that television shows could achieve with cleverly cut excerpts from a feature film. Back in those days, you actually had to leave your house and buy a ticket to be the first on your block to discover what happened next. Ghostbusters premiered on television a number of years later and it was no small event, accompanied by a behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of the film. Of course I watched Ghostbusters on the small screen and it was indeed wonderful. It was not until many years later that I experienced Ghostbusters presented on the big screen in its original 35mm format, courtesy of the Astor Theatre, no less. (You shall be happy to know that when its sequel Ghostbusters II hit the big screen in 1989, my brother and I were successful in gaining admission to the cinema).


Flash forward to 2011 and the cinematic world is abuzz with news that Ghostbusters III is scheduled for release in the year 2012. Ivan Reitman, director of the first two chapters of the saga, has been confirmed to helm this latest installment. Rumours abound as to who else is on board for this exciting new project, but to speculate any further about this would be pointless. What I can tell you is that the Astor Theatre, Melbourne’s sole-surviving cinema palace, is to screen the original Ghostbusters in 2K Digital format this month. The re-release of this classic 1980s treasure is a global event that shall undoubtedly fuel interest in Ghostbusters III, not to mention introducing a new generation of film-goers to the whole Ghostbusters phenomenon.
Without divulging too much to readers who might not have seen Ghostbusters (where have you been?), the story concerns a trio of university professors, unemployed and desperate, who decide to set up their own ghost-catching business in New York City. At first business is non-existent, but after a spate of paranormal activity across the Big Apple and success in trapping ghosts, Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) and Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) find themselves as not only successful businessmen, they have become genuine celebrities. Three becomes four when Winston Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson) wanders into the Ghostbusters office, and after what might be the greatest job interview in history, picks up a positron glider and joins Egon, Peter and Raymond in clearing otherworldly beings from the metropolis.


Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis wrote Ghostbusters, and the film benefits from one of the most inventive and quotable scripts committed to film. References to Ghostbusters have worked themselves into everyday vernacular, with many of the best one-liners in the film being delivered by Bill Murray. Apart from the actors who portray the eponymous superheroes, Ghostbusters features Rick Moranis, Sigourney Weaver, plus a host of fantastic phantoms and other assorted creatures that have become pop culture icons in their own right. Speaking of all things iconic, Ghostbusters features one of the most familiar pop music numbers of the 1980s, courtesy of Ray Parker, Jr., as its title song. The tune itself proved to be controversial, as there was some similarity between Ray’s ditty and the earlier song “I Want a New Drug” by Huey Lewis and the News. Accusing the Ghostbusters singer of plagiarism, Huey attempted to sue Ray Parker, Jr., the issue settled ultimately out of court. Numerous other pop songs are featured in the film, such as Magic by Mick Smiley, with the movie’s original score provided by Elmer Bernstein.
Quite simply, Ghostbusters is strong in every major department, from the quality of the screenplay to the cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs. From typewriter to celluloid, this is a film that was seemingly blessed every step of the way. The special effects in this movie (including liberal use of stop-motion animation) really have stood the test of time, and it is a credit to the actual human beings featured in this movie that their performances and charm are not overshadowed by the visual trickery on display. Just remember, no matter how many times you have experienced Ghostbusters on the small screen, the film is much better enjoyed at the cinema on the largest screen possible, augmented by superior sound and the whole cinematic atmosphere that only a place such as the Astor Theatre can provide. Please do make certain that you bring yourself and as many people as possible to the Astor this coming weekend for the theatre’s follow up screenings of Ghsotbusters in 2K Digital Format. Given the quality of programming at the Astor, it is no small statement to say that this shall be a continuation of one of the biggest events of the year for the venue, not to mention one of the biggest events on Melbourne’s cinematic calendar for 2011.

Written by Mark Vanselow for The Astor Theatre.

For more information and session details, visit our new website: www.astortheatre.net.au

The Wizard of Oz

I remember the first time I ever watched The Wizard of Oz (1939). I must have been around 5 or 6 years old and I still remember the exact events of that afternoon. I was spending the day with my grandmother during my school holidays and we were sitting around in the lounge room. From what I can recall, these were the Pre-Foxtel days, so Nan didn’t have cable at the time and naturally, there was nothing on TV. So, Nan put on a video of a movie that she said was one of her all time favourites – one that she remembered first seeing when she was about my age and has loved ever since. At first I was put off by the film’s black and white opening. “Is this movie in black and white?” I remember saying, almost dismissing the film. “No. Only this first part.” Thank god I stuck with it because, little did I know then, but this was going to be a pivotal point in my life and a seminal moment in my love for cinema and filmmaking.

As soon as Dorothy opened her bedroom door and stepped into that wonderful Technicolor Land of Oz I was instantly captivated. As the camera began to track through Munchin Land; past the shiny leaves and shrubs, over the sparkling blue river and across to the centre of the Yellow Brick Road; I was mesmerized. I remember my exact response – “You know what Nan, I think I’m going to have to borrow this video.” At that moment I had been introduced to ‘cinema.’

Whenever I’ve described my love of The Wizard of Oz to anybody I’ve always used the same phrase – There was never anything like it before, and there has never been anything like it since. And whether you believe that statement or not, it’s absolutely true. Being 5 or 6 when I first watched it, of course I had never seen anything like it before. And now, 15 years on, I’ve never found a film, old or new, that has captured the same energy, the same heart, the same soul and the same loving filmmaking as Oz.

The one thing that strikes me about Oz is the fact that it refuses to die. The story has been around for 111 years now, and the film was released 72 years ago. And the fact is that it remains timeless, a classic, a favourite amongst young and old. There is no other film so old – with exception of Walt Disney’s animated classics – that you could put on the television and expect a young child to enjoy and want to watch over and over again. How can a film of 72 years age be so widely accepted by such a broad range of viewers today? You couldn’t imagine a 5-year-old sitting down and enjoying, say, Casablanca (1942) or Gone With The Wind (1939).
The fact is – it remains timeless, familiar and accepted by younger generations because its themes, its characters and its style are still so much a part of today’s culture. There’s a reflection of values here that is still so very much emblazoned in the minds of today’s people and its characters are so familiar and so recognizable to you that you could swear they were reflections of yourself. This is why Oz is timeless, and why a child could sit down and not know that the movie was made well before their parents and even grandparents were born.

The Wizard of Oz was constructed back when films were made out of love, made from blood, sweat and tears, back before Hollywood became so overruled by movie moguls and people out to make a quick dollar. Sure, Louis B. Mayer – head of the MGM studios, and Jack Warner – head of Warner Bros. were all for making money and making big pictures that could gain revenue, but these two hard-heads never, EVER, signed off on a film that they didn’t believe had credibility. They never signed off on a film they thought they could just simply make money off, but films that they believed would be popular, films people would love to see, films people would enjoy and films that they would like to make. Oz is the product of the fairytale early days of Hollywood, back when Hollywood was known as “The Dream Factory,” before money, special effects and blockbusters took over. And for this reason, the film means so much more to me and to the history of cinema.

was made as MGM’s live action answer to Walt Disney’s Snow White And the Seven Dwarves (1937). Mayer wanted his audience to experience the same love and the same joy as they had when they visited Disney’s cartoon dream world. Regardless of the fact that it was nominated for a flurry of Oscars (losing out mainly to MGM’s other epic Gone With The Wind, directed and released by the same director, Victor Fleming, in the same year) Oz did quite dreadfully on its original cinema run. It wasn’t seen as a ‘flop’ but it barely made any revenue, it was seen simply as “just a movie.” But over the years, Oz was re-released over and over again and played annually on television – introducing itself to new generations with each showing. It was then that people realised “hey, we have a classic on our hands” and further cemented it into the history of film classics. It’s because of this that Oz has been deemed the most watched film of all time.

Regardless of its status as a film classic Oz does suffer from mixed reactions. It is often an understated and overlooked film gem and usually finds itself just missing out (usually to Gone With the Wind – the films major competitor still to this day) or just making the cut in the occasional “Best Movies” lists – but at the same time, finds itself near the top of others. It’s listed at #129 on IMDb’s list of “Top 250 Films” but is listed at #6 on the American Film Institute’s list of “100 Years… 100 Films.”

The Wizard of Oz, more than any other film has shaped the way I and many others see cinema. Oz has taught me that a film doesn’t need to make money to be successful, just as long as the makers love it, and nurture it and the viewing public do so likewise.

Oz is an odd film for a guy to hold as their favourite movie of all time, but given what the film means to cinema and means to me personally I think it’s fairly justified. I say with no regret, no embarrassment and no trepidation that Oz has always been and will always be my favourite film of all time. And I, like many others, will revisit this film to the day I die, not only to help me in my endeavours to make films, but also in my endeavours to find myself, and like Dorothy, find my place in the world.

Since my first viewing of Oz I have seen it in many formats and editions. I have seen it on VHS and have seen the special restoration it received for its 65th anniversary DVD and the crisp, clear and beautiful 70th Anniversary Blu-Ray restoration. But nothing can come close to seeing Oz on the big screen. I saw Oz at the Astor Theatre when it screened late last year, and was amazed how special a viewing experience it was to see it on a true Technicolour print in a theatre filled with an older generation re-visiting the film, and a younger generation experiencing it for the first time. Oz is an extremely special movie that captured the hearts of all no matter how you see it – but take it from me, seeing it on the big screen is an experience like no other.

Written by our wonderful, cine-passionate and regular E-news contributor Dave Lee.

This blog entry is an edited version of Dave Lee’s write-up on the film from his new film blog, Dave’s Most Inspirational Films.

For your chance to win tickets to see The Wizard of Oz (screening in a double bill with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, this Sunday July 17th, 2pm at The Astor Theatre), make sure you’ve “liked” us over on Facebook!