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October 6, 2021


written by: Anthony Bueno and Claire Bueno
produced by: Anthony Bueno, Claire Bueno, Troy Benjamin, and Hank Starrs
directed by: Anthony Bueno 
rated: not rated
runtime: 128 min.
U.S. release date: October 1, 2021 (theaters) & October 5, 2021 (On Demand)


“Ghostbusters” is so huge and well-known that it’s hard to believe there was a time when movie studios couldn’t imagine green-lighting a comedy involving the supernatural. It’s hard to believe because of how successful the movie became back in 1984, but also because the fandom that followed it and it bled into cartoons, comic books, toys, and video games. Those in the know are aware of the obstacles involved in making “Ghostbusters” and its fascinating production history has been covered in an assortment of mediums, such as featurettes, books, and magazine articles, and even documentaries other than “Cleanin’ Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters”, but director Anthony Bueno (who wrote and produced with Claire Buono) offers something quite special, both for die-hard fans or those who had no clue who inspired Slimer.

It took the producers twelve years to craft this documentary, and they’ve taken a careful and meticulous approach to bring something more than just placing talking heads and actors in front of the camera. What primarily stands out here is the breadth of material they have access to – from old interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, as well as anecdotes about the origin of the project and overall production of the movie. Many will be familiar with what’s offered here (especially if you’ve seen the “Ghostbusters” episode of “Movies That Made Us” on Netflix), but the way in which the Buenos have assembled the material here is quite impressive and really takes viewers back to the time and place the blockbuster hit was made.



Of the actors from the original “Ghostbusters” involved in this documentary, it’s no surprise that Bill Murray and Rick Moranis are missing, since they’ve never really been outspoken about the movie or their experience. On the flipside, Dan Aykroyd has never stopped talking about “Ghostbusters” and “Cleanin’ Up the Town” is a reminder (for some) why. The film opens with an explanation of the creative impetus of the movie and considering that Aykroyd is the one who came up with the story and wrote the screenplay’s first draft, it’s understandable that he’s the one doing most of the talking. He explains how his great-grandfather, Dr. Samuel Aykroyd, was heavily interested in the paranormal and had done extensive research on the subject, which clearly made it’s way down the family tree over the years.

Considering Aykroyd’s background in improv and sketch comedy, especially with Saturday Night Live, it’s obvious why he wanted to come up with a story that combined the paranormal with comedy. We learn that at first the story took place in outer space in the year 2012, but once producer/director Ivan Reitman came on board, it would become clear that it would connect with the audience better if the setting was more grounded in present-day New York City. Seeing the potential in the material, Reitman brought on actor/writer Harold Ramis (who had previously worked with the Canadian director, writing “National Lampoon’s Animal House”, “Meatballs” and “Stripes”, the latter of which he also starred in) to help mold Aykrord’s script into something Columbia Pictures could get on board with.

This was May of 1983 and the big problem was that the studio wanted to release the movie in June of 1984, which was considered the beginning of the summer movie season back then (back when it went from Memorial Day to Labor Day here in the States).



That is indeed where the pressure to get “Ghostbusters” made stems from and it would be the biggest undertaking of Reitman’s career at the time, considering all the inevitable and extensive special effects involved. Back then they worked primarily with the likes of real sets, creature molds, and camera tricks, a far cry from the green screen and computer work used now. Once Lucasfilm talent Richard Edlund came on board as a visual effects supervisor, there was a bit of relief that someone with experience can start to get things on track in such a short amount of time. He helped form Boss Film Studios with a staff of other talented visual artists, all of whom were attempting to conceptualize the wild supernatural comedy Aykroyd created.

The documentary takes a sequential look at the production of “Ghostbusters” and starts with the place where the audience would see their first ghost, the New York Public Library. This is where we’d meet the librarian ghost and it’s nice to see actress Alice Drummond (who died back in 2017) reflecting on her brief role at this location, especially considering she probably had no idea back then what the end result would look like or how big of a hit the movie would be. At one point, Reitman recalls how once they had all the Ghostbusters jumpsuits, proton packs and a functional Ecto-1 (their vehicle of choice), the three actors (Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis) could be seen running around Manhattan, passing New Yorkers who either recognized them or could care less. Just thinking about a time, long before the internet and smartphones, where actors could just run around a metropolis in character, seems unfathomable and cool.

For those in the know, you’ll find certain information and anecdotes quite familiar. Like how originally the four Ghostbusters were to be played by Aykroyd, John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, but that all changed when Belushi died and, well, Murphy was probably too pricey. The role of Louis Tully was originally written for and offered to John Candy, but it went to his SCTV colleague Rick Moranis, when Candy wanted to play him with a thick German accents and two German Shepherds, and ultimately asked for too much cash. Ernie Hudson appears reminiscing about his time as Winston Zedemore, after it was decided to expand the Ghostbusters to four with the idea of casting a black man to purposefully offer some diversity. Hudson’s non-scientist role was quite welcome as a gateway character for the audience, but Hudson shares how he suddenly learned one day on set how his part was severely shortened and that it was Ramis who consoled him about it.



That being said, it’s cool to see certain bits many probably didn’t know, along with revealing footage. Maybe you didn’t know it was Sigourney Weaver’s idea for her character, Dana Barrett, to become possessed, but the actress shares how her input altered the movie (for the better) and she and the a few from the special effects crew share how awkward the her capture in her apartment was. We also see the likes of Denise Crosby and Daryl Hannah auditioning for Weaver’s role of and learn that names such as Christopher Walken, John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd, and Jeff Goldblum, were floating around for the role of Dr. Egon Spengler (one can’t imagine anyone playing him better than Ramis). Annie Potts talks about how she came up with the look and style of Janine Melnitz. We also learn how one day Murray and Aykroyd returned to set after talking with Mayor Koch, who helped smooth out certain production aspects for filming in The Big Apple.

The best part of “Cleanin’ Up the Town” is how much screen time The Buenos give to the talents behind the camera and what we learn from them. We listen to producers Joe Medjuck and Michael C. Gross share about how involved they were in keeping filmmaking on schedule and convincing the studio the project was a good investment. Visual effects crew members Steve Johnson, Richard Edlund and John Bruno share all kinds of stories about what it took to bring creatures like the demon dogs to liv, from sketch designs to costumes and animation. It all took a lot more time and energy than it would to make them know. For comic book fans, seeing concept designs from Tom Enrique and Berni Wrightson is a real treat. Some probably knew that Slimer was designed to resemble Belushi (eh, he really doesn’t, but okay), but it’s likely that viewers didn’t know there was a person wearing a Slimer costume to help animate the cartoonish character. There’s even a bit with Eldo Ray Estes, who played an extra who stood out as “Redheaded Man” and went on to work as a make-up artist in the industry.



As for as small roles and supporting character actors, it’s fun to see the likes of William Atherton, David Marguiles, and John Rothman chime in with their memories of filming in New York City with all the hype around the movie, with the actors often sharing what it was like sharing the screen with Murray or Weaver.

Of course, there wouldn’t be a Ghostbusters documentary without any kind of contribution from Ray Parker Jr. and here he shares how he struggled to come up with the eponymous song until he saw footage of the three Ghostbusters doing the commercial used in the movie, which is how he came up with, “Who you Gonna Call?”

If you find seeing the many iterations of the Stay Puft Marshmallow as fascinating as I do, then this will be right up your alley. Even if you think you know everything about “Ghostbusters” or you know how to make your own proton packet, I’ll bet you didn’t know where the Ecto-1 siren came from. Well, you’ll find out here and it’s kind of wild. You can tell the Buenos have culled a ton of footage over the years, especially when there’s more to share during the closing credits.

Nevertheless, the pair cover quite a bit in “Cleanin’ Up the Town” in its two hours. From designing the recognizable logo and how production moved to Hollywood, to the title changes and the exuberant responses from early screenings, the directors tightly pack it all into a breezy pace. That being said, they are odd editing transition moments that feel disruptive and the whole thing could’ve benefited from a score with a little more pep to it, but those are small nits to pick – after all, we get to see footage of Harold Ramis again and that’s always welcome. “Cleanin’ Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters” winds up being quite an impressive culmination of material that encapsulates all that went into making the biggest comedy of the 80s.


RATING: ***1/2



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