Cleanin’ Up The Town: Remembering Ghostbusters 2020 ****

In an alternate universe, we’d be getting ready for the Ghostbusters reboot round about now; instead, Anthony and Clare Bueno’s documentary is the closest we’re going to get to busting ghosts circa 2020. That we have any Ghostbusters at all is reason to celebrate; Cleanin’ Up The Town is an exhaustive undertaking, interviewing all of the key creative team and cast members (apart from noteable absentees Rick Moranis and Bill Murray) and featuring a trove of drawings, on-set photographs and video; pretty much everything you could ever want to know about the making of Ghostbusters but were afraid to ask.

To be clear; this doc is about remembering the making of Ghostbusters; there’s very little analysis or consideration of the final film and it’s cultural impact, outside of Sigourney Weaver’s suggestion that it’s a love story to the ordinary person and to NYC in particular. It’s certainly interesting to see how the project evolves (originally set in 2012) and how the central characters change; from space janitors to academics, and with most of Ernie Hudson’s key lines eventually finding their way to Bill Murray. But the low-fi but impressive nature of the special effects is the big draw here, with terrific detail of how the terror dogs, various apparitions and Slimer were created.

There is an untold story here as well; several crew members attest to Slimer being modelled on John Belushi, while Murray is characterised by his unwillingness to learn lines; the star had just got off a plane from shooting his underrated passion project The Razor’s Edge, which features a heartfelt lament for his co-star and friend. Murray’s  general sang froid is a key part of the success; there’s some relevant discussion here about how the audience had to retain cynicism about the fantasy world described, and that grit in the oyster is what makes the final product tick.

From the film’s roots in Dan Ackroyd’s family history to Ray Parker Jr’s inspiration for the celebrated song, there’s well over two hours of material that will delight fans here, and that’s just the main film; the disc also features fan art, extra interviews, plus a film-makers intro, important because the film was created by funding from fans, as well as fund-raising support via Kickstarter to get the film out there. With actual Ghostbust-ing temporarily on hold due to a raising pandemic death toll, Cleanin’ Up The Town is a welcome reminder of the incredible team effeort that goes into a truly great movie; when there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who else are you going to call?

CLEANIN’ UP THE TOWN; REMEMBERING GHOSTBUSTERS blu-ray is released in UK by Screenbound (RRP £14.99)



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  2. We crossed messages there, but I agree that some films have great supplemental material, so why make a seperate movie? Aside for the financial consideration, there’s an artistic freedom that means that a doc can look at both positive and negative elements of a film’s production and legacy. Perhaps this one doesn’t go far enough, and is kind of like Memory; The Origins of Alien from last year, for fans, by fans, and not as analytical as I would like. But I wasn’t bored for a second watching this, and interviews with the likes of Ramis won’t come around again.

  3. True. But there are “making of” documentaries that are included as DVD extras that are even longer than the movie itself, and which are really good (perhaps better than this, though I haven’t seen Remembering Ghostbusters). The docs on the making of Blade Runner and Plan 9 From Outer Space come immediately to mind. Those come with the DVD and they’re quite elaborate productions.

    • No, this doesn’t look into any of the other Ghostbusters franchise products; there’s a very narrow focus, and I get that for some people, that means it’s not definitive. But I could happily watch hours of this kind of footage, essentially showing the elaborate process behind the filming. I think there’s a seperate doc about the second film, but the second film doesn’t have the same level of interest to me. It’s fun to read between the lines of this doc, because there were clearly issues during the production. In short, there’s more depth here than the usual upbeat DVD extras. For fans like myself, I’d still like to go deeper still.

    • I think the length, at over two hours, makes it worth the stand-alone. As a kickstarter, how else can the film-makers recoup any costs?

  4. I’ll check out the Netflix doc, thanks for the recommendation.

    I would love to see a definitive retrospective; as described, this doc really just covers the making of the film. The production notes suggest a decade long production period, and I guess that Ramis passed during the production. I don’t think that devalues the material collected here; to me, the big omission for me is not having Murray or Moranis, which one might hope would be possible at some point over such a long period of production. But I really appreciated the ingenuity of the behind-the-scenes insights into the special effects, and the interviews with even the most minor members of the cast. It’s a labour of love, and since I love the film too, I was happy to be carried along with it.

  5. In the publicity this promised to be the definitive retrospective on the iconic 80s comedy adventure.

    It really isn’t.

    It doesn’t tell the story of the film so much as provide a series of incomplete anecdotes. Also, considering that this is a new release it is odd that it doesn’t reference that Harold Ramis, who features heavily in the talking heads, passed away in 2014. Maybe their real scoop is getting a ghost to talk about Ghostbusters but I suggest it has just been sitting on a shelf somewhere for six years.

    To be honest I can see why.

    The Ghostbusters documentary on Netflix as part of The Movies That Made Us series is much better.

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