Commando Fan Audio Commentary – listen on my blog or download for free!

Hey hey everyone, the deadly duo that is Jimi (myself) and Mark (my partner in crime) have recorded an audio fan commentary for the classic 1985 action romp Commando – feel free to download from the ‘flash-widget’ box on the right of the page and cue up to your DVD copy, or if you’ve got healthy pause-button reflexes, you can listen to it along with tonight’s advert-strewn ITV1 screening at 10.35pm! This is our first ever commentary, so be gentle – we had a lot of fun making it, hope you enjoy listening to it! By the way, the commentary was recorded for the 2007 Region 1 DVD version, and it’s the theatrical version we talk over, not the director’s cut!

David Bowie: Station to Station (1976)

To celebrate Record Store Day, I revisit Bowie’s magnificent, troubled/euphoric classic…

Station To Station page

So it’s Record Store Day today, so I’ve got to play a record. It’s the law. But what to play? Bit of Bowie, surely? Bowie’s back in the zone at the mo, thanks to his first album in ages and that V&A exhibition that I can’t wait to see.  I’m a big Bowie fan, but I’m not a blinkered one – the new album is good, just as good as the last few Bowie albums in fact, but I’m not falling for all that ‘greatest comeback ever’ hype. It’s not even the best comeback this year (stand up, My Bloody Valentine), but never mind, it’s still good. But I’m not going to talk about that today. I’m going to talk about Station to Station. Is it my favourite Bowie album? Probably not. It could be Low. It could be ‘Heroes’. On a really weird day, it might even be Lodger. That’s right, I’m a mid-to-late seventies Bowie nut, though stuff like Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs, Scary Monsters, Hunky Dory, all amazing classics. God, I love Bowie. But the 1976-1979 era is my favourite, and Station to Station is one hell of an epic album. I played that one today because I wanted more than anything to listen to the title track, which might be my all-time favourite Bowie song. That there are five extraordinary songs to follow is the icing on the cake. Yep, that’s right, Station to Station is only six songs long. Now, on CD that feels too short, but on vinyl, it works. To be fair, one of the six songs is over ten minutes long, and the others are far from brief, so it lasts as long as an average 1970’s LP. And even though it only lasts six songs, it feels like a proper album – we’re taken on a journey, and in nice vinyl fashion, each side mirrors each other with an epic floor-filler to begin with, a lean, beautiful funk monster to follow and a lovely, lovely ballad to close.

Another reason I chose Station to Station today is because it really does sound different on vinyl than it does on CD. There’s always been the argument that vinyl sounds better than CD, that vinyl is ‘real’ and ‘alive’ and that CD’s are ‘lifeless’ and ‘flat’. Now I agree with the former – vinyl does have that extra dimension in the sound that I can’t quite convey, a spatial, three-dimensional ‘extra-ness’, but I don’t go for the whole ‘CDs sound crap’ belief. I’ll be honest that I do find it difficult to work out the difference between so-called excellent sounding CDs and so-called rubbish sounding CDs. Digitally remastered? Most of the time I wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference between a CD from 1987 and a remastered version from a couple of decades later. The only time I did notice more happening in the sound was with the Beatles and the Decca-era Stones reissues, which really did sound amazing.  I guess a lot of it also has to do with how good your audio equipment is. Mine’s alright, good but not exactly top of the line. However, Station to Station clearly sounds different on CD. It sounds lower. When I first heard it, it was a taped copy from vinyl – and I thought it was the best thing ever. Then I bought the CD and there was something…..a little off about it. It didn’t sound the same. It still sounded great though, so I stuck with it. After a while, I got used to it – after all, I didn’t have a portable cassette player, so I wasn’t going to be taking the tape outside with me. When the mp3 took off, obviously it was the CD version that I had transferred to my iPod. However, when I began accumulating Bowie on vinyl, I rediscovered Station to Station as I had originally heard it, this time in LP form as opposed to tape. And yes, it sounded like it used to. Higher. Not higher as in helium-affected, but just lighter, I suppose?

The thing is, there’s barely any mention of the vinyl/CD differences of this album online – there’s one review on amazon which notes an alteration in tempo, but apart from that, nothing. So when Station to Station got reissued in 2010 with the hype promoting as being remastered from the original analogue tapes, I thought –‘nice one’, it’ll sound just like the LP. Except it didn’t.  It sounded just like all the previous CDs (well, the 1999 and 1990 versions that I’d heard anyway). The ludicrous £100+ Super Deluxe Edition boasted the original 1985 CD remaster, which I was curious about – maybe that one would sound like the LP? However, all references to it mark it down as sounding more or less identical to the 2010 version. Would I ever be able to have my beloved album on CD the way I wanted it to sound? I had to take matters into my own hands, transferring the album from LP to my computer. Now I can listen to it on the go whenever I like. However, there’s still something very special about listening to it direct from vinyl, which is what I did today.

Station to Station – the album and the song – begins with the (real? artificial?) sound of a steam train, the sound of the album slowly gearing up, with the band entering the scene, mimicking the gears of the vehicle gradually picking up the pace, chugging and whistling along the tracks. No Bowie album had started like this – they all started with a bang, a statement, a proper ‘choon’, not a choo-choo. It’s a weird opening, giving the hints of the sonic revolution to come over his next few albums, but Station to Station as an album isn’t as out there as his Berlin/Eno trilogy. The other five songs are all radio-friendly, and even this opening track, once it gets going, is pretty commercial. Still, the seeds are being sown, the promise of things to come stated here, most evidently in his ‘The European canon is here’ proclamation, which signalled the end of his love of the US (most evident on Young Americans). The soul-funk of his previous album is refined even more so on Station, but the effect is less pastiche and more a melding of those genres with something a little off-kilter. Just a read of the lyrics to this title track are enough to sway you – the mystical allusions and weird imagery are magnificently vivid. Once the words begin, the music changes to some kind of rigid-robo funk that sees the band interplaying beautifully (Bowie’s band during this era was his most alive and thrilling) as Bowie unleashes all these wonderfully weird evocations, sung absolutely amazingly, the voice of a master, a one-off, a cracked genius at the height of his magical powers. Around the halfway-mark, the tune swerves into a five-or-so minute stretch of astonishing disco-funk heaven where some kind of nirvana is attained and prolonged, and god you just want to dance your arse off something silly. Guitars soar, squeal , shriek and strut, bass and drums keeps it tighter than tight, piano rolls and twinkles, voice and words combine to shattering effect. This final stretch of ‘Station to Station’ is the sound of an artist at the peak of their powers. This song is only ten minutes. I wish it lasted longer.

So yes, it does fade out sadly, but ‘Golden Years’ is straight after, so we’re hardly coming down at this stage. ‘Golden Years’ was the big single from this album, and it says an awful lot about Bowie that a song this good can be relegated to the second-tier of Bowie’s most well-known 45s. I mean, the beat and the funk laid down on this song is just so damn shiny and smooth, it arguably knocks all of Young Americans down and out, and that had amazing stuff like ‘Fame’ and ‘Fascination’ on it. More beautiful vocals (just listen to the way he sings ‘angel’), a killer guitar lick, some sweet whistling near the end, and an outro that I’d love to be able to loop and play forever if I was clever at that sort of thing. ‘Word on a Wing’ is the first side’s big, big ballad, an ode to none other than God that I’d normally be ambivalent towards but can’t help falling dumstruck for. I’m going to keep banging on about Bowie’s vocals on this album but they really are wonderful. Is this song genuine? Is it real? Is this a real symphony to the man upstairs or is it just an act? I mean, Bowie was going on about his euphoria not having anything to do ‘with the side effects of the cocaine’ a few songs before, a statement that I’m not sure rings true on an album he doesn’t even remember making because he was so out of it. Bowie does sing in character now and then (he did after all create the first pop alter-ego in Ziggy Stardust – sorry, Ringo’s Billy Shears on Sgt. Pepper doesn’t count), and obviously his adeptness at musical shape-shifting has led to accusations of dilettantism. He can put in as much passion in his own songs like this as he does in cover versions like the last song on this album. Is he ‘real’? I don’t care. I believe in ‘Word on a Wing’, which is a perfect example in how to do overwrought vocal drama. I mean, he really gives a beautiful performance here, the sound of a man made small by the sheer presence of the Almighty or Whoever, and it’s sound of someone humbled, and yet when Bowie get all emotional, I do smile – I don’t know why, but it’s the sheer theatrical beauty of the delivery, the kind that makes you want to sing to it as well, the kind of voice that full of highs and lows, but not in a ‘more is more’ kind of way. More the feeling an actor must get when he gets a really juicy, meaty role to get his teeth into. ‘Word on a Wing’ also has a really lovely fade-out, nothing but a lone choirboy voice and an eerie organ solo, the perfect kind of gentle shimmer into quiet that you can end an LP side on.

So we flip over, and we get ‘TVC15’, the other single, the one influenced by Iggy Pop’s dream about his girlfriend being sucked into a TV set or something. Some splendidly jolly piano rolling here, and some ‘uh-oh-oh-uh-oh’ vocals to begin with, and then a super-catchy funk-riff that’s so deliriously silly, leading to the big singalong of the chorus, oh but not before that ‘transmission….transition’ strut of the bridge, genius all of it. ‘TVC15’, like ‘Golden Years’, hits a terrific stride at the end, working its chorus into a fervour that I wish would never end. But if it didn’t end, we’d never get ‘Stay’, which is the song that pointed me towards this album in the first place. Bowie performed it during his killer Glastonbury set over a decade ago, and I was thinking – ‘ I love Bowie, where has this song been all my life?’. This could have been a single, it’s got a fantastic groove, a yearning chorus, thrilling guitar, a funky beat – that Bowie could have songs this good hidden away on his albums gives you an idea of just how prolific and relentlessly brilliant he was during the seventies. ‘Wild is the Wind’ is the obligatory Bowie cover version, and this is definitely one of the best covers he has done. Usually his cover songs are the weakest songs on his albums (‘It Ain’t Easy’, ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’, ‘Across the Universe’, er….all of Pin-Ups), but this is just glorious, a passionate, stunning, heartbreaking, elegant and magisterial ballad – I don’t go for Frank Sinatra, but I can imagine him crooning this one. This is a real drink-in-one-hand, alone at the bar or singing under the spot-light of a melancholy stage, film-noir end-credits heartbreaker of a song. It ends the album in a strangely retro-mood, far away from the futuristic style of the first track. I’m not even sure if it fits with the rest of the LP, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. And that’s it. That’s Station to Station. Some call it the best Bowie album. Is it? Impossible to decide. All I can say is that it forms part of the greatest run of albums ever. And yes, it sounds bloody fantastic on vinyl.

EDIT: There are some interesting (if occasionally completely over my head) discussions of Station to Station and its various incarnations over LP and CD on this message board:

http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/best-cd-version-of-david-bowie-station-to-station.211049/.

Eyes of a Stranger (1980)

Genre fans, step this way…

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This suspense slasher completely went beyond my radar when I was younger – I don’t recall it ever being screened on television, never noticed the video release and a DVD release here in the UK is non-existent as far as I’m aware. The film is one of a wave of post-Halloween slashers that is considerably high on the gore factor, putting it firmly in the same league as stuff like Friday the 13th and Maniac (Tom Savini’s gruesome make-up effects link these three also), but there’s also hints of proto-slasher Black Christmas, as well as Hitchcock’s Rear Window. The film’s gore led to it being slashed by the MPAA in the US, and even this edited version was too much for the BBFC in the UK, who snipped a further minute and a half of footage, most likely the sexual violence, as that sort of thing has always been a major issue with our censors. I’ve discussed sexual violence in my Death Wish II review a while back, and while this film isn’t anywhere near as repulsive as Michael Winner’s movie, there’s definitely a shamelessly exploitative mixture of titillating nudity followed by sexual violence here, which to be honest, was par for the course in early eighties slasher fodder.

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So yeah, there’s some problematic exploitation here and there (especially at the end), but Eyes of a Stranger is a pretty decent thriller, which came as a shock as the bloke who directed it would later make Return of the Living Dead Part II, which is, as any sane person will testify, one of the worst films ever made. True, plenty of it is made of long voyeuristic stalking scenes/grisly murders, the likes of which we’ve seen a million times before, but director Ken Wiederhorn displays a sure handling of suspense, some of it quite nail-biting. A series of sex murders are taking place and reporter Jane Harris (Lauren Tewes) believes that the man living in the apartment block opposite her may be the murderer, and she’s determined to expose and stop him. Since she’s not confined to a wheelchair like James Stewart was in Rear Window, she actually sneaks into the guy’s flat herself, and though you wonder why she’s taking her leisurely time investigating his home when he could be coming back any second, it doesn’t stop the sequence being agonisingly tense. Jane also has a younger sister who lives with her, Tracy (Jennifer Jason Leigh, in her first film), who was abducted when she was a child and survived, but became catatonically deaf and blind as a result, which explains Jane’s personal motive for stopping the killer. This leads to a cracking finale where the killer walks freely around the unsuspecting Tracy, cruelly doing things like moving her plate of food away from her while she’s making dinner, just to mess with her mind before he goes in for the attack.

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The gore is pretty strong for a 1980 film, especially one given big-studio distribution (Warner Bros. aren’t credited at the start, but they did release it), and Savini has some fun lopping off some bloke’s head and dumping it in a fish tank. Most of the time though the violence errs closer to disturbing than fun, which is appropriate given the nature of the killings. The blend of nudity and violence can leave a nasty taste in the mouth at times though – you wonder what the director’s intentions were during these moments. Still, the film’s too well made to qualify as overtly grotesque – the tension is at times very well handled, and the swift running time makes for a lean thrill-ride. There’s a great sequence where, once Jane is sure of the killer’s identity and obtains his number, turns the tables and starts harassing him over the phone. The killer himself, eerily underplayed by John Di Santi, even resembles Raymond Burr’s killer from Rear Window, coincidentally enough. He also looks like a slightly leaner John Goodman, to the point where I double-checked the credits!

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One last thing though; if the killer has been making his obscene phone calls from home (as the revelation of the location of the music-box melody that accompanies them reveals), then how on Earth did he manage to get to his victims so quickly afterwards?

Deadly Friend (1986)

Fun, relatively-forgotten Franken-horror from Wes Craven…

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Wes Craven finally scored a monstrous hit after ten years in the game with 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, the film that kickstarted a phenomenon. What to follow it with? A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 seemed to be the most bankable option, but he passed on that, opting instead for two films that turned out to be right old flops – 1985’s The Hills Have Eyes 2 and the following year’s Deadly Friend, a sort-of rehash of the whole Frankenstein story but with exploding heads and toy robots thrown in. Deadly Friend isn’t regarded as a classic of either horror or of Craven’s output. It’s easy to see why – it’s not very scary, it’s silly, illogical, you name it. As the new film from the director of Elm Street, it must have been quite the disappointment. These days, it’s quite a chuckle. I love 1980’s horror, even the bad stuff, so I’m automatically disposed to give horror from this era a free pass. Saying that, Deadly Friend is not bad – it’s just utterly ridiculous.

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Pau (Matthew  Laborteaux) l is a preciously ingenious teen who has just arrived with his mum in their new home town and who has created a robot called BB with artificial intelligence. The first we see of BB is of his pincer as he strangles some scumbag who tries to break into the family car in the opening sequence. Despite this unnerving introduction, BB is actually quite an affable robot buddy who enjoys a game of basketball and likes to hang out with his new found friends. He squeezes the nuts of the local bully when the local gang harass Paul and his mate Tom. He can also crack the safe locks of security gates by going through every possible combination in superfast time. Most impressed is Paul’s next door neighbour Sam (Kristy Swanson, the original Buffy!), who also takes a shine to Paul himself, despite the clear disapproval of her abusive father. Unfortunately things take a turn for the worse, first of all when BB is blown to bits by paranoid neighbour Anne Ramsey (that’s Mama Fratelli to you) and then when Sam is thrown down the stairs by her bastard father and dies as a result. Paul then steals Sam’s body from the local hospital and inserts BB’s circuit board brain into hers, resulting in a reanimated friend who moves like a reject from the Thriller video audition. She also ends up murdering all of the film’s arsehole characters, and Paul realises that he has created….a MONSTER!!!

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This was written by Bruce Joel Rubin, who would go on to write Ghost and Jacob’s Ladder, and apparently he wasn’t happy with the way this film turned out. It’s weird, because the film almost plays out like a PG-13 horror (complete with obligatory single use of the word ‘fuck’) but then has a bunch of gory stuff added in, presumably at the behest of the studio. Not that Craven has ever been averse to gore, but there’s something extra teen-friendly and almost sweet lurking underneath the surface of Deadly Friend – maybe this was an attempt to create a relatively family-friendly lark that ended up getting showered in blood. The result is a fun little horror with some fun bloodshed thrown in – the most legendary/notorious example is when a character’s head explodes after being hit with a basketball. It’s utterly ridiculous, but kind of unforgettable too. The headless body even starts walking around for a few seconds afterwards! There’s also some nasty business involving a body and a furnace (what is it with Craven and furnaces?), as well as some dream sequences which are pretty effective, if also completely bleedin’ pointless. We also get an ending which aims to go for the same head-fuckery of Elm Street’s ending, but while in that film the last-minute shock worked in a film about dreams,  Deadly Friend’s ending makes absolutely no sense. If the ending is a dream, then fine, but it’s not clear what it is supposed to be. Of course, if this was a David Lynch film, we’d be applauding the skewered logic, but here it comes off more as a throwaway shock. Still, I do find the imagery of this ending quite imaginative and spooky, despite the rubbery effects and yes, the fact that it MAKES NO SENSE!!!

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The acting is amiable – Laborteaux is a likeable lead, the good guys are nice, the bad guys are horrible and everything plays out just nicely. Credit should be given to Swanson, who is the brightest thing in the film and a really quite sympathetic tragic figure. Once re-animated, her performance does teeter on overly robotic (she threatens to overdo the jerky hand thing), but her expressively sad eyes make her possibly the most melancholy killing spree-inclined robot in cinema history. The scenes between Sam and Paul are really quite sweet, and their penultimate scene together is quite touching. Seriously!  I did want them to have a happy ending together, but it wasn’t to be. I think if I’d have watched this film back in the eighties I would have had a goofy schoolboy crush on Swanson. BB is voiced by Charles Fleischer (that’s Roger Rabbit to you), and before the credits I thought it was Frank Welker doing the voice because he reminded me of Slimer from The Real Ghostbusters. Like Roger Rabbit, his vocal quirks become very annoying but unlike RR, BB gets blown apart a merciful thirty minutes in.

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So if you’re feeling charitable, Deadly Friend is an enjoyable lark – its current status as relatively obscure in the annals of horror is admittedly well deserved, but those who have a soft spot for 80’s horror will find plenty to be amused with here.

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The Real Ghostbusters Episode 4: ‘Slimer, Come Home’

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This is the first episode in the series to be written by showrunner J. Michael Straczynski, who is responsible for many of the most beloved adventures in the show’s early days. After three episodes of variable apocalyptic intensity, Slimer, Come Home is a relatively mellow, character-driven story (although featuring another heavy-duty ghost as the antagonist), and one where Slimer’s role in the show is given centre-focus.

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So far Slimer’s been responsible for setting the chain reaction that led to Brooklyn being pulverised by a Class 10 toy monster, for putting the guys in serious auto-related danger in the following episode and only coming good in Episode #3 by kicking a demon bird square in the nuts. Actually, he saved the day in episode #1, but he started the whole bloomin’ chaos in the first place, so I say he merely broke even, the little scamp. He’s already displayed an irritating penchant for swiping food that doesn’t belong to him, having stolen a year’s worth of chocolates that were meant for Janine, but in episode #4 he goes one worse by eating the whole of Winston’s birthday cake, which leads to his self-imposed exile from HQ.

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The animation seems softer here, not as vivid or as sharp as the preceding three episodes, almost like it’s out of focus. This actually adds to the more sentimental nature of the episode, which kicks off with the guys on their third night in a row of poltergeist-related ghostbusting. This night though is particularly important as Janine’s busying prepping Winston’s surprise birthday party back at HQ. Their pursuit leads to them to an abandoned back street where as Peter observes, ‘the trash wants to take us out’ as a dozen poltergeists approach them hiding in rubbish bins. Nevertheless, they don’t actually do anything, instead retreating into the body of the chief ghost who is the source of their power, and he’s introduced briefly as a very spooky silhouette with a wicked grin before we get to see him proper later on.

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Egon reassures his crew that poltergeists ‘can’t actually hurt you’. I didn’t know this is true, but consider the body count of Tobe Hooper/Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist. That’s right, a big fat ZERO. So maybe he has a point. However, we now get to see the chief ghost in question, and he’s one ugly mothercrusher with a top hat, a snake’s  tongue and a scary sonically modified chuckle (it sounds like a computer game villain’s chortle), and he uses all those trash cans to take out the guys. Egon cowardly suggests they run. Peter bravely suggests they blast them. They do, and get covered in dirty trash. Egon’s the one to listen to in this episode, clearly. Two film references are chucked at us, Peter’s trigger-happy tendencies being blamed on Clint Eastwood, and after the guys are literally blown away by Chief Ghost’s powerful lungs, we get a nod to The Wizard of Oz. So, the good guys lose, and their spirits would be dampened were it not for the excitement surrounding Winston’s party.  So enthusiastic are they, that they ‘whisper’ about the event directly in front of (and admittedly tired and drained yet entirely unsuspecting) Winston.

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Winston enters the HQ, all the lights are out….and then ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY!’ Winston is clearly shocked, and so are we because we actually hear Egon laugh. He even says, hilariously:

‘I just want you to know…I’m having a wonderful time’.

Okay, that doesn’t sound funny, but because Egon’s saying it, it works on every other possible level beyond the obvious. It almost sounds sinister. Luckily, this awkwardness is put on hold as Janine brings out an enormous blueberry fudge cake (complete with GB logo!) that overwhelms Winston so much he goes right ahead and declares this to be the happiest day of his life. And then Slimer downs the whole cake in one go. He doesn’t even take his time to chew his food. Fair enough he doesn’t have teeth, so I suppose he can’t chew. Also, he doesn’t have a regular throat so he can’t choke. And he doesn’t have internal organs so he can’t get a belly ache. So I can see why the all-in-one go might seem appealing. Still, there’s more fun to be had in taking time over your food.

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Anyway, this act of greediness does not go down at all well with the others. Well, in true Ghostbusters tradition, it’s Peter who goes the extra mile and really unleashes venom on Slimer, whereas the other three try to let it go. Not Peter, who goes as far as to ask the definitive existential question:

‘What use is Slimer?’

This is too much for the little spud, who decides to pack it in and run away from home. This is accompanied by, yep you guessed it – Tahiti – who offer up a slow, sad song that’s a major departure from the uptempo pop featured the last three episodes. Their lyrics are worryingly literal – as Slimer wanders off into the cold and rainy night, the vocals wail ‘into the cold and rainy night’. This is followed by the miracle that Janine can read Slimer’s writing following the discovery of his goodbye note. Peter is thankfully proper cynical during these moments, reacting with the news by stating that he’s going back to bed. To be honest, Slimer is egging it on a bit, saying ‘no one likes me’. It’s obvious that it’s only Peter who hates him – the rest love him well enough, I suppose.  Still, Slimer’s depressed, bless him. Everyone blames Peter, Peter gets the hump, Winston is alarmingly practical in suggesting that talk is cheap and that they should start looking for their green buddy. Peter won’t back down and refuses to join the search party. Stubborn, very stubborn. Out on the town, Slimer meanwhile is tempted by the display window of a chocolate shop but then remembers Peter’s (all too true) comments about him being a greedy-guts, so instead he follows some ghosts into a scary building…

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Peter’s ruthless attitude however doesn’t remain so for much longer, as Janine catches him sneaking out of the building to search for Slimer. Bless him, deep down, he really is a softie, although he doesn’t admit it, insisting that he’s only going out in the pouring rain for a nice walk. We know though, don’t we? What I really like about this episode is the visually softer tone I mentioned earlier– the animation is gentler and more cosily nocturnal than in other episodes, and New York at night has a really melancholic, desolate feel to it here, especially when the guys are calling out for Slimer. We soon find out that the Big Bad Ghost who’s been feeding off all the energy of the little ghosts will be keen to gather any supernatural prey, including the likes of Slimer who, if caught in the Belly of the Beast, could end up becoming very evil. Now, we’ve already seen one of the good guys turn bad in the previous episode and we saw how that looked, so the stakes are high.

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It’s strange how you can vividly remember certain scenes from your televisual childhood, and the scene where Slimer enters the scary building with all the ghosts inside burned itself into my memory’s retina. It must have been a Saturday morning screening, broadcast on one of the ITV entertainment extravaganzas like Motormouth or Ghost Train, and I distinctly remember one of those intrusive banners plastered at the bottom of the screen telling us what was going to be on later on in the show, maybe Bros performing ‘I Owe You Nothing’ or something like that at 11.15am. This makes sense because we’re just coming to the act break (when the banners would normally make their appearance), and these Saturday morning shows wouldn’t show the whole episode in one go, they’d leave us hanging and show Act 2 later on.

Anyway, the building – I remember the main entrance hall being very spooky because it’s entirely empty and very dimly lit, and then all of a sudden a pair of doors open, with light shining from the other side.Inside, the ghosts look like a right old rowdy bunch – all that’s missing are pitchers of booze – and they are friendly enough to offer Slimer a seat, which he happily accepts, but what’s this? The Big Bad Ghost is with them, and his laugh is all we need to know that this isn’t going to end well.

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Meanwhile, the guys search continue, with them hoping they’ll find Slimer before the poltergeists do – Peter calls out to say he forgives him (almost), Egon nearly gets mugged by a gang led by a guy who looks like Peter on steroids, but the bad guys back off when Egon’s weirdness freaks them out . Ray decides to stay in the same spot and hoping Slimer will pass by, in accordance with a theory that if you wait in one place and one place only, everyone you ever know will eventually come into contact with you. Egon is all too ready to destroy Ray, but Ray’s 2nd Grade teacher who he obviously hasn’t seen in ages passes by to say hello, so Egon shuts up after that. However, the BBG is already on speaking terms with the little spud, trying to teach our admittedly very unfrightening pal how to look scary, picking on two blokes walking down the street who aren’t even given the dignity of proper dialogue, just incoherent mumbling, though I’m sure I picked up ‘my wife’ somewhere in the midst of their ramblings. The BBG then towers over them and laughs his laugh and the guys run away, after which the BBG suggests Slimer does the same, despite the latter being significantly littler than him. Slimer’s first target turns out to Peter, who he inadvertently slimes and then scarpers from, retreating into the Scary Building, where the BBG has assumed a rather horrifying form with a huge MOUTH where his belly should be, and get this, the belly mouth can SPEAK!

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The poltergeists gleefully dive right into the belly, which has returned to normal (I think the sight of the ghosts flying into the mouth would have been too freaky for a kids show), and Slimer is petrified at the thought of being part of, as Egon puts it, ‘one big giant ectoplasmic MESS’. The guys are coming to the realisation that Slimer may be doomed very, very slowly I must say, and Peter even takes the time to remark on Slimer’s impending destruction topping off a ‘perfect day’, the vicious scoundrel. All this banter means that they’re too late to stop Slimer being immersed, as seen in a couple of shots where we can see his shape struggling to get outside of the belly – it’s like something out of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Although this was made before that. So there you go. Just like in the last episode, they aim to pull out Slimer by setting their proton packs at his exact frequency. It’s a miracle that this stunt worked with Peter the last time, and luckily, it works again, but the BBG isn’t very happy. He does the smart thing and steals the guys proton packs, and goes one better by slamming the wooden floor with his fist and causing the floorboards to curl up like fingers and trap them before slowly pulling them towards his still hungry belly. However, the silly BBG didn’t properly dispose of the proton packs, allowing Slimer to use them to rescue the guys, who in turn use them to trap him, but of course, he’s just digested about a hundred or so ghosts, so the trap is insanely overloaded! Unfortunately this added bit of tension is swiftly taken care of as we cut to the fire house and the trap is entered into the Ecto-Containment Unit. Oh well.

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The silliest thing about all of this is while Peter and Winston take care of the trap, Egon, Ray and Janine thought it was the best time to prepare a surprise welcome home party for Slimer – priorities, people! Peter still acts like a muppet when it’s revealed that the party was idea, instantly getting all defensive by saying that he didn’t miss Slimer and that he is ‘pond scum’. He makes Slimer cry. Peter admits he missed him a little. Slimer is overjoyed. I reckon Slimer is manic depressive, bipolar, very Homer Simpson-esque in his capacity for wild mood swings. Winston brings out a suspiciously appalling looking cake which Slimer gobbles in one go again, but we find out that they made a decoy cake for Slimer to have while they enjoy their own , much better-looking cake. So the moral of the story is? Ghosts never change, so always have a spare cake handy. The episode ends on a (thankfully) mysterious note as we never get to see Slimer’s party trick where we get to see what he’s already eaten.

All in all a memorable episode, less intense than the first three, but a sweetly sentimental episode which nevertheless boasts some spooky imagery and nice atmosphere. This show’s strong form will continue spectacularly with Episode 5, aka The One With the Trolls. Let’s PARTY!

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