Ah, one year on from when I started my mission document the good era of The Real Ghostbusters and I’m only thirteen episodes in out of a total of around eighty or so! Conveniently, the end of my first year of this mission coincides with the completion of Season 1. So before we delve into the epic sprawl of Season 2, let’s have a quick interlude to have a peek at how us kids in the UK got to see this cartoon outside of the regularity of a television screening.
In the UK, we had ten volumes of Real Ghostbuster action to enjoy, though as this was the 20th century, a volume usually meant two episodes only. This mean supply wasn’t so bad if you were into say, X-Files or Star Trek – which meant you’d get around ninety minutes, but in the case of pretty much any cartoon show, it would only amount to just over forty minutes. Forty minutes? For £8.99? Appalling! No wonder a Ghostbusters video tape never felt like a worthwhile purchase – instead I’d rent them from my local video shop. Video shops. Do they even exist anymore? I mean, Blockbuster pretty much became the standard, and they’ve just gone out of business! Anyway, a kids video would usually cost about £1.50 to rent from my local (proper films were £2.50 if I recall), and because I didn’t have a VHS player at home (sad old Betamax for me, sadly), a video rental could only be possible if it coincided with a stay over at my aunt and uncle’s place.
So, the first twenty episodes of season 2 made up for all ten released volumes on VHS, though they weren’t presented in the same order as the original order, but since there’s little to no continuity in the series, that didn’t matter so much. In fact, sometimes the videos wouldn’t even have the episodes in the same order as they were displayed on the case! Anyway, these twenty episodes probably remain the twenty most watched episodes of the show for me, with the exception of the odd one I had taped off the telly like ‘Apocalypse, What – NOW?’ and ‘The Real Ghostbusters in Paris’. They went like this:
Volume 1: ‘Play Them Ragtime Boos’ (Episode 16 ) & ‘Knock, Knock’ (Episode 14)
Volume 2: ‘Venkman’s Ghost Repellers’ (Episode 22) & ‘A Fright at the Opera’ (Episode 26)
Volume 3: ‘Cry Uncle’ (Episode 19) and ‘The Spirit of Aunt Lois’ (Episode 17)
Volume 4: ‘Night Game’ (Episode 21) & ‘Beneath These Streets’ (Episode 29)
Volume 5: ‘Ragnarok and Roll’ (Episode 32) and ‘Boo-Dunit’ (Episode 30)
Volume 6: ‘Sea Fright’ (Episode 18) & ‘Adventures in Slime and Space’ (Episode 20)
Volume 7: ‘The Old College Spirit’ (Episode 23) & ‘Ghost Busted’ (Episode 28)
Volume 8: ‘Chicken, He Clucked’ (Episode 31) & ‘Who’re You Calling Two-Dimensional?’ (Episode 25)
Volume 9: ‘Ain’t Nasa-Sarily-So’ (Episode 24) & ‘Doctor, Doctor’ (Episode 27)
Volume 10: ‘Station Identification’ (Episode 15) & ‘Don’t Forget the Motor City’ (Episode 33)
Now, I may have, at one point, owned all ten of these, but I do distinctly remember these appearing and disappearing from my collection at various stages, so I’m not sure if there were particular ones that I merely borrowed, or others that I bought, then sold, then borrowed again, bought again, sold again…all I do know is that the only one I have left is Volume 4. Ah yes, volume 4 – this was definitely my favourite, which probably explains why it’s the only one that’s survived The Great VHS Purge of 2009 or Whenever. ‘Night Game’ was always a favourite, but the real reason for its survival is ‘Beneath These Streets’, which was a pivotal moment for me in my love for the show. I’m looking so forward to writing about this episode that I almost want to review it ahead of preceding episodes, but I am approaching this series episode-by-episode and in order, so it’ll have to wait.
Some weird things about the tapes were the BBFC title cards before each episode – every episode was rated ‘U’, which seemed a bit lenient given the scariness of some stories. What about ‘Knock, Knock’ and ‘Ragnarok and Roll’ with their apocalyptic scenarios, or ‘The Old College Spirit’ with its terrifying pre-act break transformation scare? I mean, come on – think of the children! It does amuse me that BBFC censors had to watch episodes of The Real Ghostbusters. It’s a pity they didn’t get to review any more episodes beyond these twenty. Well, that was the case for a while until the first season got a belated release on DVD, and the first disc of six episodes was collectively rated ‘PG’, I can only assume for the scary scenes in ‘Mrs. Rogers’ Neighborhood’.
Then there was the Magic Window logo that started after the BBFC card – now Magic Window were the home video distributors for Columbia’s cartoons, and as such this logo was never seen on the broadcast releases of these episodes. It’s so twee and sweet this logo sequence, with some happy child running beckoning us to follow him as he sprints through a pretty garden with stone bridges, fountains and all kind of bucolic sweetness, emphasised no doubt by the none-more-cute theme tune, dominated by the pipes of pan and some glittering synth. Halfway through the sequence, the background gets seriously psychedelic as the kid jumps through the ‘magic window’ and what can only be described as a daisy chain of children forms the main logo. Ah, memories!
One thing the episodes on tape would end on was the Dic and Columbia logos, not always a given on the TV versions, and sadly not on the DVD versions, which have now been replaced with a Sony logo. This is one of my weird gear-grinders, but I really hate when original logos get replaced or updated. Films have it done to them all the time – for example, a 1970s movie with none more 1970s style opening logo that gets replaced with some digital, CGI new version. Grr, it just spoils the mood right from the start! Anyway, the two closing logos – firstly, there was ‘Dic’, which featured that sweeping zoom from the bedroom with the kid sleeping in it to his window, wherein the company name would appear and some infant voice spoke the name ‘Dic’, which was always hilarious to any child because he was basically saying ‘dick’. Ha-ha. Then there was the Columbia logo, which was the classic 80’s model of woman carrying the torch, but here it was accompanied by a short snippet of music that for some reason would always unnerve me as a child. It’s so gratifying to see on the web discussions and video compilations of TV logos that would frighten children, because I know I’m not the only one! Seriously, what was it with these things? Sometimes it was the striking imagery, the primitive/eerie effects, the theme….in the case of the theme, this and the Paramount logo that appeared at the end of early episodes of Cheers would always quicken my pulse. The Paramount one had this very rapid orchestral crescendo that I hated, whereas the Columbia one at the end of The Real Ghostbusters was this weird drip-drop melody that led into a synth finale – this lasted all of five seconds, yet it used to freak me out! However, the daddy of the scary logos was always the one for Marvel Productions, with Spider-Man landing on top of the ‘MP’ lettering, his body all, well-spider-like in its sneaky gracefulness and his eyes glowing sinisterly. Seriously, if ever Muppet Babies was on the telly, I would cover my eyes every time during the end credits. Obviously, it’s a case of each to their own – check online for those logo compilations and some might give you memories of being scared, some/many won’t raise a single hair on the back of your neck. It’s interesting how a search online can come up with a few gems that might not have scared me personally but definitely got the job done for other unfortunates, with the notorious 1970’s ‘Screen Gems’ logo being the most legendary of the lot. I reckon electronic duo Boards of Canada, with their love of things analogue-synth and creepy/blissful nostalgic probably were inspired by some of the creepier examples!
Thanks for indulging me there, but these video tapes were essential viewing for me as a child – and so begins soon twenty episodes from my most-watched phase of The Real Ghostbusters….