The Real Ghostbusters Episode 38: No One Comes to Lupusville

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VAMPIRES!
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I remember being quite apprehensive about this episode in the build-up to it being screened. You see, I had a fear of vampires when I was little, which is a silly fear as they don’t exist, but I was ten and was still shaken up by The Lost Boys, so anything with fangs sent the shivers down me. At the time, I had recently watched an episode of the wonderful and very self-aware animated spin-off of the film Attack of the Killer Tomatoes called ‘Prinz Spatula – Prince of Dorkness’ in which the town, as if being under regular attack by mutated tomatoes wasn’t enough, now had to contend with a vampire outbreak, which resulted in many of the townsfolk sprouting fangs and flying around trying to kiss the unturned (no biting or blood – this is a children’s show, so said the series’ regular Censor Lady). The episode scared the hell out of me, especially when the adorable Tara became a vampire and joined a load of the recently vamped in trying to raid the local pizzeria, crowding up against the windows whilst the owner stood petrified inside.
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Yes, I was a bit wimpy when it came to even very, very mild on-screen horror like this, and therefore ‘No One Comes to Lupusville’ had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish the first time I saw it. I was dreading a parade of scary vampire faces pressed up against the other side of the TV screen, but as it turned out, the fear-factor was relatively low in this episode, at least compared to other Real Ghostbusters outings that had disturbed me greatly. That doesn’t mean to say the episode’s a flop, far from it – it’s yet another Michael J. Stracsynski gem! Mood and atmosphere is the preferred approach here – the head vampire is more of a devious, charming villain than the personification of nightmare fuel, while the supporting bloodsuckers, whilst agreeably ghoulish looking, don’t cross the line into outright scary. Hell, there isn’t even any sucking of blood in this episode! Come to think of it, there’s no blood full stop! Now you might find that laughable, but to quote Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it izzz no laughing mattaaaggh.
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We start off the episode with the guys asleep at night in the HQ- Peter and Winston don’t need anything so childish as a plush toy or whatnot to help them get to the land of nod, but it turns out that Egon is quite partial to sleeping with his complex scientific notes, calculator and pen (he’d later admit to sleeping with a jar of slime in the second Ghostbusters film) and Ray snuggles up with a Stay-Puft toy, which is a bit weird given their antagonistic relationship in the past. Now I know Stay-Puft, before the events of the first film, was a symbol of wholesomeness and marshmallow-flavoured wonder, but a lot’s happened since then. Hasn’t he tried to destroy the city twice? Weird.
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Janine’s downstairs, tired and playing Ghostbusters-branded cards with Slimer, who’s not above cheating in order to win. Now it’s obvious from this scene that Janine’s work pattern is all over the shop – I mean, she’s the only secretary the guys have, and you’d think the norm would be for her to do a regular nine-to-five shift, given that she does have a life and a home to go to, but it turns out that when the narrative demands it, she’s more or less a stay-in secretary. Her presence this late at night is necessary to greet the utterly, hilariously suspicious Gregor when he arrives in the dead of night to request the Ghostbusters’ service. He’s ridiculously tall, his skin is very pale and he keeps banging on about not being able to be seen in the daytime. All he needs is the standard cape and for him to go ‘BLEAAHH!’ to give the game away completely, but Janine, bless her, is blissfully unaware. I like the down-to-earth moment when she calls out for Gregor’s name so that she has something to write on the invoice – little moments like this are what made the show so cool. There’s also a bit earlier when she complains about her job being pension-free and without a union.
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We then have a rather neat ‘slimy’ edit wipe (see pic) from Janine at HQ to the guy arriving in Lupusville (hint-hint), which is a privately owned town which reminds me of the similarly shut-off community of 1987’s hilariously nutty A Return to Salem’s Lot, which was about a town of vampires that just wanted to be left alone. Ray ‘down-with-the-people’ Stantz insists that town folk are plain folk – all you have to do is show them you’re one of them, but that might prove to be difficult when it’s revealed that some of the town are absolutely huge, making Gregor look like Yoda. Seriously, some of these are officially giants. At the other end of the spectrum, some of the other townsfolk are very small, making Yoda look like the Rancor. Gregor comes out to greet the guys in his jim-jams – he’s a friendly host to say the least. He’s also one hell of a weatherman, predicting the rain seconds before it shows up. Everyone runs inside, but Peter takes the time to observe the outside world and says ‘Gregor’ for no other reason than that it sounds foreboding. He’s right to be wary. Oh, there’s also a little girl named Leda who takes a shine to Egon, even calling him cute. It’s weird, Peter is the meant to be the show’s so-called ladies’ man, but it’s only Egon of the four who everyone else seems to fancy, be it little girls, pervy librarians and of course, Janine. In all cases he doesn’t seem to care about this female attention. At one point, out of nowhere, Leda produces a turnip to Egon, after which an old, old joke is delivered. If you’ve seen Airplane! you know what I’m talking about.
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The subject of vampires is then brought up, with Gregor insisting they have a bloodsucker problem. Interesting that Gregor considers this a problem, given that he is so blatantly a Vlad himself, but the guys are too busy pooh-poohing the idea of facing vampires to deal with the obvious. The thing is, vampires aren’t ghosts, so how do you deal with them? Who cares, when the surprise appearance of an actual treasure chest filled with gold and shiny things is enough to make the previously sensible Winston insist they accept the job. In another example of the show not dumbing down to the audience, the vampires are referred to as ‘revenants’, shoehorning the word into the popular mindset decades before that Leonardo DiCaprio film. Weirdly, these ‘revenants’ only appear after midnight, which sounds cool, but that does mean they’re wasting the hours of darkness available before the witching hour.
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The guys delve into the forest, singing long to themselves blithely (never a good idea), but something’s not right. What’s that noise? Oh, never mind, Winston says, it’s gone now (it isn’t). However, a quick turn-on of the PKE meter reveals that they’re surrounded. Bats show up, and Peter doesn’t put two and two together, the doofus. The bats transmogrify into old-school, Barlow from Salem’s Lot-style vampires (with added red wings that make them resemble Venger from Dungeons and Dragons, although he only had one wing), and they’re fearsomely massive. The problem is is they like to fiddle around with buttons they shouldn’t be touching, and one of them sets off the self-destruct switch on Egon’s proton pack. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but it does disturb me that a nuclear proton pack can be set to self-destruct with just one button. Even the Predator had to faff around with a few combinations before he was able to nuke himself at the end of the first film. Anyway, the pack explodes, knocking everyone out, and Leda, who had followed them to the forest, is shocked to hopes Egon hasn’t just been killed. She shows no concern for anyone else. And that’s our act break.
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….and we’re back. Peter and Ray have woken up but Egon and Winston are gone. One of the vampires, a delightfully urbane but unnamed Kif-from-Futurama-soundalike (that’s our Maurice LaMarche!) has stuck around to greet them, and tells them that there are essentially two warring vampire factions, and that Gregor is the leader of the other side, the bad side. This relatively good vampire basically wants to live in seclusion and not bother the outside world, but Gregor wants to destroy everything and take over everyone, so Kif, despite remaining untrustworthy, and also despite being called a ‘weirdy’, agrees to join forces with Peter and Ray to save the town from itself, lest they suffer the same fate as Lupusville’s original residents (hint-hint), of whom we know little about.
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Meanwhile, back in town Gregor greets Egon and Winston and is insistent that they help him wipe out Kif and his army, and only now does Egon suss out the real deal with Gregor, thanks to the old-fashioned ‘no reflection’ giveaway. As Gregor says, he’s too smart for his own good. Winston agrees – it’s always been the case, and that anytime he’s tried to bring the subject up, it’s been all in vain, ‘like talking to your own armpit’, which incidentally is what George Michael seems to be doing on the front cover of his album Faith, which was released around this time. Worked out alright for George though, with sales of 25 million to date.
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Not that Gregor’s interested in any of what Winston or I have to say. ‘SILENCE!!’ he hilariously demands (no one tells people to shut up in real life like this nearly enough), before threatening him and Egon with destruction if they don’t help him to defeat the other vampires. Gregor’s fed up with keeping quiet about his own existence, and wants to take over the world, just like Stephen Dorff in Blade. He leaves them in their cell, only for Leda to call to them through a window. Egon asks her to get one of their proton packs, and in a nice bit of logical continuity, the pack itself proves exceptionally heavy for her to drag back to the window. This is when we find out that she is Gregor’s servant, so betraying him by revealing where the original Lupusville residents have been imprisoned is an act too terrifying to contemplate…. for about two seconds. There’s one catch – the guys must take them with her when all this over. Egon gives her his word.
Back to the good vampires, and Ray has an idea as to how to save the day. However, you may notice that in his explanation of his great plan, he refers to the vampires as ‘you types’, which is one step away from ‘you people’, which is never a good thing to say when talking to someone of a different race, or in this case, species. I’m surprised he didn’t get a slap down or worse for that slip up. Ray’s plan is some cobblers about getting the proton packs to simulate sunlight, and Kif warns them not to use them on him and his mates. Egon and Winston meanwhile proceed to free the Lupusville folks. Egon warns them to flee to the forest before things get ugly, but their leader insists on staying so that they can take back their town ‘their way’. Oh, and by the way, it wouldn’t happen to be a full moon tonight, would it?
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Yes. Yes it is.
You see, when Gregor imprisoned the townsfolk, he forgot to check one thing…
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…like, were they werewolves or not? To be fair, it’s an easy mistake, so I’m letting Greggsy off the hook for this, but it’s too late, as things get severly doggystyle, Ray remembers what Lupus means in Latin, and before we know it we’ve got the original vampires vs werewolves showdown decades before Twilight. There are some brief but pretty nifty morphing sequences as things take a turn for the lycanthropic, and maybe it’s because the episode’s almost over, but sadly we don’t get to see nearly enough vamp v wolf battles. Peter wouldn’t mind sticking around to see a little more, but he’s outvoted three to one. Yet we do get to see what happens when a werewolf bites a vampire and a vampire bites a werewolf. Oh yes.
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Just to make sure no one leaves town, the guys burst the nearby dam in order to surround the town with running water, which as we all know, is impossible for a vampire to cross over. That didn’t stop the vampires flying over the sea towards the amusement park in the opening titles of The Lost Boys though. By trapping the town with water, this essentially condemns the werevamps to a life of starvation. To be fair, it was never explained how the good vampires had survived all this time whilst simultaneously ‘living in peace’. Maybe, like in the second Salem’s Lot movie, they had bred cows for feeding. Or maybe not. Anyway, as Winston puts it, this new crossbreed is a classic example of ‘democracy in action’, so I suppose everyone’s mates now. Except for those giants and dwarves the guys met when they first showed up. Were they part of Gregor’s vampire crew? It’s not really explained. Finally, Egon didn’t stick to his word when he said he’d take Leda away from all of this. However, it’s revealed she has indeed hitched a ride on the back of Ecto-1, and Egon does seem to be aware of her presence with his cryptic aside to the others as they drive off.
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However, I reckon what really happened is this: Egon simply just forgot about Leda because he’s ultimately selfish, he then saw her in the rear view mirror after she stowed away and a desperate attempt to try and save face, goes on to pretend that he casually knew all along that she was there. Oh Egon, you blagger you.
By the way, what is Leda? Human? Vampire? Oh, never mind. The episode’s over thirty years old, and I’m not going to get any answers now.
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The Real Ghostbusters Episode 37: You Can’t Take it With You

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Ah, now this is more like it! I have a very, very special fondness for this one as it was one of the episodes featured in my wonderful and much-cherished copy of The Real Ghostbusters sticker album that I from the late eighties. The stickers for this episode just looked so spectacular (apart from the double-one of Ray and Egon in front of the Containment Unit – that was just okay). That’s not the only reason I love this episode, because for the first time since ‘Ragnarok and Roll’ we actually get an episode with some genuine peril and excitement. You know it’s serious, because Egon’s PKE meter stops working. That’s always bad. It also looks great (foreboding purple skies are a speciality here) and has a pretty cool plot hook. The title kinda gives away the ending, but come on, we never really thought the bad guy would actually win, did we?

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To begin with, an immense ecto-surge in the city (emanating from one of the local, suspiciously evil looking skyscrapers– remember, there was another one in ‘Ragnarok’) causes the Containment Unit’s alarm bells to go ringing in the middle of the night. Peter doesn’t seem to care – no ghosts have escaped from the unit, so what’s the problem? Egon and Ray rightly know that a non-corporeal rupture of this magnitude is too big a deal to ignore, so it’s time to investigate the cause. And the cause is –

Charles Montgomery Burns.

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Okay, his name in this episode is Mr. Tummel, but he is essentially a proto-Burnsie. He’s so greedy and obsessed with his money that he has no intention of giving it up even when he dies. He’s going to literally transport his cash and gold to the ghost world when he himself pops his clogs. I’m not even sure Burns has ever tried to pull off a move like that, even in a Halloween special.

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And just like Burns, Tummel doesn’t care about the adverse effects his plan will have on the environment either, firing his assistant when he dares bring up the subject. He scoffs at morality, contracts, the law, the Easter Bunny… wow, this IS Mr. Burns, isn’t it? He doesn’t have any hounds to release though, just a couple of musclebound guards to take out the trash. Unfortunately, by opening the door to the ghost world, Tummel has let loads of swirly-whirly spectres into the physical world. Not that Tummel’s bothered. His chair comes equipped with ‘ecto-shield’ and proton beam! God only knows how he managed to get all this put together, but it looks damned good. I mean, the interiors of his skyscraper are bloomin’ enormous. He has a flippin’ pyramid inside there!

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The guys enter the building (and in one fancy move, each of them walk into a room using a different door for no other reason than it looking cool), but it’s swarming with ghosts, who for some reason in this episode, leave a cobwebby (but definitely not actual cobweb) residue after they’ve been zapped. This isn’t explained because Peter does one of his standard interruptions on Egon. And the standard reason for his interruption is – who’s paying them for this job? He had the same issue in ‘Beneath These Streets’ if you’ll remember. His preferred plan is to wait until the public call in for them, and then they can get some sweet cash. Of course, time is of the essence, especially since Egon reckons that because of the ghosts’ fragile molecular structure, they could break up into separate, new ghosts, and so on. It’ll only take 15 hours or so for the world to be governed by chaos and what not, so forget the money. Unfortunately, despite racing against the clock, the lifts are not an option, because they look like this:

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How are they going to get to the top? The stairs? Did you see how tall this skyscraper is?Ray has an idea though. Let’s use a helicopter! The one they use isn’t Ecto-2 – maybe it hasn’t been replaced yet? Bit odd that Peter is surprised that Ray can fly one of these things. Er, they used to own one! Let’s forgo how they actually suddenly acquired this helicopter, and besides, it’s not very effective as it gets caught up in a storm and almost kills them.

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Luckily, one act break later, they land on the roof and then abseil down to an easy access point. Well, I say easy – when they smash through the windows, Egon ends up putting his foot right into a TV screen! Amazingly, he wriggles loose from it without rupturing any arteries or getting so much as a scratch.

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Peter has the right idea. He just picks the lock of the roof door (with a nail file – I love that Peter owns one) and walks downstairs. Here we get to have a peek at Tummel’s taste in art, which is very old and very gold. The guys find some of Tummel’s staff, who are utterly terrified at being taken over to the ghost world and being used as slaves. As Peter says, why be rich if you haven’t got a few poor people to push around?

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Arriving at Tummel’s lab (Egon is temporarily blindsided by all the fancy gear and insists on re-negotiating the research budget when they get back home), the guys are greeted by ‘Mr. Moneybags’ with a barrage of deadly lasers (cue one of the series’ rarely used action themes) and we get a rare totally non-supernatural set-piece. Egon reckons the only way for them to win is for Tummel to overload the amount of energy going into his scheme, thereby causing it to crash. Peter has the smart idea of tricking the old man into trying to convert the whole building into the ghost world. After all, where’s he going to live once he crosses over? Clever scheme, and it works – Tummel goes crazy mad with laughter and screams about taking ‘everything… EVERYTHING!!!’ and Egon just hopes that the overload will cause a power failure and not a huge explosion. Peter looks like he’s going to throttle Egon when he realises the stupid risk they’ve just taken. Egon, for all his smarts, does take some of the most insane chances in this series. He only just did such a thing at the end of the previous episode, which I’m sure you’ve already forgotten by now because it wasn’t very good.

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In the midst of all the laser madness, Tummel’s wheelchair gets blasted and the silly fool ends up being hurtled into the gateway to the ghost world. Meanwhile there’s far too much energy going about and the systems are overloaded and can’t be turned off. Computerised death – don’t you just love progress, Peter asks? Egon agrees before running off to the gateway, opening a trap (which he hopes will jam the signal from our world to the next as well as pulling all the released ghosts back home) and then muttering something utterly incoherent that sounds something like Popeye’s own ramblings.

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Winston saves him from getting crushed by a random piece of falling architecture and everyone runs out of the room, with Ray reassuring Peter that the five bucks he owes him can be waived if this plan goes south, which it doesn’t, though Egon is so impressed with all the ghosts returning home that he forgets the building’s due to go the same way. Cue a reference to Heisenberg a long, long, long time before Breaking Bad made this sort of thing cool and a sharpish exit via helicopter. Very sharpish in fact, as Egon and Peter are forced to hang off the side of the chopper and do so without complaint or fear (odd given Peter’s clear freakout earlier over the thought of abseiling). The gateway tries to ensare the guys, but Winston throws his proton pack out of the helicopter to shut it the hell up.

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They escape, but not before seeing a maniacal Tummel fly up and out of this world, just before the building itself is spectacularly transported over to the other side. A very bumpy landing follows – miraculously Peter and Egon (they’re still hanging on to the side, remember) are not hurt.

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Just like the title of this episode insisted, all of Tummel’s time and effort was for absolute nowt, as his loot just ends up crashing back down to Earth. Peter’s the first to discover this when a bundle of notes hits him on the noggin. I can imagine that must have hurt, but at least it wasn’t one of the bars of gold that hit him. That would have definitely killed him. There seems to be a moment where Peter considers taking the cash for himself, but just like when Murtaugh throws away the drug money that could put all of his children through college in Lethal Weapon 2, he wants nothing to do with it. The thing is, what is going to happen with that money? The guys drive off before the cops show up, thereby avoiding giving a very helpful explanation as to how all that money got there, not to mention why Tummel’s HQ has just suddenly vanished. I suppose the cops might do the right thing and give it to charity. I bloody well hope so.

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So, in conclusion we have the best episode of The Real Ghostbusters for quite a while – let’s see if that quality can spill over into the next episode, shall we?

SPOILER: It will.

PS: Sorry about the ‘ghosting’ in some of the above screenshots. The quality of this episode on the DVD is a little below-par.

The Real Ghostbusters Episode 35: Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Ghost?

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This is not one of my favourite episodes – despite an apparently important emotional revelation at the end, the whole thing doesn’t really amount to an awful amount – the second act in particular drags out what little material it has to patience-breaking point.

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We start off with New York’s poshest wining and dining in one of the city’s finest restaurant (flies still get into the soup, mind). They’re doing their own thing, living their own priviliged lives, whilst outside ghosts are terrorising the regular folk, and the Ghostbusters are on the case. Inside, there is a very, very bored posh couple, both of whom have annoying voices, who are discussing the problem of their haunted house. Hubby suggests the Ghost Smashers (he read about them in the National Inquisitor – oh wait, that’s the National Intruder). Wifey, with her voice that sounds like she’s trying to talk and eat chewy candy at the same time, is not interested, and doesn’t seem to think much of her other half. The Real Ghostsmashers (sorry) end up following their spectral pursuit inside the restaurant. The guests are shocked and horrified (one of them screams just like Peter) and a food fight almost gets going (I hate food fights) but luckily for the restaurant and for us the impatient viewers, it doesn’t go anywhere.

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Hubby asks Winston for the Ghostbusters’ details but Wifey doesn’t want to associate with ‘ruffians’. They head back home to their very fancy place, but unbeknownst to them, one of the restaurant ghosts hitches a ride in their exhaust pipe (just like that bit in the film!). This ghost has a head that looks like a pine cone. It turns out that the haunted mansion’s supernatural ‘threat’ is none other than Wifey’s own Uncle Horace, who has one of the most annoying voices ever, even more annoying than either of the couple. He’s a really pathetic spectre too – scared of everything. The thing is, he doesn’t realise he’s a ghost. He’s also looking for something, but he doesn’t know what it is. He keeps referring to it as his ‘whatever it is’.

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Wifey and Hubby dress up in sheets and chains to try and scare Horace – now you may wonder if dressing up as a ghost could scare a ghost, but in the case of wimpy Horace, it works. Far from a ‘depressing’ result, as Wifey feared. Oddly enough, at no point does Horace look down and notice that he has no feet. In fact, he has nothing below the knees. That might have helped him suss things out a lot sooner. Saying that, he even sees himself (or lack of) in the mirror early on and still doesn’t figure things out. He even flees moments of peril by moving through walls, but no, he never realises why he’s able to do such things. He’s stupid. Ugly too, according to Hubby. However, I do get an unrelated minor chill regarding Horace because he looks a little bit like the head prankster ghost in ‘The Old College Spirit’, who, if you remember, at one point transmogrified into one of the scariest monsters in the entire series. Maybe they were brothers? After the malarkey involving Wifey, Hubby and Horace dies down, it is hinted that there be that there could be some unresolved emotional issues between Wifey and Uncle Horace, with talk of her being ‘let down’ by him. Meanwhile, the restaurant ghost is now in the mansion, and he’s just a little pain in the arse, drawing moustaches on paintings, that sort of thing.

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Horace finds the Ghostbusters business card that Hubby left behind in his fright (the text of which has a cute throwback to ‘Troll Bridge’) and calls HQ – the poor guys have been working two days straight and want to go to bed, but promise of working for ‘old money’ act as a veritable Pro-Plus and off they go to the ‘pretentious but not ostentatious’ abode, where they try to lure the ghost out from its hiding place by pretending to leave (that’s one way of doing it, I suppose), after which Horace emerges from the fireplace only to blasted by proton beams. He doesn’t like it one bit. Oddly, we get an act break with no musical cue at all. Just the sound of screaming. If Horace was less of a nuisance, this would probably play out a lot more disturbingly than it does.

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We fade into act two, and somewhat sadistically the guys are still blasting the hell out of Horace. A reference to ghosts sets Horace’s radar off and he tries to protest, saying that he’s not dead, and that he’s going to sue them, and this is when he realises that he really is dead. The guys go off to find the real cause of the house’s destruction. Cue some ‘antics’ regarding gramophones (playing Dixieland jazz -see ‘Play Them Ragtime Boos’), Wifey and Hubby still pretending to be ghosts, and Horace still banging on about finding whatever it is he’s looking for too. Maybe all he’s looking for his feet and lower legs. He needs to find out what that thing he is looking for is though, otherwise he won’t be able to cross over into the afterlife and spare us from watching him being stubbornly rude to Ray and Egon. He gets in a cute reference to The Shadow at one point though as he tries to look scary, so he’s not completely without merit. After this, we cut to the restaurant ghost, who’s dancing in the air to the gramophone, but yelling with the same voice Horace was screaming with when he was getting blasted earlier. There’s some bloody odd soundtrack choices in this episode.

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There’s some silliness involving the restaurant ghost sweeping Wifey off her feet and dancing with her in the air, which leaves the guys in a quandary about how to blast it without his dance partner falling to the ground, but some rope swinging trickery from Egon saves the day. This is when Horace realises that he was looking for his niece all this time – and all he wanted to do was tell her he loved her. And it turns out she was upset with him all this time because he ‘left’ without saying goodbye. Bloody hell, had Horace known he was going to shuffle off in advance, maybe he would have sorted out his farewells more efficiently, but we can’t all arrange when we go, do we? ‘Let down’. Blimey. Oh well, at least everything’s resolved, everyone’s happy, and the final line of dialogue is the none-more 1980’s send-off ‘let’s blow this pop stand’, which I swear I heard a million or so times during my addiction to animation as a child.

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It’s an okay episode – a lot of goofing about, silly voices and no real threat. It’s also definitely the weakest episode I’ve reviewed so far. We need a pick-up.

The Real Ghostbusters Episode 34: Banshee Bake a Cherry Pie?

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Blimey, that’s some absolutely dreadful punnery there with that title, and I’ll admit I was a bit worried revisiting this episode as it’s written by the same two people who delivered the underwhelming ‘Don’t Forget the Motor City’. However, this one turns out to be a proper chuckle! No mirth is in store for poor Peter Venkman though, for this is the second episode in a row where he has spent a lot of money on something fancy (last time it was a car, this time it’s a nice-smelling stereo) and within minutes, it has EXPLODED!

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Let’s backtrack a second – Peter has set up his stereo (on his bed?!!) and decides to test drive his new gear by playing an advance copy of the new album from Irish rock star Shanna O’ Callaghan, or just ‘Shanna’ as the sleeve indicates. You know you’re huge when you can get away with being referred to by just your first name. Egon, despite what appeared to be a brief flirtation with 20th century music in the last episode (he was looking for the ‘Queen of Soul’, remember?), is back to his snobbery towards the popular song form, hoping that Peter will be only listening to this rockin’ rock experience through headphones.

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The song starts, and to be honest, it’s just a relief that it’s not Tahiti. However, it’s not long before all hell breaks loose. Peter starts contorting wildly, Egon demands to know who this is, and Peter complies, unnecessarily adding that ‘she’s Irish’. Like that instantly explains everything. I’m suddenly thinking of that old Itchy and Scratchy cartoon where ‘Itchy falls foul of an Irishman’ and Milhouse exclaims ‘look out, he’s Irish!, the difference being that The Simpsons were taking the piss out of xenophobia, whereas Peter is just flat-out racist. Suddenly, he starts to levitate, the bed explodes, and so does the record player, right in the middle of the song! There’s something about funny about the way the song explodes just as Shanna is giving a sultry delivery of the line ‘with love/with love…’ Perfect timing.

And in case you needed to know, that song was called ‘Love Makes Me Live’.

A small supernatural presence makes itself present for a brief moment before disappearing, and suspicions are raised. Ray wears Ghostbusters undies, by the way. All of this commotion has left Peter’s recently acquired stereo destroyed, and Egon, working on the basis that Shanna is Irish, surmises that she’s a banshee. Banshees, as you know, bring chaos and mayhem through the medium of song, and Shanna may very well be the first of her kind to get a record deal. Normally banshees would bring about disaster towards a few indviduals – you know, whoever she was directly singing to, but in this era of mass-produced records and concerts, her impact could be far more devastating. Coincidentally, she’s playing a gig at Carnegie Hall in the city this very evening, and it’s going to be broadcast coast to coast over the radio! Thankfully her actual album isn’t out yet – Peter was ‘lucky’ enough to get an advance copy of the LP through a friend. Despite being exposed to Shanna’s powers already, he thinks they need some more evidence, and after the return of some New Jersey bashing (this show does not like that place), the guys head over to the talent agency to speak to the man responsible for taking care of Shanna. The agency is a right old dive – you think Shanna would be able to do better than associate herself with flame-twirlers, hippy singer-songwriters, ventriloquists and the sort, but they’ve come to the right place.

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They make a somewhat unnecessarily dramatic entrance, resulting in the destruction of the head of the ventriloquists dummy (making him very, very upset) and try to convince her agent Vince that she’s a monster. This doesn’t go down too well and he has them chucked out. Egon reckons that the reason this ‘mutant’ (Peter’s words) didn’t believe their story is because he is under Shanna’s spell. Winston reckons it’s because he’s pond scum. Or could be that their story sounds utterly ridiculous? Saying that, if the Ghostbusters came to me telling me such and such was supernatural, I’d be inclined to believe them on past evidence. However, as we already know, the Ghostbusters don’t seem to be popular with businesses or authorities, despite having saved the city (and sometimes the world) on a regular basis. Oh well, they’d better get directly to the source, and this means following a trail of destruction, which leads to a rehearsal hall guarded by an insane cleaner who’s had enough of Shanna-inspired destruction and clutter and wants to kill the Ghostbusters right there and then with his deadly weapon (a broom). This episode is bloody mad, I have to say. A lot of filler involving weeping ventriloquists and psychotic cleaners, and we’re not even at the halfway mark. We get huge spiders and bats later, and no one in the episode seems to mind, but more on that later.

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Kicking down the door to her room, the guys encounter Shanna, and she’s pretty wild looking – she’s a proper pop star, the real deal, and Peter’s instantly bewitched. She coos at him, and then walks out with her agent Vince (how did he get there so quickly?), after which the floor collapses beneath Peter and the ceiling starts to fall apart above them. That was an instant cliffhanger!

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An easily overcome cliffhanger too, as the guys pull Peter out to safety and drive off within seconds, but he’s still bewitched – stealing a poster of his beloved and having extended flights of fancy. This involves a dream sequence where he imagines he’s starring in the video to ‘Love Makes Me Live’ and that he’s Shanna’s wildly bequiffed, chest-exposing boyfriend (according to the VJ for Gasp TV, obviously), and they dance around in circles and run through lots of mirrored corridors. A good imagination is a joy forever, indeed. Oddly, Slimer makes an unwelcome appearing playing the sax. Peter can’t be too control of this fantasy if that little green spud has been able to inflitrate it. Egon then steps into Peter’s mind (beat that, Inception) and informs him that ‘he can’t have this fantasy’. Shanna seems a little annoyed by this, and this is the first time we actually get to hear her speak in a non-singing voice. The Irish accent is there, but I don’t think whoever was voicing her was actually Irish. We’re talking Oir-rish here, kids. I must add that there is not a trace of Irish in her singing voice either, but she wasn’t the first singer to Americanise her vocals and she wouldn’t be the last. Peter does his best to make Egon look bad by telling Shanna that this is the guy who gave his computer a girl’s name. Egon’s cool with it – he understands that Peter’s not in control of his emotions. Then there’s a really odd bit where Egon explains through the TV screen that whoever’s watching this video at home isn’t really watching it. This is all madness stemming from the mind of his good colleague, and by this stage of the episode there are so many walls of reality are crashing down that you could probably write a dissertation on the doors of perception using just this scene as your primary source.

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Back in the ‘real world’ the guys arrive at Carnegie Hall to speak to the building manager in the hope of stopping the concert, but he’s bewitched too. He’s poring over a magazine that reveals Shanna’s ten most secret secrets. I wouldn’t take too much stock in that periodical though – it misspells Shanna’s name as ‘Shana’ at one point. Still, Peter doesn’t care about typos – he’s too impressed with the manager’s tacky Shanna cap and Shanna jumper. Bloody hell, she’s not that great. By the way, secret #3 reveals that Shanna likes petite men with gentle voices and good grooming habits. It’s never explained why Egon, Ray and Winston are the only ones not under her spell, and it’s not explained how the guys acquire 80’s glam metal costumes and can blag their way around backstage so effectively, but Shanna’s too busy with Armageddon in mind to care. I love her ambition, by the way. She’s essentially slagging off all the banshees that came before her for their limited scope when she says that she’s ‘too talented’ to waste her time with small-scale destruction. She’s taking her sound to the end of the Earth…

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The guys burst into her dressing room, having promised Peter that he will get to meet Shanna in person, never mind that a) he already has and b) he almost died last time. Peter tries to protect her from the other three, and Shanna’s curious line of attack is to trap the only one of the four Ghostbusters who was actually on her side. She could have exploited his suceptibility and told him to attack his friends. She’s stupid. She’s also proper ugly too, as everybody discovers when they see her reflection for the first time. She’s got a blue face and a mouth like a vacuum-cleaner extension. This appears to break the spell that Peter and Vince are under, but she’s already made a run for it and is on stage, where her adoring public await her. Their adoration remains so constant that the animators use the exact same impressed shot of them screaming for more over and over again, despite the fact that at one point she conjures enormous spiders and bats to come down from the ceiling. The crowd don’t care. They’re lapping it up. Reminds me of when Bart Simpson imagines he’s a rock star and plays his latest chart-topper ‘Me Fans are Stupid Pigs’ to an overjoyed audience.

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Shanna’s audience are even more gullible than Bart’s – her first ‘song’ is absolute crap (it’s the same jazzy intstrumental the show knocks out whenever they want a party atmosphere going) and her wordless vocals are more off-key than Yoko Ono’s. That was just a warm-up, mind you. She’s about to play a song off her album, which is also called Love Makes Me Live ( a song that good just had to be a title track), but Egon has gone backstage and messed with the electrics (looking very evil as he does so) redirecting her vocals as feedback, which is a very clever way of ‘reflecting’ herself as a mirror would, but in vocal form. She changes back into a Blue Meanie and floats around the stage wailing, and the audience are still loving it! Sick bastards. They are essentially witnessing a mental and physical breakdown on stage, and the crowd want more, more, more. The kids had killed the man (in this case, woman) – it’s Ziggy Stardust all over again.

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In a last ditch effort, Shanna goes for the guys, but they trap her and the gig’s over. I would say the audience should have gotten a refund for their gig, but they really don’t deserve it. After all, they don’t seem to mind that Shanna has essentially been destroyed on stage. Aren’t they her fans? She’s dead! Now it’s all about Peter (despite him not having displayed any musical or vocal talent), the fickle fools. Egon escorts him off stage but the crowd want more. Vince tries to lure him back in with the promise of fame and fortune, and Peter even comes up with a name for himself – Dr. V (though he clearly is already fond of this title, check his number plate in the previous episode) – but life as a Ghostbuster is already too much of a thrill. The guys chant his rock star name as they drive off. What an odd episode.

By the way, here’s that shot of the crowd we keep getting.

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The Real Ghostbusters Episode 33: Don’t Forget the Motor City (1986)

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Of all the twenty episodes available on VHS in the UK back in the eighties, ‘Don’t Forget the Motor City’ was arguably the one I cared least about. It’s a pretty insubtantial outing, though not without its occasional pleasures. Take the first scene, which is pretty hilarious, it must be said.

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Peter’s out on the road in the big city, claiming without modesty that he was ‘born to ride the highway in his new car, a wild guy with some wild wheels’. The thing is, his car looks boring (despite the ‘Dr. V’ number plate) and Peter himself has never, ever looked so uncool. He has his sleeves rolled up, he’s wearing a half cap/half beret monstrosity, he’s even, I suppose ‘beatboxing’ to some unheard song (probably Tahiti, eek) … yet he has the nerve to roll his eyes over towards who I’m assuming he’s regarding as a square in the car next to him. He then tries to play it cool with the blonde in another car, and she actually seems impressed, until Peter’s horn starts to go off (hee hee) and causes a total racket – what’s this, eh? A new car with a dodgy horn that won’t stop blaring? Plus it won’t start? Peter’s flabbergasted that a brand new car that he spent ‘thousands of MILLIONS of dollars’ on is already a write-off. Back at HQ, in a fit of rage, he sees fit to call the car a vivisectionist, which is definitely the oddest insult I’ve ever heard hurled towards a vehicle.

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Saying that, it’s not a car for much longer. The thing practically implodes before our very eyes. Peter is extremely angry – not just at his car, not just at his lot (he wanted that car ‘more than anything in the world’, but as Ray points out, he said the same thing the night before when the last of the ice cream was eaten) but at the ‘happy, contented, smug’ lot who are going about their business, laughing at Peter from their cars. Peter has a nervous breakdown and intends to go out and beat others up with a desk lamp – Ray tries to stop him, but to no avail. The others tackle him and bring him back to HQ to relax and do the right thing – Peter intends to call the president of Generous Motors and give him an earful down the line, but coincidentally the President calls him first, pleading with the guys to come to his place and sort out all the haunted cars that have just come off the production line. This could have made for a seriously suspenseful episode, given that there are loads and loads of cars set to explode all over the city, but instead we get some silliness with gremlins instead. The guys are asked to go to Detroit to Generous Motors HQ, and there’s something particularly melancholic about Peter’s excitement about going to the Motor City, given how badly downhill the place has gone. They even hope to meet Aretha Franklin there, but she’s only ever referred to by her ‘Queen of Soul’ title.

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Arriving at the HQ in Detroit, Egon asks the cabbie if he knows where the Queen of Soul lives, to which the car drives off. Obviously this is one of those annoying questions that gets asked an awful lot round these parts. I never pegged Egon as a soul fan – we know he loves classical and opera from an earlier episode, and there’s no reason why he can’t mix and match his genres, but I just can’t see him cranking up Motown Chartbusters over the weekend. They investigate the factory, which, aside from the busy reception area, is a place that seems to be running by itself, which makes it particularly spooky. The guys and Mr. Abernathy (the president of GM) witness a car being self-assembled, but it explodes after the finishing touches have been made. Egon, after asking if it’s the employees causing the damage (fair point – even though it’s always the ghosts responsible in this series, it doesn’t hurt to assume otherwise) PKEs the place – there’s no reading as such, but there’s definitely a supernatural presence, and it’s in the cafeteria, starting a food fight. This may seem lightweight for a Ghostbusters scene, but one look at the flying drinks cans and I’m instantly reminded of a shocking scene in the Stephen King movie Maximum Overdrive, a film I watched late night on Channel 4 when I was young. In that film everything electric/electronic turns evil, and sometimes the chaos is funny (a cashpoint telling some poor sap played by King himself what to do with himself) and sometimes horrific (kids getting steamrollered), but there’s one scene which combines the two. I’m talking about the scene where the baseball coach is trying to get a can of drink from a vending machine. He puts the money in and all of a sudden a can shoots out and hits the bloke right in the nuts. Needless to say I cracked up at this bit, and then another can shoots out at hits him right in the forehead, killing him instantly. All of a sudden I wasn’t laughing. Maximum Overdrive is not a good movie as I recall, but that bit was so well done it put the fear in me and then some.

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So back to this episode, and even though there’s the distinctly unthreatening presence of flying sandwiches, I’m always wary of the cans during this bit. Ray’s impressed with the airborne menu, Egon’s not impressed with the carnage (‘I take this very personally’) and Peter is appalled by the stale sandwiches he tries to dodge. Interestingly, Peter’s the one who seems to be taking all of this chaos the most seriously, with Egon being the one joking around. Learning from their victory in ‘Killerwatt’, the guys work out that they need to unplug the vending machine to stop the chaos, and using a table to shield themselves, they do so! Simples! Still, something’s not right – Egon does a bit of PKE sleuthing, and yep, hiding there in the corner of the cafeteria are lots and lots of gremlins.

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The factory opened during WWII (a boomtime for gremlins, apparently) for aircraft manufacture, but a particular section of the plant was shut off… until today. And by today, I mean 1986. Inside the sealed off section were gremlins, and now they’re hungry for anything mechanical. Turns out they can’t leave anything mechanical alone. Don’t remember seeing anything like that in Gremlins. Those little blighters couldn’t leave anything at all alone. Mr. Abernathy suggests they move the gremlins to another factory, but the guys are disgusted by his lack of morals. Gremlins however, aren’t ghosts, so their equipment’s not going to work so well.

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A weird and foolishly dangerous plan involves putting Winston on a conveyor belt, presumably towards his death – seriously, he’s directly in the path of where the cars are put together! He tries to make the best of things by stretching out and relaxing, and even gets proper comfy when the seats are arranged and he gets to have a proper sit down– but then the gremlins bind him with the seatbelt. Winston tries to threaten the gremlins with the threat of imminent busting, but the ‘jerks’ are having none of it. What the hell exactly was the guys’ plan here? Winston arrives at the other end of the conveyor belt where the guys hope to meet him, but they find him sealed inside what looks like a demon car, a demon car which becomes demon-shaped.

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The guys have to be careful (that would be a first for this episode) not kill Winston inside the car, so their plan is to drain the demon of petrol (which involves Ray siphoning the stuff the sneaky way – yuck), and it works, but Winston’s NOT HAPPY. He tries to blast them, but instead of proton beams, his particle thrower shoots out…. confetti? How did the gremlins pull that one off? Even working within the logic of this episode, this makes no sense.

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Anyway, Egon and Ray put together a hideously ugly new car which remarkably changes from pea-soup green to blue in the space of a single shot. Ray thinks the car is beautiful. Egon is personally very excited about it. The reason to be excited is that it is ‘indestructible’, which really winds the nearby gremlins up to no end. The car is put out on display, spotlit and sparkling. We discover that Ray has a tuxedo the same colour as the car, which is the reason he’s such a lonely man, Peter surmises. This same gag is repeated by the gremlins a minute or so later, which I thought was overkill. The gremlins surround the car, armed with weapons of destruction, but before they get a chance to lay waste to it, Egon presses a button and it changes into another car entirely. They try and destroy that car, but it changes again! The next phase of the plan involves something inside a huge box, but the thing won’t open – it looks as though the gremlins have sabotaged whatever it was the guys were planning, or something (the logic in this episode is really flimsy) so Peter climbs up above the box, experiences vertigo and does some mad bungee jump to life the box up, revealing a huge dome, which he manages to swing towards and kick over the distracted gremlins. Fair enough. No wait a minute, not fair enough! This isn’t good writing!

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With the gremlins forever occupied by the constantly changing car (and underneath the dome, they’re essentially trapped), now is the time to consider just exactly how Ray and Egon managed to create a car that manages to regenerate itself until the end of time. Like I said earlier, this makes no sense even within the logic of the Ghostbusters universe. There’s not even some kind of corny explanation as to how this was achieved. The writers don’t even bother. And that’s the end of the episode, except for a coda back at HQ where it turns out the guys did get to meet the Queen of Soul, probably in-between sessions for ‘I Knew You Were Waiting for Me’ with George Michael, which was a big hit the following year. The song the guys sing to Janine (appallingly, it must be said) is of course, ‘Respect’, something I don’t have much of towards this episode, definitely the worst of the one I’ve reviewed to date.

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