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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The Real Ghostbusters Episode 32: Ragnarok and Roll (1986)

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Of all the punny titles in this series, ‘Ragnarok and Roll’ is probably the most pun-tastic. Yeah, it was the ghostbusters that got this word into the mainstream, not Marvel and the third Thor film decades later. Speaking of best, this episode is definitely one of the absolute finest ever. Despite the very happy ending, this is one hell of a dark episode, probably the bleakest and most foreboding one of the lot. It’s also very funny in places, further evidence of Straczynski being able to combine chills with chuckles. Essentially, Ragnarok means The End of the World, and unlike earlier episode ‘Knock, Knock’, which restricted its apocalypse to the relatively small New York subway system, here the horrors are worldwide.

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The opening is incredibly ominous, with one of the show’s most eerie themes – we see two figures ascend a scary mountain path during a thunderstorm, one a handsome blonde, the other a (bless ‘im) rather ugly little man. When they reach the summit, there stands tall and forebodingly a ziggurat with a frightening red and black aura. This place don’t look good. Indeed, the blonde says, ‘this is where it begins and this is where it ends’. ‘I hate it when he talks like that!’, the little one bemoans, puncturing the tension with just the right amount of humour. Now it must be said that these two guys have great voices – the blonde – Jeremy – sounds like a mix of Ray and Elvis Presley. The little one – Ditillio – sounds a little like Egon, not to mention a little like the dirty sheets ghost from ‘The Old College Spirit’ – and is a generally melancholic sad sack. These are two of the best one-off characters in the series – they have unusual chemistry, great dialogue and a great look. Jeremy takes the time to look at a photo of a pretty blonde, but it gets blown out of his hands by all that bad weather.

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Ditillio offers Jeremy, a scroll but it is knocked out of his hands. Jeremy does not needs the scroll to remember its words – they are inscribed upon his soul and upon his heart. That must have been pretty painful, Ditillio adds. After all, he had a tattoo once and – woah! Lightning strikes. That tattoo line is bloody funny. I really love Ditillio, a great character. No time for jokes, the spell must commence. I’m not a hardcore Lord of the Rings fan, but those references to Khazad-Dum are deliberate nods to Tolkien. The spell itself is pretty intense, and it culminates with Jeremy being consumed with a flash of red lightning. Time passes, Ditillio emerges from the shock of the blast, but he can tell something’s wrong. Jeremy turns round from the ziggurat to face him and – blimey! – he doesn’t look good. His face is deathly pale, his nose has disappeared, his eyes are filled with a weird wash of blue wave and his eyes are deeply sinister. It’s like he’s wearing a mask. Seriously, Demon Jeremy masks should have been a Halloween fixture after this episode, but it just never happened. This is a scary opening to the episode, and could give the wee little ones nightmares.

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DiTillio pleads with Jeremy that there must be another way. There isn’t, apparently. The world is a cruel place and must be destroyed, according to Jeremy, who produces a flute and plays a very sad piece of music that, no lie, is really quite lovely. The Real Ghostbusters truly had the edge on the musical front. As he plays, part of the nearby rock face collapses and a very spooky demon’s face appears in the already scary sky. It clearly likes Jeremy’s tune, but scowls when the melody stops.

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Turns out Jeremy is holding off the apocalypse until he gets to New York, which is where he will unleash his ’emissaries’, and here we get a really cool close up of his eyes, the insides of which show the cityscape of the Big Apple, after which we cut to the guys in the city (apocalyptic weather, natch) taking on some little bat-like demons of particularly foreboding note who are seemingly immune to the powers of the proton beams, and it doesn’t have anything to do with buying discount proton packs. No, this is not good, and Egon doesn’t like it. If Egon doesn’t like it, it’s really not good. Supernatural energy is skyrocketing, not just in the city, but worldwide, and New York is the centre of all this madness. Meanwhile, Jeremy and DiTillio have just got off their boat travelling from wherever it is they came from. Where was it? It didn’t look very local.

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Back at HQ, Janine has helped put together a map detailing all the recent supernatural events, the only catch being that in working with so many sharp tacks, she’s hurt her fingers. Don’t worry, Peter says, as soon as they get a chance they’ll send her to a vet. See, this episode isn’t all doom and gloom, especially when Janine reveals that Egon had promised he would transplant Peter’s brain into a chicken the next time he made fun of her. No time for jokes though, as the map reveals that the centre of all this disturbance is a house occupied by… Jeremy’s ex-girlfriend Cindy, who already suspects the reasons for all this chaos. It turns out that Jeremy Whittington, for that is his full name, was so besotted with Cindy that he wanted to marry her, but she turned him down, saying she wasn’t ready. As a result Jeremy became somewhat upset, or ‘went nuts, bonkers, wonkies, loopy, loonies, crackers’, as Peter suggests. The others aren’t impressed with Peter’s lack of tact, and Egon suggests Cindy pays no attention to him… ‘we never do’. See how hapless Peter looks during Egon’s put-down.

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We find out from Cindy’s photo album just who lovable DiTillio is – turns out Jeremy saved him from being hit by a car years back and they’ve been companions ever since. Also, Jeremy sent Cindy a letter in the post that predicted all the present-day terrors, and in it there’s a message that apparently ‘only three people in the world’ can decipher. Is there any point asking if Egon is one of the three? Not really, Egon says. He reads the letter, and it turns out that it’s all just a single word.

Ragnarok.

The letter is given a once-over with the PKE meter, and yep, the meter EXPLODES! How many of these things do they get through? What’s more, can you imagine the kind of power that sheet of paper must have been in contact with to produce that kind of effect on the meter? No? Do you want to? Not unless you want nightmares for the rest of your life! It’s no big deal, Peter says – the fact that they haven’t blown up a house in days means this is actually good going for them. Meanwhile, Jeremy decides to proceed with the next stage in ‘The Symphony of Destruction’, and so the lovely, bleak flute melody continues, and when he means symphony of destruction, you better believe he means it. Janine calls the guys and tells them to turn the telly on – all HECK’s breaking loose. Bless the TV censors. She’s not kidding though, the WORLD IS ENDING. Seriously. Volcanoes erupting. Floods. Earthquakes. Cyclones. The biggest tidal wave ever.

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This carnage is presented to us in the form of still, seemingly illustrated images, edited together with the motif of a camera’s shutter opening and closing. It’s all bleakly matter of fact and despite not showing any death, is clearly hinting as such. Mass evacuations are taking place. Forget all previous episodes – ‘Ragnarok and Roll’, admittedly with an on-screen body count of zero, is nevertheless responsible for a death toll in the thousands, probably millions. I came home from school to watch this chaos. No wonder I ended up so warped.

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Anyway, what does Ragnarok mean? Obviously, it’s no shock to us and Egon, but for the others, the imminent prospect of THE END OF THE WORLD takes them by surprise. Egon’s sober reporting of ‘there are a lot of words for it, but it all adds up to the same thing’ is chilling stuff. Maurice LaMarche’s performance as Egon should never be underrated. He gives the serious stuff weight, brings the fear when it’s needed. Cindy realises that it’s all down to Jeremy. Maybe she should have married him. What can be done? It doesn’t look good, Egon laments.

End of Act One.

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We need a little relief after that, so act two begins with a phoney soothsayer exclaiming that the end of the world is nigh, but for a mere five dollars, this prophet can guide the guys on the way to reprieve or something like that. When Peter says that, yes, Armageddon days really are here today, the old man panics and realises that he’ll have to find a new line of work. Note that the cinema in the background during this scene appears to be showing Ghostbusters. Remember, in the Real Ghostbusters universe, the film does exist – see earlier episode ‘Take Two’. Jeremy and DiTillio have set up base at the top of a very tall tower, and similarities to the ending of the original film are starting to seep in. There are even scary dog statues on the edge of the roof. He’s gleefully observing the panic beneath him, while DiTillio makes some ill-advised gesture to the sickness in enjoying all this horror. Jeremy turns to him and questions his loyalty, and when a man with that face starts giving you the third degree, you’d better yield. DiTillio’s climb-down is nevertheless a pretty sarcastic response to a possessed, god-like monster, going through the motions already – ‘no, my master- you alone have my loyalty, my trust, my heart [Jeremy throttles him]…my throat!’

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It’s time for the emissaries Jeremy hinted at earlier to reveal themselves at last, and the build-up is immense. Except that they look just like those bat creatures we saw earlier, so I guess they were here all the time. Hmm. Bit of a let down, that reveal. Still, they’re formidable monsters and just as mean and invincible as they were earlier, and they have no consideration for automobiles, as they bring down destruction on a small portion of Ecto-1, which really upsets Ray. Peter suggests they have a talk about Ray’s priorities later. If there is a later, Winston warns. ‘You know, you’re really no fun anymore’, Peter remarks.

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The protons are still not working though. Are these bat-things even ghosts? One thing’s for sure, they’re jokers – they even take the time to laugh mockingly at their would-be captors. Cindy can’t handle all this mockery, and wasting time on these evil monkeys is pointless when the organ grinder himself is up there on top of that building, and he’s about to perform the final stanza of the Symphony of Destruction. Better hurry up though, because the roads are erupting and the floods are coming in. DiTillio is scared. No worries, Jeremy says – they’ll be safe, in service of the darkness that follows. Hmm, great deal. DiTillio nevertheless thinks this all might be a little much. They are interrupted by the guys and Cindy. Jeremy is proton-blasted, but Cindy pleads with the guys to talk to him, and why should two lovebirds be separated at a time like this? Besides, Peter says, the beams aren’t working. Cindy’s pleas to end all this madness have just as much effect as the beams (Jeremy’s delivery of ‘that’s the way it’s gotta be darlin’ is perfect), so unfortunately the only thing to do is put the proton packs on ‘simultaneous overload’, which will probably end up killing them all, but at least the world will be saved. Short of actually saying ‘crossing the streams’, this ending plays a lot like a conclusion we already know and love. The guys’ imminent death is treated by Peter as a blaze of glory-level great plan. Sentiments are shared between them of how much fun its been working together. It’s great to go out like this, I suppose, like heroes. And then Egon says, to himself.

‘Janine’.

Wow. What a great little moment.

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No time for regrets though, as a gust of wind blows Cindy towards the edge of the building, and Ditillio, saving her, ends up over the side and hanging for dear life. Jeremy tries to help, but his friend wants none of it – so begins a speech about how this ‘small, twisted, ugly’ man never let the world crush his spirits, and that he’s still human, unlike Jeremy, whose selfish, indulgent behaviour has brought about the apocalypse. It’s a little on the nose, this speech, while the show’s most sentimental, guitar-hero theme plays throughout, but hey, it’s a children’s cartoon, and it gets the job done, because Jeremy promises to call off the end of the world and DiTillio accepts his rescue.

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Jeremy as starts to play a very pretty flute melody that counteracts all the horror he’s created., driving the demon and the emissaries bananas (like with me when I listen to Olly Murs), making the latter disappear, but the demon in the sky wants to stick around, so he blasts Jeremy with all his power, stopping the melody from being performed. The guys give the demon a return attack of proton power and he dies a ghoulish death, his face almost becoming a rough sketch of itself before disappearing.

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A weakened Jeremy asks for the others to help him, to give him strength to keep on playing, and so the melody is completed, with all the destruction being literally reversed, resulting in, I’m assuming, the resurrection of all those people who were presumably killed before. As cop-outs go, this is identical to, but not as annoying as, the ending to Superman, where the Man of Steel literally flew around the world in order to reverse time and stop an earthquake. I let The Real Ghostbusters off the hook because I applaud the writers for having the nerve to temporarily go this far in the first place – of course they weren’t going to let so many people die and stay dead. Think of the children! Still, the swift happy ending does feel remarkably sudden, and before we know it, it’s all sunny skies, renewed friendships and hugs. The thing is, will Jeremy and Cindy get back together? As rifts in relationships go, that was pretty hardcore. Can they move on from all of that? We’ll never know.

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