Movie Wave Home | Reviews by Title | Reviews by Composer
Who you gonna call?
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * *
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
Ivan Reitman's modestly amusing Ghostbustersseems to have somehow made its way into lists of "classic" comedies in recent times, no doubt as people of that generation (ie, the generation that tends to dominate the internet) look through their rose-tinted spectacles. The movie came right in the middle of Elmer Bernstein's "comedy phase", which extended for about a decade after Animal House in the late 1970s - there were certainly a few very fine scores, and most were fine in their respective films, but the composer was fairly obviously fed up of the genre rather quickly, and I've always felt that some of his scores in it - while always remaining professionally-done, of course - betrayed his lack of interest.
Film music fans seem to have latched onto Ghostbusters as probably the favourite of the composer's whole 1980s output, but apart from a couple of tracks which appeared on the mega-selling song album which came out at the time of the film, the score had been unreleased until early 2006 when Varese Sarabande's CD Club finally allowed it to see the light of day, some 22 years after the film was released. The release was greeted by the kind of frenzy which is rarely seen any more - so many of the crown jewels, so to speak, have now come out, there aren't all that many titles left which are guaranteed to create a frenzy, but this was one of them.
Bernstein's theme for the film is well-known to fans of the composer since he frequently scheduled it in his concerts and it appeared on various compilation albums, but it wasn't all that familiar to viewers of the film, since it was excised from it virtually completely. It's a nice little theme, chirpy and bouncy and comic, but I have to say it seems rather soft for the film, and the ondes martenot - no doubt intended to make it sound "spooky" - just makes it sound a bit daft. It's brilliant fun, but I doubt it would really have worked very well had it remained in the film, and - I feel like I need to chop off my hand as punishment for even saying this - the popular Ray Parker song which replaced it was probably far more suitable.
The theme probably works best when Bernstein turns it into a kind of heroic pop anthem ("We Got One!" and elsewhere), but even here it sounds pretty much like a symphonic composer in his 60s trying to write music for the kids on the street to enjoy, and is arguably the musical equivalent of Richard Madeley dressing up as Ali G. Still - it's good fun. More impressive is "Dana's Theme", heard all-too-briefly, but a genuinely lovely theme in both its ondes and cello solo arrangements.
The underscore in between is like a lot of Bernstein's 1980s comedy output: lots of very short tracks, some very over-the-top score which accentuates the comedy by its very seriousness, and lots of ondes martenot. The album seems to lose a lot of focus in its middle section, but fortunately is redeemed towards the end with the impressive finale sequence. Starting at "Ghosts!" and running through most of the remaining tracks (there are lots of them, but they are all short) is some very big action music which is entertaining and exciting; things then get rounded out by the lengthy end credits suite and a couple of bonus tracks.
Ghostbusters is a nice score, reasonably entertaining. At almost 70 minutes the album's twice as long as it needs to be, and I don't really understand why so many people consider it with as much regard as they do; but if you are a fan, I suggest getting it quickly, because they're bound to run out before too long. And if that happens (to steal someone else's joke - my apologies) - who you gonna call?