Why Ghostbusters II Needs an Extended Cut
21 Jun, 2012
Ghostbusters II was a troubled film. Don’t take that to mean I don’t like the movie; it was the first film I ever saw in theaters and there are so many good things about it that I can’t help but be affectionate for it. But it was a troubled film nevertheless.
I have an old issue of Starlog sitting in front of me (#140, March 1989) with an interview from Bill Murray regarding the upcoming Ghostbusters II and he hasn’t many nice things to say about it:
“It’s not going to be called ‘Ghostbusters II’. We’ll burn in Hell if we call it ‘Ghostbusters II’. I’ve suggested ‘The Last of the Ghostbusters’, to make sure there won’t be anything like a ‘Ghostbusters III’. But the script is nowhere near ready and we start shooting soon. Jeez, more pressure. We’ll figure it out… or we won’t. …The ideas they sold me on to say, ‘OK, let’s do it,’ are no longer in the script.”
Murray ended the interview with this hopeful tidbit:
“Oh, what the Hell. Even if it’s a dog, the sequel’s going to make money because so many people are going to say, ‘Let’s see if they ruined it’ or ‘Let’s see if it’s any good.’ It’s a creative process and that’s all that counts. We’ve got a few weeks yet.”
And that was the kind of material used to promote the movie a few months before release. Any surprise it fell short of critical acclaim?
Ghostbusters II, the finished film we’ve all seen a hundred times, had some pretty fundamental problems that I can’t defend even as a die-hard Ghostbusters fan. The script is essentially a remake of the original movie, from the conflict (an evil being is trying to break through into our reality) to the character archetypes (said evil being’s henchman is an awkward nerd in love with Dana, the Ghostbusters are likewise menaced by a sleazy Government jerkwad trying to destroy their credibility). They even stunt the narrative development and character growth to make the sequel more like the original (the Ghostbusters go out of business so we can watch them “rise to glory” over the course of the film, Dana and Peter break up so we can watch Peter spend two hours winning Dana over with his eccentric charm). And in the middle of it all is a musical montage.
I can’t defend that. The visual effects from Industrial Light and Magic were superb, the humor was funny, the acting was solid, it was a joy to see the characters on the big screen again even if they were retreading old ground… But I still can’t defend cloning the original film in an attempt to recapture lightning in a bottle. It’s like, well, Escape from New York vs. Escape from L.A. And I’m very sorry for that.
So there’s no “fixing” that fundamental setback of Ghostbusters II, but I think there are other issues with the overall film that could be remedied with an emergency infusion of some deleted scenes.
You see, quite a few scenes were cut from the film, in many cases even after the special effects were completed by ILM. None of these scenes, to date, have ever been released to the public (though I’ve got my fingers crossed that an eventual Blu ray set will include them). Yet fans being crafty as they are, have found ways around that barricade. The positively ancient Ghostbusters fan site Spook Central has an impressive collection of deleted scenes, cobbled together from script excerpts, press kit video snippets, lobby cards and various other odds and ends. Many of the scenes axed from the final cut of the film offer little in the way of content, but a few sequences I feel would serve to make Ghostbusters II a much more coherent motion picture were they to be included.
Here are my selections and rationalizations:
Eugene Levy Saves the Day
This scene is a give or take and not particularly essential, but I think people might want to see it as it contained a guest cameo from comedian Eugene Levy (or that might be reason enough not to want to see it, I suppose).
As you recall in the film, the Mayor’s assistant, Jack Hardemeyer (played by Kurt Fuller) has the Ghostbusters thrown into a sanitarium to get them out of his boss’s hair. When Vigo’s legions of ghosts begin invading New York, the Ghostbusters are simply released from the hospital by Louis. Somehow. He’s inexplicably there as they’re running out the door, putting their uniforms on, delivering plot exposition to our heroes.
A scene would have followed that to add some narrative cohesion; Louis explaining that his cousin, Sherman Tully (Levy), who works at the sanitarium, got them out on a clean bill of health. The Ghostbusters would then drive away as Sherman asks for a ride in the Ecto-1A as compensation for his good deed.
Watching the movie all these years, I just figured that the Mayor ordered their discharge from the hospital, as the scene where they’re freed immediately follows the Mayor becoming incensed at Hardemeyer for locking the Ghostbusters up. Of course, there was never any explanation as to why Louis was at the hospital.
Again, it isn’t an essential scene, but it’s got a celebrity cameo, so that might make it more of a novelty than other inessential cuts.
Louis is a Hero and Janine Isn’t a Whore
Louis and Janine are two characters who suffer rather badly in the finished film; Janine more so than Louis. As you recall, at the end of the film, Louis inexplicably decides he wants to be a Ghostbuster and takes a bus-ride from Slimer to the museum (and he’s rather shocked Slimer’s willing to help him), where he blasts the slime shell and thinks he’s saved the day at the climax. Before that, Janine invites Louis over to babysit Oscar with her and it’s just about the first time they’ve interacted in the whole movie outside of the Run DMC montage. Once she gets Louis alone in Peter’s apartment, she wraps her legs around him and they start getting freaky like free love was back in vogue.
Well, guess what? Louis, Janine and Slimer all had their own subplots in the film, the lion’s share of which got axed. Two scenes preceding the babysitting sequence were shot and had the special effects for Slimer completed by ILM.
The first scene sees Louis trying to help around the Firehouse and practice his Ghostbusting technique in secret, mostly by attempting to capture that pesky Slimer. He strings some fried chicken up with a ghost trap hidden beneath it, waiting for Slimer to come by and take the bait. Slimer gets the chicken, but Louis’s reflexes prove inferior to the spook’s; Slimer dodges the trap’s energy net and the blast sends a section of ceiling falling down comically on Louis’s head.
A second scene ever-so-partially made it into the movie, during the end credits montage (which was assembled using deleted scenes and discarded or alternate takes).
This scene would have continued the Louis/Slimer rivalry while laying some groundwork for his romance with Janine. In this one, Louis straps on a proton pack while also attaching a rear view mirror onto some headgear so he can see behind himself. Luring Slimer out with a fake conversation about pizza, Louis sees the spud sneaking up on him and spins around, blasting indiscriminately. He nearly fries Janine and then is left to explain himself. Apparently, he has aspirations of being a Ghostbuster, which Janine finds cute though bewildering, as he’s already an accountant.
Without these scenes to build their character arc, Louis’s desire to be a Ghostbuster comes out of nowhere during the climax and Janine’s hooking up with him at Peter’s apartment makes her look rather promiscuous and not in a complimentary way. Additionally, I mean, c’mon. Slimer! I’ve wanted to see these deleted scenes for years just to see more of ILM’s awesome special effects.
Ray tries to Kill Everybody
In my honest opinion, this is perhaps the most important deleted scene from the whole film that would go miles in undoing the stupidest part of the ending.
Okay, the second stupidest part of the ending.
Early in the film, the Ghostbusters visit the museum Dana works at to investigate the painting of Vigo the Carpathian. While taking readings, Ray becomes entranced by Vigo’s hypnotic stare and goes limp until Winston snaps him out of it. Later, at the very end of the film, when Vigo fails to possess Oscar, he takes hold of Ray and delivers a brief speech about “ruling the Earth” before getting hit by a Slime Blower, then turning into a giant head and exploding.
The two scenes are so far apart in the actual film and Ray’s initial possession has no consequences that you almost forget to put two and two together by the climax, when Vigo takes over Ray’s body. It’s really sloppy and stupid as presented in the final cut.
However, a follow-up scene (snippets of which showed up in the Run DMC montage) would have shown the Ghostbusters leaving the museum after their initial investigation and we’d have gotten to see more of Vigo’s control over Ray. While returning to the Firehouse, Ray goes crazy and begins driving erratically. After running several red lights and nearly mowing down a police officer, Ray announces his intent to kill everybody and starts heading straight for a tree. At the nick of time, Winston snaps him out of it and Ray hits the brakes. Ray then comes to and explains that he felt entranced, driven by an inexplicable urge to “end it all”.
A lot of these deleted scenes made it into the comic book adaptation, by the way.
The prolonged scene would have helped to keep the knowledge that Vigo had his fingers in Ray’s mind a little fresher than the brief, random, seemingly throwaway moment we got. Indeed, in the final cut of the movie, Ray comes across as positively incompetent, standing there and letting Vigo take control of him (though it did facilitate a great line from Egon, “Ray, we’d like to shoot the monster, could you move, please?”). Illustrating that Ray had been intermittently in Vigo’s thrall throughout the course of the movie would have made that final “twist” much more coherent and less loathsome.
So, what reasons could there be to not integrate these deleted scenes into the movie? Well, for starters, Ghostbusters II is already 108 minutes long. Stuffing all this footage in might send it over the 2.5 hour mark and that could be pretty exhausting for what’s essentially supposed to be an action/horror/comedy.
On top of that, clips from these deleted scenes are sprinkled throughout the finished film (in the Run DMC montage and the end credits montage). To put the full sequences into the movie, you’d have to find something to substitute the snippets used in those montages.
Lastly, well, this all costs money. Special editions, extended editions, director’s cuts… Those aren’t free. And while studios might be willing to foot the bill for a new cut of Blade Runner or Terminator 2, I’ve my doubts that Sony thinks so highly of Ghostbusters II to throw any money its way for a new cut (though Highlander II has gotten two inexplicable special edition cuts, so maybe there’s hope for everybody).
Some of the scenes apparently got the axe due to personal grudges from the director, writers and stars. Supposedly the scenes with Slimer were removed because Reitman and Ramis wanted to distance the film from the Real Ghostbusters cartoon series (in fact, they didn’t want to include Slimer at all). Now, though, with 21 years between us and the end of that cartoon, I think we can let go of any dislike toward Slimer and let his scenes back into the movie.
Let go of your hate.
Likewise, the scene at the end where Slimer flies up from the Statue of Liberty and comes screaming into the camera, which was used in the theatrical version but cut from home video, got the axe because “certain individuals” (see the second paragraph of this article) didn’t want to imply a sequel. Well, we already got our “sequel” in Ghostbusters: The Video Game, so now that that’s all over and done with, let’s say we get that little bit back, too?
To wrap things up, while it’s certainly just a pipe dream, an extended cut of Ghostbusters II is something I’ve always wanted to see. Ghostbusters II will never hold a candle to its predecessor, but there’s still a lot to like about it on its own merits. Adding these deleted scenes to smooth over some narrative bumps would make the film that much more palatable, to say nothing of the added draw inviting critics to reevaluate the flick. While some problems with the movie can never truly be “fixed”, I think there are existing vintage resources available that would make Ghostbusters II a more solid movie.