Elmer Bernstein

" We called Varèse and they answered "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the limited release

What is probably the pinnacle assignment of Elmer Bernstein's career? If you take away his nominated To Kill a Mockingbird, his famous Airplane, his beloved National Lampoon's Animal House or his classic The Magnificent Seven? Then most will answer Ghostbusters!

Yes, the blockbuster movie of the mid '80 around a trio of ghosthunters was famously beloved back in that era. Ivan Reitman's success was catapulted to more beloved comedies, it took careers of Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray to unseen heights and it made name for its illustrious (at the time) special effects, witty story and musical supporting score. But by that supporting score we have to add the songs that made the name of the movie even more famous.

Ray Parker Jr.'s version of Ghostbusters was set for months in the top 10 parade, and the song album was featuring those beloved tunes heard in ghost fashion whirling over the tops of New York City apartments. Sadly, Elmer Bernstein was forgotten in the middle of all that. Respected by critics for its pompous score in the movie, adored by fans for its wonderful epic size, forgotten by producers when the soundtrack was released, Ghostbusters went on for years without a single respectful movie score release. Luckily time does prove to be fulfilling because as many other classics in demand for a release, Varèse Sarabande answered the "who you gonna call" cry of many fans, meaning in 2006 Ghostbusters finally saw the treated, remastered version of the music appearing on CD.

Naturally, it's simple. Ghostbusters turns around themes, and if we forget the song theme that stands for everything we know, we come to the conclusion Elmer has many themes for us in return. For instance, a simple yet effective tune is an atonal piano theme that Venkman uses to scare the ghosts. There's a piano theme playfully adapted in "Ghostbusters Theme" that presents the silliness in the 3 ghosthunters, but can easily be transformed in a gothic scary fanfare like for instance in "Taken". Then there's the gothic theme that ultimately represents the ghosts and monsters, variated amongst the tracks in many forms. And finally there's the love theme, which was featured on the song album. It's one of Bernstein's loveliest versions, and in "Dana's Theme" it's assisted by a lovely violin that brings a touch of warmth to it.

In the begin of the score the point is rather fixated on the scary encounters of the ghosts, and this presents unique electronic (but very effective) encounters in "Library / Title", "Get Her" and my favorite "Fridge" (in which a simply fanfare rocks everything upside down).

However, what's fun to discover are the replacement ideas that Bernstein intended for the movie, before they were replaced by songs in the end. Track 2 and 6 have the moments. In "We Got One", it's practically new, the first part. And this is replaced by a western and pop arrangement of the piano theme, which is extremely catchy.

The spookiness of "Halls" reminds me of Poltergeist while "Trap" unleashes the fanfare of spooky proportions at the end. The whirling strings and brass, inevitably reminding you of the spinning man in the square is for "I Respect You". But it's when Bernstein unleashes his most gothic of all fanfares upon us that the score truly shows the wonderful sound quality, which was lost in the bootleg. The moments in "Cross Rip", "Attack" and "Dogs" are of much more threatening quality now that they give Bernstein's score a new meaning.

The electronic alienating environment opens "Zool", linking Bernstein with Goldsmith in tone, but the fanfare says it all by who it is. One of the moments were Bernstein's score rocks when you don't expect it is in "Ghosts!" (replaced if I'm not mistaken with the song "Magic" in the movie). Nonetheless Bernstein's version rocks with amazing fanfares, and evidently the ghost fanfare. "The Gatekeeper" adds more variation to the score, the western theme in track 30 and the piano version in track 31 are just small things, compared to the gothic wonder he has in store for us later on.

"Gozer" unleashes the fanfares with an alienating touch before the brass truly goes berserk in "Final Battle". The love theme flourishes in "Finish" and a fanfare unveils the "End Credits" which shows new material (the alienating fanfare, the piano theme, the pop beat version of the theme and the climatic fanfare).

All I can say is that Bernstein's score shows so much more depth in the end. In the movie you can hear a lot, but sadly not everything. Ghostbusters thereby becomes the beloved classic and a truly enjoyable feast from start to finish. Bernstein's fanfares give so much more impact when you hear them in the quality presented here, the alternate material doesn't suck at all comparing which famous songs replaced them in the end and how hideous the synthesizers sounded in Spacehunter, how well they feel at home here. Ghostbusters is a testament of the talent of Elmer Bernstein, one of his most beloved scores of his career. And like the film it basically cries out fun, ghostly fun, ghostly Ghostbusters fun.


1. Ghostbusters Theme + (3.00)
2. Library / Title * (3.02)
3. Venkman (0.31)
4. Walk (0.30)
5. Hello (1.36)
6. Get Her! (2.02)
7. Plan (1.25)
8. Taken (1.09)
9. Fridge (1.01)
10. Sign (0.54)
11. Client (0.36)
12. The Apartment (2.46)
13. Dana's Theme + (3.32) Excellent track
14. We Got One! (2.03)
15. Halls (2.02)
16. Trap (1.56)
17. Meeting (0.38)
18. I Respect You (0.54)
19. Cross Rip (1.08) Excellent track
20. Attack (1.31) Excellent track
21. Dogs (0.58)
22. Date (0.45)
23. Zool (4.12)
24. Dana's Room (1.40)
25. Judgment Day (1.19)
26. The Protection Grid (0.43)
27. Ghosts! * (2.16) Excellent track
28. The Gatekeeper (1.12) Excellent track
29. Earthquake (0.34)
30. Ghostbusters! * (1.13)
31. Stairwell (1.15) Excellent track
32. Gozer (2.49)
33. Marshmallow Terror (1.25)
34. Final Battle (1.30)
35. Finish (2.13)
36. End Credits * (5.05) Excellent track

Bonus Tracks
37. Magic + (1.37)
38. Zool + (3.11)
39. We Got One! (Alternate) (2.05)

* Not used in the film
+ Album version

Total Length: 69.16
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 23 votes - average 4.15/5)

Released by

Varèse Sarabande CD Club VCL 0306 1046 (limited release 2006)

Orchestrations by

Peter Bernstein & David Spear

Performed by

The Hollywood Studio Symphony