Blu-ray Review: Ghost (1990)

Get Your Pottery Wheel Ready


One of the most unexpected box office smashes of 1990, filmmaker Jerry Zucker's Ghost would go on to receive five Oscar nominations and two golden statues-- one for Whoopi Goldberg's Best Supporting Actress turn and the other for Bruce Jay Rubin's Best Original Screenplay. However, the film's most endearing legacy is how iconic it's become in nearly twenty years since its release with countless parodies of that famous, sensuous pottery scene, bringing The Righteous Brothers' unforgettable "Unchained Melody" back to radio airwaves, and becoming one of the most popular romantic films of the '90s.

Admittedly, I was a bit nervous to check the film out once again-- having seen it more than a decade ago on VHS and realizing that my memory of it may be stronger than the work itself, coupled with my fear that special effects movies traditionally weaken with time (E.T. for example).

Yet, amazingly, the film felt just as powerful; while Demi Moore's pixie hairstyle and tomboy wardrobe still makes me cringe especially considering how gorgeous the actress was and still is, it's a good fifteen to twenty minutes too long, and some of the slightly cheesy logical gaps weaken it as a whole, as a cinematic experience, Ghost hasn't aged a bit.

Recently released in a stunning Paramount Blu-ray transfer with amazingly crisp sound and tremendous picture quality, making the film look as though it were a new release (despite those Flintstones looking PCs used in the Wall Street scenes), it's well-worth the upgrade if-- much like this reviewer-- the last time you saw Ghost was on VHS and you haven't yet purchased a digital version.

While it's the pottery wheel and Righteous Brothers that have become the most singularly famous moment from the film, no doubt sending numerous women to take pottery courses at local community education centers, seeing it again for the second time, I realized that the producers missed a second yet equally important "product placement" or advertising opportunity as the film is the ultimate argument for the existence and purchase of waterproof mascara.

For, not only does the beautiful Moore tear up in virtually every scene (even crying on the film's haunting menu screen as the Blu-ray cues up) but no doubt, a tragically large majority of female audience members who spent most of the 126 minute running time fishing for their tissues left the theatre looking like raccoons.

To refresh your memory and for the five of you reading this review who haven't seen it, Ghost centers on a well-to-do New York couple who find their relationship shattered when Sam (Patrick Swayze) is shot during a failed robbery, leaving his sculptor girlfriend Molly (Demi Moore) reeling in heartbreak. Somehow stuck between the real world and the supernatural Heaven, Sam realizes he hasn't moved on, still walking down the streets, following his beloved whom he can't communicate with or comfort as she struggles to move on with her life, along with their mutual best friend (Tony Goldwyn).

When Sam discovers that his death wasn't an accident and that his girlfriend's life is in danger, he makes every attempt to warn Molly and stop the villains responsible, with the help of a local formely phony "storefront psychic" Oda Mae Brown (Goldberg), who amazingly-- having never had an actual ability previously, snowing her customers as a successful scam artist-- discovers she can hear Sam.

Although it begins in earnest as a straightforward romance, in the tradition of classic Paramount tearjerkers like A Place in the Sun, Roman Holiday, An Officer and a Gentleman, and Love Story, screenwriter Rubin keeps audiences on their toes by injecting the piece with surprising humor as well as a thrilling and intense mystery that manages to blend numerous genres so that it transcends the generic "chick flick" label.

In fact, I was honestly surprised by how engrossed I became-- although I still remembered a few of the film's twists and the way that the "demons" and angry subway fighting ghost terrified me as a young girl first seeing the film, Zucker's film still managed to genuinely engage and rivet throughout.

A movie that almost wasn't made-- at least in the form that it's been ultimately released-- as Rubin admits in "Ghost Stories: The Making of a Classic" that he cried when discovering that Airplane and Naked Gun satirist Jerry Zucker was interested in directing. Additionally, the extra continues frankly with more admissions including Zucker himself said that "over my dead body would Road House Patrick Swayze" star, as well as Swayze sticking to his guns by nailing his audition and also going as far as to say that he refused to proceed in pre-production unless he could do a scene and audition with Whoopi Goldberg (who at the time he didn't know but had long-admired).

With countless A-list stars turning it down as essentially Swayze's role is one that "reacts" to the women as opposed to commands the film, Moore-- who at the time had mostly starred in smaller roles and wasn't deemed "box office" yet-- admitted that the "potential for failure was so high."

Perfecting Rubin's original "what if" premise which was inspired by the central conflict of Hamlet and the question of how one would react in the twentieth century if a ghost wanted vengeance for his death, Rubin and Zucker worked on nineteen drafts which led to its Oscar winning formula and in addition to the other special features which have been transferred over from the DVD including commentary by the writer and director, "Inside the Paranormal," "Alchemy of a Love Scene," a Photo Gallery, and high definition version of the film's original theatrical trailer, film buffs and Rom-Com fans will want to check out the AFI inspired ode to Paramount in "Cinema's Great Romances."

Taken from the American Film Institute's list of the "Greatest Passions," this nineteen minute extra interviews numerous scholars and authors about some of Hollywood's most loved romantic classics, including Ghost.

Released on December 30 from Paramount, Ghost is one of the more impressive discs I've seen so far as far as Blu-ray picture and sound goes with full widescreen 1080p High Defintion and English 5.1 Dolby True HD along with 5.1 Dolby Digitial Surround in French and Spanish (with corresponding subtitles available in the corresponding languages along with Portugese). Just remember that while the film should be available everywhere, pottery wheels, "Unchained Melody," tissues, and waterproof mascara are sold separately.