Scene Gems: Murray Performs Humorous Psychic Test in 'Ghostbusters'
Ghostbusters (1984) is a very funny film, a sci-fi/horror/comedy hybrid that represented the comedic apex of collaborators Ivan Reitman, Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis. Big budget laughers tend to be duds, but this movie defied all expectations and genres and has become the favorite of many. It is full of genuine laughs, not only from the famous big moments (like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man attacking), but also the small ones.
This scene is a great example of the latter. In it, Peter Venkman (Murray) is administering a simple "test" for psychic ability. Okay, so he's really just trolling for college girls, but check out the way the scene is constructed. You've got the guy getting shocked, who's perfect as the paranoid "victim" who's leery of Murray's "negative reinforcement" (I love it when the gum flies out of his mouth). There's the girl who is obviously impressed by Dr. Venkman's attention to her. And there's Bill Murray (who's delightfully cruel to the guy), doing his Bill thing to perfection.
The editing is crisp, the timing is perfect, and I love the way the scene toys with suspense when the male student knows a shock is coming. It's all very funny, and a great example of what can be done with clever writing, excellent filmmaking, and pitch-perfect delivery.