Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Real Ghostbusters: Collect Call of Cathulhu review

"Cathulhu? I've heard of him. He's bad, right?"
"He makes Gozer look like Little Mary Sunshine."
- Winston and Egon

    I hadn't intended to review a single episode of a children's show from the 1980s but, struck by whimsy, I couldn't help but revisit it. Very rarely in life do we have the capacity to point to a single thing or incident responsible for your fandom but, in my case, I can point to this episode as when my little mind was warped forever.

    Really, Ghostbusters is a surprisingly subversive work which parents completely ignored the implications of (thank God). I mean, the movie starts with the premise of the afterlife warping the souls of individuals until they become hideous monsters then segues into an ancient Babylonian (sorry, Sumerian) god wanting to destroy the world.

Alice Derleth is meant to be an attractive woman. How do I know? She's drawn relatively realistic looking unlike the rest of the characters.
    The fact Dan Aykroyd is one of Hollywood's few eccentrics immersed in the occult NOT interested in bilking the public should have tipped someone off there was something 'off' with his work. The Real Ghostbusters cartoon show rarely showed the same imagination as the movie, written by Aykroyd, but this episode was an exception.

    Why? Because someone was asleep at the wheel since this episode is one long faithful adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. Literally, the only change they made to his universe is adding an 'A' to Cthulhu's name (which is a perfectly valid way of pronouncing it anyway) and giving Old Batwings a weakness to electricity. Privately, I would have had the unlicensed nuclear accelerators on their back work fine but what do I know about anti-mystical science?

"Anything that looks like Godzilla wearing an octopus hat shouldn't be hard to find."

- Peter.

    When I watched this episode at the tender age of seven, I knew I was watching something special--something which hinted at a much-larger universe I was only getting a glimpse of. People made reference to a lot of things which they seemed to know about from cults of Cathulhu to Shoggoths to the Necronomicon. It would take until the release of Army of Darkness and my introduction to the Evil Dead series to realize the show from my childhood had been referencing something.

    This lead me to H.P. Lovecraft. So, thank you Michael Reaves.

Deep Ones! That's awesome.
    So what about the episode itself? How does it hold up to a 33 three year old man versus a 7 year old boy? I.e. "Would a parent enjoy watching this with his child?"

    The answers are surprisingly well and yes.

    The writing is pretty simple, obviously, but Star Wars is a fairly simple tale when you get down to it. **WARNING - SPOILERS** The Necronomicon is a book of spells, different from Lovecraft but fundamentally true, and has been stolen by a bunch of Cathulhu worshipers. The Ghostbusters contact Alice Derleth (hehe), first female Mythos investigator of note, to help with their investigations.

    Alice is to the Great Old Ones what Egon is to ghosts. They track down the cultists, get ambushed by a Shoggoth. They fail to stop Cathulhu's resurrection with their proton packs and magic invoking Nodens (!!), so they use an old pulp magazine to figure out Cathulhu is weak against electricity (!!!). With the aid of a number of lightning bolts, implied to be assisted by the Elder Gods, they send Cathulhu back to R'lyeh--the cult leader saying that he can never die. Hell, they even do the "strange aeons" quote. **END - SPOILERS**

Actual C(a)thulhu cultists! In a children's cartoon!
    Aside from all the Lovecraft shout-outs, this is a pretty decent Cthulhu Mythos story. It wouldn't be out of place with some of the scenarios I've run for the Call of Cthulhu tabletop game. It borrows heavily from August Derleth's interpretation of the Mythos, where the Elder Gods are allied to humanity if not good, but I've never had the knee-jerk reaction to it that other fans have. The very fact Cathulhu will rise again is pretty surprising for a Ghostbuster's episode.
    In conclusion, watch this on Youtube or Netflix it somehow if you have the time. It's by no means a must-see for Lovecraft fans but is a cool sign of how thoroughly H.P. Lovecraft's influence has infiltrated the writing world (there's another more-or-less direct homage to the Big C on "Justice League").



  1. There were numerous episodes of The Real Ghostbusters cartoon which far exceeded expectations, though the later stories were weaker, mostly hit or miss. I remember a couple of other memorable tales, one in particular which involved a vault which was "NOT TO BE OPENED UNTIL DOOMSDAY"-the universe inside the box (which was home to assorted weird horrors) was meant to replace the existing world when Armageddon actually arrived. Naturally the weirdness inside began "leaking" out into the Ghostbusters' reality. There was also the recurring menace of Samhain, who fed off other ghosts and monsters to gain strength. One of those "under the radar" kids' shows which could also appeal to adults.

  2. Oh BTW-the above comment was by me (greycrusader), AKA John P; and I'll be be posting on the roninarmy settings thread soon as I catch up on all the recent HED! developments.

    1. Awesome, glad to hear it greycrusader! I look forward to your catching up to said material. I also totally agree with you about the Real Ghostbusters.