Ghosts of Ghostbusters: John De Cuir

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on August 25, 2014

Dear John De Cuir
Production Designer

Dear John,

It seems strange and wonderful that you ended your illustrious Oscar-winning career with Ghostbusters. At 66 years-old, you were a Hollywood stalwart known for designing everything from Technicolor costume dramas like The King and I and South Pacific, to iconic black-and-white film noirs like The Naked City. But in your final two films, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid and Ghostbusters, you turned your talents to parody. Yet you still took your work dead serious. And by doing so, elevated what could have been mere supernatural silliness to something superb.

Your standout effort has to be the iconic ghost-busting HQ in the barely-renovated Hook & Ladder 8 fire station in Tribeca. You went all-out, layering cobwebs and dust before converting it all into a sparsely furnished frat-boy fantasy of pole-sliding fun. The doors still squeaked and the beds were foldout cots, but the money went where it mattered: into an ectoplasmic storage containment facility that's the science-geek equivalent of a killer sound system. Of course, when the neighbour down the street (aka. the Environmental Assessment Agency) orders them to turn it off, all hell breaks loose. And so do your designs.

A mix of matte paintings and early computer graphics turn the corner suite of a skyscraping apartment into a still-impressive paranormal beacon for the dead. The influence of Raiders of the Lost Ark is perhaps obvious, but that doesn't detract from the fun. You must have known that the jokes would work best as relief from the tension, and so created some genuinely impressive modern gothic statues and architecture that made the menace of Zuul feel real.

I'm not ashamed to say it: I was afraid of those ghosts.



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