Yes This Really Happened

Yes, This Really Happened: The Ghostbusters vs. Cthulhu

It seems like something you’d skim off fanfiction.net on a lazy evening but, no, this was actually professionally produced as an episode of The Real Ghostbusters in 1987.

ghostbustersnecronomiconAnd, believe it or not, it’s pretty faithful to Lovecraft – more so than a Cthulhu plushie, in fact.

Okay, so the title of the episode is “The Collect Call of Cathulhu,” which I guess was spelled that way apparently because Lovecraftian orthography was too much for the show’s middle-school-aged target audience.  Otherwise, the Necronomicon makes its usual appearance as the plot McGuffin, Egon and Vankman make a trip to Miskatonic University, the Ghostbusters are threatened at one point by Shoggoths, and a cult appears chanting “Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn” (although they incorrectly throw in a ” Iä!  Iä!”, which as everyone knows is properly reserved for Shub-Niggurath).

The episode begins when Miskatonic University, whose administrators have clearly learned nothing from the Wilbur Whateley incident, loans a copy of the Necronomicon to the New York Public Library.  The book is promptly stolen and the Ghostbusters get involved, especially because Egon and Ray are concerned that the book will be used in a ritual to summon Cthulhu on the night the “stars are right” for the first time in decades.  Of course, the always genre savvy Venkman stuns Ray by correctly guessing that the special, rare night will be very soon.

ghostbustersvankman

(And, yes, this is one of the episodes where Venkman was voiced by Lorenzo Music, which naturally only gives rise to thoughts of a Garfield and Friends/Cthulhu Mythos crossover…).

Egon and Venkman team up with Alice Derelith, who is probably the smartest Lovecraft reference out of the whole episode.  This isn’t so much because she was named after Lovecraft’s “successor” August Derelith, but because she really does come across as the perfect Lovecraftian heroine – if Lovecraft was ever interested in writing women, which he wasn’t.  Still, she basically is a Lovecraftian hero in female form.  She wears gloves all the time as a result of an unspoken neurosis, is fairly uptight, and is completely oblivious to Venkman’s less than subtle flirtations as if the very concept of sexuality has never crossed her mind.  That’s Lovecraft all right.  The only thing missing is that she doesn’t go insane or think she might go insane or resigns herself to one day being murdered by cultists at the end.

ghostbusterslovecraftianheroine

 

Like with so many Lovecraft homages, this story puts H.P. Lovecraft himself into the same reality as his creations.  It turns out that in the Real Ghostbusters universe Lovecraft “and other writers” made their careers out of creating stories based on what they knew about the Necronomicon.  I’m a sucker for that kind of thing, although my inner nitpicking nerd can’t help but wonder what the hell they would be thinking popularizing knowledge about a book that has the potential to destroy humanity ten times over. Anyway, this all leads to a cute scene where Ray leads the other Ghostbusters into a fact-finding expedition into the paperback and magazine collection of an old neighbor of his, and the method for stopping Cthulhu is found in an issue of Weird Tales.

It’s in the final act that the episode, which I actually enjoyed for being a pretty faithful G-rated intro into the Cthulhu Mythos, lost me.  Of course, the cultists successfully summon Cthulhu in Coney Island of all places, where he…starts wrecking up the place kaiju-style?  I know that they couldn’t show Cthulhu immediately driving the denizens of New York City insane in an orgy of bloodshed and despair, but he should have had more dignity than just trying to flatten an amusement park.

ghostbusterscthuhu

 

He does shrug off the Ghostbusters’ proton beams like shots from water pistols.  However, inspired by the story “The Horror from the Depths” from Weird Tales, they defeat Cthulhu by electrifying a roller coaster he’s attacking to get at Venkman.  It’s implied that Cthulhu has just been banished, not destroyed, but nonetheless there’s no way this would have been an ending Lovecraft would have signed off on.  Then again, he’d probably be far more disgusted by the Hello Kitty/Cthulhu hybrid tote bags for sale.

Weirdly enough, there actually is an August Derelith and Mark Schorer story titled “The Horror from the Depths” which, according to John Harms’ and John Wisdom Gonce’s The Necronomicon Filesthis episode’s screenwriter Michael Reaves had not even known existed before writing “The Collect Call of Cathulhu.”  He simply made up a title that he thought sounded Lovecraftian.  Although the actual story does not have Cthulhu thwarted by an electrified roller coaster, or making an appearance at all, it still does have some coincidental similarities.  The story does like the episode have an appearance by the Spawn of Cthulhu and a climactic scene at the Chicago World’s Fair in lieu of Coney Island.  Perhaps writers are tapping into some dark arcane knowledge when they channel the Cthulhu Mythos.

If that’s the case, it’s a shame I long ago lost that paperback copy of the Necronomicon that I got in ninth grade!

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2 thoughts on “Yes, This Really Happened: The Ghostbusters vs. Cthulhu

  1. Pingback: Lovecraftian leftovers for week 17 | The Scrawl of Cthulhu

  2. Pingback: Ghostcraft Lovebusters | Rolling Chrome

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