After Airplane!, Elmer Bernstein scored a lot of comedies, many of which were pretty dire, but it was a rut from which he found it difficult to escape for almost a decade. It's comforting to think that the 90's were something of a renaissance for a composer whose skills had been wasted on increasingly frivolous films. Fortunately, some of his 80's assignments were much above average and Ghostbusters is fondly remembered as one if the period's better comedies. As I've noted elsewhere, I'm not entirely convinced that Bernstein's score is particularly remembered, at least outside of the film music community, and it's the hit theme song by Ray Parker that everyone associates with the film. It's certainly ridiculously catchy and highly suitable.
The Ghostbusters theme has appeared on a couple of Bernstein compilations for my money, its tone doesn't quite sit right. It's fun and playful, but doesn't really have much in the way of the spookiness or zaniness one might expect. I rather suspect that had the film been made five years later, Danny Elfman would have been a first choice, his brand of quirky and macabre seems ideal. Bernstein's comedy scoring tends to be either fun or deliberately over the top (an approach that served him supremely well in Airplane! where the melodrama heightens the hilarious cheesiness), but not particularly offbeat. However, he makes good use of the theme, impressively turning it into a semi-heroic anthem, even if it does start to sound a bit like the theme from The A Team on occasion. Dana's Theme is surprisingly straight laced; not quite one of the composer's inspired efforts, but for a comedy, remarkably well crafted.
The attempts at an 80's pop feel won't fool anyone; Bernstein's apparent attempts to compete with the contemporary feel of the theme song feel a little forced and jar somewhat with the orchestral passages. The composer pulls out all the stops for the final showdown, the results being enjoyably over the top and start to hint at some of the underlying darkness a film starring ghosts ought to have. Being released as part of Varese's CD Club, the album is naturally generously proportioned, but one can't help but feel that over an hour of comedy scoring is a touch too much. However, the completeness can't really be faulted, with typically interesting liner notes and a handful of bonus cues. If some of that sounds a bit of a downer then don't be put off too much, there is much to enjoy here, but I think I'd be hard pushed to list it as a lost Bernstein classic.