The Seedy Adult Underworld of 80s Family Entertainment

By Shawn Robare

I know every generation says this about the decades when they came of age, but growing up in the 80s was seriously a whole different world; like living on another planet at times.  There was a lot more going on when it came to entertainment aimed at kids in terms of adult themes and material that surely went over the head of most of the viewing audience.  Looking back I love this and really appreciate that the creators and writers didn’t dumb down the content, even if some of it might stray a little further towards “adult” than many people might realize. You definitely saw this in a cartoon like Ren & Stimpy (which granted was the early 90s, but was the culmination of the freedom the previous decade expressed), which constantly toed the line of what was considered decent for a kid’s show.  Heck, I’ve mentioned before that I think John Kricfalusi is very probably the guy responsible for animating anthropomorphic penis aliens into the background sequences in the Saturday morning cartoon Galaxy High (particularly in the first and second episodes)…

Galaxy High penis creature 2

I was having a conversation with a co-worker the other day about catching up with some 80s flicks that they hadn’t seen in over 20 years, in particular Ghostbusters and the Goonies.  The topic turned to the awkward dream sequence featuring a sex scene between Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stanz and spectral “presence”.  I guess you could call it oral innuendo, but the background behind that sequence is pretty plain.  Ray banged a ghost.  It’s one of the interesting aspects of reading the original Richard Mueller novelization

Ghostbusters Novelization

In the book (which is based on the Aykroyd/Ramis screenplay) we learn that, that dream sequence was actually from a real sequence planned for later in the film.  Right after Ray and Winston are driving through the city talking about the end of the world, when the two go to Fort Detmerring looking for a spook. They split up and Ray stumbles upon a room that is a replica of a revolutionary war officer’s barracks. He finds a uniform and puts it on, lays on a bed and promptly falls asleep. When he wakes, the ghost they were looking for is about to go to town on his junk. Apparently this sequence was largely cut, but I’m betting none of them wanted to ditch the blowjob joke, so they sandwiched it into the montage (and it also explains the old war uniform Ray is wearing beyond the fact that they morphed the scene into a dream.)  What’s even weirder is that this is actually the culmination of a plot thread in the book where Ray is both lonely and changing his feelings about catching the ghosts. Since Peter is courting Dana and (in the book) Egon and Janine are becoming an item, Ray is looking to blow off some steam, and the experience with the ghost is just what he was looking for. Also, there’s a bit with Ray thinking about how it might be wrong to catch these ghosts just to jail them in the containment unit, and when he awakes to his spectral date-night he wonders if maybe some ghosts are good.

The author, Mueller, actually expands the sexuality in the novel here and there. For instance, everyone thinks about sex to one degree or another, but if I’m used to dealing with a character where this is never brought up, say the Librarian in the opening sequence of Ghostbusters, then when she starts “thinking” about how she feels guilty for seeking out all kinds of ancient kinky woodcuts featuring taboo sexual practices in the library’s non-public collection, well, I get a little weirded out. As far as I can tell, the librarian character in the script is slightly different; she’s written to be rotund and in her mid to late twenties, but for all intents and purposes the scene in the script is almost shot for shot what we’ve come to know and love in the final film. Mueller, though, felt the need to paint her as a bit more sad and depraved, which for an incidental character is pretty weird. This sort of thing pops up here and there in the novel, including in the scene where we’re first introduced to Dana as she gets out of a cab and goes into her building. The narrative is fractured into a bunch of perspectives as a handful of people on the street take notice of her and give their two cents. One of these includes an elderly man walking his dog who glances at her and thinks, “…how long (has) it been since it’s been long…

This is actually a trend in 80s era novelizations, and for some movies that might be surprising, like say, the Goonies book

Goonies Novelization

Now you may be asking what could possibly be sexualized in the Goonies, I mean it’s not like there’s a secret love scene between Chunk and Sloth right?!?  Well, Sloth love Chunk, but that’s actually (and thankfully) not explored in the novel, but that didn’t stop author James Kahn from evoking electricity-induced orgasms.  Say what?!  Um yeah.  So in the wishing well sequence, at the end, after Andy has sent up the bucket empty, all the kids realize that they’re covered in leeches. Data has a bright idea and end up strapping two wires to a 20-volt battery. He sticks the wires in the water by his feet sending a light electrical charge through his body that’s lethal enough to kill the leeches. He does this for the rest of them, and afterwards, James Kahn tags on a small scene that is, well, almost obscene. After getting the shock, Andy and Stef are standing off to the side, and Kahn describes them as having “…limp smile(s) and small sigh(s)…” Then Stef says to Andy, “I got all tingly – just my luck, I’m in love with a pond!” After which the following passage appears: ‘It annoyed Andy, for some reason, I don’t know, like someone had made her feel good and she didn’t want to…’ Then Andy hauls off and slaps Data saying “Don’t-you-ever-try-that-again-with-me-Buster!” What the hell! Did Kahn actually suggest that Andy and Stef had orgasms from the electric shock!?!  Yeah, yeas he did.

What I’m really curious about is how much of this was in the original shooting script.  I know the leech sequence was in the script (as it made it’s way into both version of the book, including the leaner kid’s version) and was shot and deleted (and has sadly been lost to time), but how much of the subtly was in the actual film versus something that Kahn added for the book.  On the one hand, looking back this is so weird and out of place in the story, yet I have to remind myself that I was reading about pre-teen and teen orgasms in Judy Blume books when I was 7 years old!

There had to be flicks that were completely pure and free from blowjobs and sexual innuendo though right?  I mean you’d never see any of that in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial right?!  Wrong.  Again, taking a look at the novelization by William Kotzwinkle we get a much darker depiction of the story than what would eventually end up on film (well, I’m assuming the following sequences weren’t shot…)

ET Novelization

There’s a sequence in the novel where Elliot, Steve and Gertie’s mother Mary (played by an exasperated Dee Wallace in the film) is so lonely and lost in her own mind that she fantasizes about disappearing from life and, believe it or not, masturbation. (See page 17; the innuendo is there.) She’s also simultaneously dreading the world her children have to face, wondering if they’ll succumb to overdosing on drugs, all while listening in on them playing a campaign of Dungeons and Dragons in the kitchen.  There’s also portions of the book where E.T. becomes weirdly stalker-ish and longs to bond with Mary, starring at her from the closet, thinking about how he could fulfill her needs.  E.T. even gets pretty downright creepy in the sequel novel, E.T. The Book of the Green Planet, where he reaches out to his long lost friend from Earth, melding with the now older Elliot’s mind from across the cosmos.  It comes across very peeping Tom-like, and sort of disturbing.  Experiencing love and yearning “through” Elliot.

ET sequel

All in all, though all of this adult stuff might seem really questionable on the surface of things, again, I’m really glad that these authors and creators took the chance to expose kids to the real world.  Some of it is for the sake of comedy, some of it is important info that awkward pre-teens probably need, and some of it is just exploring deeper adult themes.  Weird, interesting and kind of neat…

  • So that’s why everyone always says “the book was better” after watching a movie…

  • Even as a kid I remember that scene in Ghostbusters being… weird. But I was too young to ever know why it was weird. I could see the orgasm scene being put into Goonies, because Spielberg had a knack for making adult jokes fly just above kids heads. Like when Chunk breaks the statues ‘private parts’ off and Mikey says “Oh no.. that’s my mom’s favorite part.” Actually… I guess that’s not very subtle at all. Geez.

    • Maybe not subtle, but still hilarious. It’s criminal how much I love the Goonies. Yeah, you’ve got a good point about Spielberg. I mean he manages to make it cute when Elliot screams “penis-breath” in E.T. for crying out loud…

      • Ha! Totally forgot about that line.

        • Burned into my psyche (of all people my mom used to quote it all the time!)

  • Wow, I didn’t realize there was anything more to the Ghostbusters scene. Kind of want to get that book (I think I might have it in a stack somewhere). The E.T. stuff is creepiest of all, though!

    • Yeah, E.T. was kind of a perv, a million year old plant perv at that. He couldn’t hold his liquor either…

  • Retromash

    I knew about Ghostbusters and the Goonies scenes but never knew about the E.T. one. What a little perv! Phoning home? He was probably just phoning a sex line! I’ve got the William Kotzwinkle novel but haven’t got round to reading it yet. This might make me more curious to read it now (I think!). I’ve also got The Last Starfighter novel on my shelf. You don’t happen to know anything weird in that one do you?!

    I didn’t realise there were two Ghostbusters novels. I’ve got and read the one by Larry Milne which supposedly came out in 1984 whereas I’ve read that the Richard Mueller one came out in 1985. The Milne one is pretty short so I’m thinking that the Mueller one might be a bit more in depth? But the Milne one certainly has the Ray blowjob scene as well. There are some other really interesting bits in the book as well. I’m going to be writing a blog post about it myself when my site goes live in the next month or two. But one bit I have made a note about is regarding Louis Tully’s feelings towards Dana where it says that “every night he dreams of being raped by her.” Not quite sure it would be described that way nowadays in the book of a PG movie.

    Great post as always Shawn.

    • Retromash

      And by the way I’ve just read your other blog post about the two Ghostbusters novelizations. Sounds like I need to get me the Mueller one!

      • I think copies are pretty easy to come by, but if not both are available online transcribed on Ghostbuster fan sites…

        • Retromash

          Great. Will check it out. Cheers!

    • I have the Last Starfighter book, but haven’t cracked the cover yet. I’m curious about that one too. I heard there is some fun stuff in both the Gremlins and Poltergeist books though. Oh, and E.T. also connects and makes reference to Poltergeist, “officially” connecting the Spielberg stories into one shared universe!

  • 910dohead

    Huge Goonies fan, here. I have a copy of the script and the battery leech scene is w/ the orgasms is definitely within the text. It was also scene that was shot but cut from the final film. You can find screenshots by doing a simple google search for Goonies leech scene. What might not be in the novel is a scene referred to as “Mr. Funnybones”. The only evidence of this scene that made it into any kind of merchandise was a trading card from Topps.

    Anyways, there was a scene shot directly after Data falls into a pit but is saved by his pinchers of peril. He exclaims, “Hey, guys! I’m in another room.” The scene starts here after all of the Goonies are lowered into this new room. They are presented with a path with 3 different tunnels to go into. On the opposite side of the room there is a skeleton with a sign that says “Meet Mr. Funnybone. Tickle his funny bone and he’ll show you the way.” It may have been Mouth, but one of the Goonies tickles one of his elbows.

    At that time, a skeleton dressed as the grim reaper appears from out of the wall holding a scythe. Its basically a trap that quickly heads in their direction, they manage to dodge it and it crashes into a wall. Now here comes the dirty part. Steph then asks everyone to turn around because she knows the answer to the Funnybone riddle. They all turn around and Steph proceeds to tickle Mr. Funnybone’s crotch. At that time, his arms then raises and his hand points to the tunnel that will lead them in the right direction.

    This is a real scene that I couldn’t make up. It’s in the script and was captured on film as well. I’m not sure if this is mentioned in the novel. The novel may have come at a time when the film’s workprint was in a later stage of editing. Everything in the script was filmed including the Gorillas and the original ending at Mikey’s house. The first workprint was over 4 hours long. Sadly like the Fort Detmerring scene, these scenes will probably never see the light of day.

    • 910dohead

      I found a little more info from this scene as well as a picture. I’ve never seen this before and it looks like it was from one of the various picture books that was released. I like how it isn’t mentioned where Stef exactly tickled, but it’s very clear in the script.

      • Yeah, I have a digital copy of the kid’s novelization that has a black and white picture of Mr. Funnybone, cool…

    • Yeah, I can’t remember if that’s in the novel, I need to go back and check my copy. I do remember the Funnybone bit from the kid’s version of the novelization that has a black and white still of the guy. Rad, thanks for sharing that!

  • sexyarmpit

    Really interesting article Shawn. The E.T part was surprising. Bits like these from the novelizations get lost to the ages. If not for posts like this, I’d probably never know about them. Aside from the innuendo types of “cut scenes” I was always interested in the one or two cut scenes from the 1989 Batman film that were depicted in the trading card series.

    • Yes! Those deleted scenes from Batman ’89, I distinctly remember seeing them in the version that I saw in the theater when it was released. I also remember a different variation on when Bob the Goon faced off against Batman in the alley. In the current versions he just drops his knife and runs. I remember a version where they fought…

    • What are the missing Batman scenes?

      • Can’t believe I missed this. The deleted bits in the Batman novelization include an entire chase sequence with Batman commandeering a police horse to go after the Joker and his goons. That’s the one that sticks out in my memory.