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Garden variety 'Being There' reissue leaves everything to Chance

It would seem absurd to put the names of actors Peter Sellers and Bruce Campbell in the same sentence. Sellers is an A-list actor to the extreme; Campbell is, by his own definition, a B-movie slug.

But the one thing they have in common is that they are both actors who make people laugh -- breathlessly at times. The actors are also the focus of new DVD releases this week.

The performance of Sellers in the 1979 film "Being There" is a quiet tour de force that is miles removed from his hilarious portrayal of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau in the "Pink Panther" films. His nuanced performance, so mesmerizing to watch, is touching and subtly humorous, as is the film that is deftly directed by Hal Ashby with a screenplay co-written by Jerzy Kosinski, who penned the 1971 novel.

We're reminded of the craftsmanship of the film thanks to "Being There: 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition" ($19.96 DVD, $28.99 Blu-ray; Warner Home Video), a DVD that will hopefully introduce the film to a new generation. It is a lovely, thoughtful movie about a gardener named Chance (Sellers), who lived his life almost completely inside a Washington, D.C., townhouse. When his employer dies, he is cast out into the "real world," where, as luck would have it, he becomes entwined in the life of a dying businessman (Melvyn Douglas, who won an Oscar for his role) and his young wife (Shirley MacLaine).

Thrust into the world of high-powered politicians, Chance's simple way of looking at the world (he slowly speaks of everything in terms of a garden) is mistaken for deep, allegorical thoughts. It's quite interesting to watch how the characters take Chance's words and turn them into whatever they need -- or want -- to hear.

The standard DVD includes "Memories From 'Being There' " with actress Illeana Douglas, the talented granddaughter of star Melvyn Douglas. The featurette might also be called "Memories of My Grandfather" as Douglas clearly relishes recollections of her grandfather sharing stories about Hollywood's Golden Age.

The Blu-ray also has a gag reel, alternate ending and two recently discovered scenes.

*On the other side of the acting spectrum is modern B-movie god Campbell. There's not much that is subtle (and I must admit, we like it that way) with this actor, who makes a lot of noise parodying himself in "My Name Is Bruce" ($27.98 DVD, $35.98 Blu-ray; Image Entertainment).

Everything about this movie and the accompanying extras are what Campbell fans would expect. In other words, there's not a serious bone in his body -- or the multitude of bodies, mutilated or living, seen anywhere on this DVD.

The movie stars Campbell as a not-so-nice version of himself: a down-on-his-luck, hard-drinking, rude and ill-behaved actor. He's kidnapped by a fan who believes he really has the heroic tendencies of Ash from the "Evil Dead" films in hopes that he will save a small town from a vengeful creature. Campbell, not the smartest actor on the block (at least in this movie), thinks it's all for his latest film and goes in for battle with all of his B-movie glory.

The DVD has a lengthy and humorous making-of that shows us the perils of low-budget filmmaking (Campbell, who also directed, made the film for about $1.5 million), including the troubles of working with old cars, a faulty generator and in an area with poison oak. Campbell transformed part of his own property into the small mining town of Gold Lick, Ore., and it actually looks quite good on film.

The making-of also shows us Bruce Campbell, the man. We meet many of the large number of cast and crew that have worked with him for years, including one guy who met Campbell after he spoke in his high school class and another who was a fan at a sci-fi convention. We also see Campbell waiting for food in line with everyone else.

Other extras include several mockumentaries, as well as a commentary, poster art and photo galleries. A "Cavealien 2" trailer and making-of feature spoof the movie within a movie that is found in "My Name Is Bruce."

***

DVD Extra

THE CLINT EASTWOOD COLLECTION: This three-disc set features "Play Misty for Me," "The Eiger Sanction," "Coogan's Bluff" and "The Beguiled," plus such extras as a making-of for "Misty" and reflections by Eastwood and director Don Siegel. ($19.99, Universal. Available now.)

e-mail: truberto@buffnews.com

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