Being There (1979) (NTSC)

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Released 6-Feb-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Listing-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 129:35
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,4 Directed By Hal Ashby

Warner Home Video
Starring Peter Sellers
Shirley MacLaine
Melvyn Douglas
Jack Warden
Richard Dysart
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Johnny Mandel

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, outtakes under credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Being There is a special film. It is also extremely difficult to describe without spoiling. I'm going to try, but don't jump on me, OK?

    Being There is the story of what happens to an innocent man (no, not Billy Joel) when he is thrown into modern society after being protected from it for his entire life. Chance (Peter Sellers, at the top of his form as an actor) is a simple man, not very bright, but a nice person. He has lived his entire life in the house of a rich man, working as a gardener, never leaving it, never seeing the real world, except through the medium of television. He is accustomed to being able to change channels when he doesn't like what's going on. He has never had a girl-friend, has never ridden in an automobile, has never handled money, has never been exposed to the vicissitudes of life as we know it. That's what I mean by innocent.

    Chance's life is thrown into confusion when the old man (whose name we overhear as being Jennings) dies. Suddenly, the cocoon that has protected Chance for his entire life is ripped away, and Chance is asked to leave the house. He packs some clothes, and wanders off. He has a few unpleasant experiences before a very lucky accident rescues him. And that's where I'm going to stop... You really need to experience this film for yourself.

    In a way, this is quite a sad film. In another way, it's quite funny. And both of those can happen simultaneously... (no, I'm not going to explain that, either) 

    The major premise upon which this film is founded is that people are forever trying to interpret what someone says. They read into a statement more than is there, and this is particularly true of any statement Chance makes - he gets a reputation as a profound man, and this colours every statement he makes with deep meaning - the people around him become sure that he means so much more than he says.

(SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read)     The first time I saw this film, the final scene came as a considerable surprise. Since then, I have thought about it over and over. I am not sure what it means. Recently, I started to wonder if I'm guilty of the same mistake as the characters around Chance - am I reading too much into it? Perhaps it is just saying that Chance is too innocent to understand physics? I don't know. I doubt I'll ever know. I'm comfortable with that, but I will continue to ponder it on occasion. If there's one thing that's certain in our world today, it's that Heisenberg and Godel have made us comfortable with the idea that we can't always know, and we can't even prove everything we do know. I like that.

    If you want, you can watch this film as a straight-forward comedy of misunderstanding. Or you can watch it as a commentary on sophistication and pretension. Or you can see it as a simple statement about innocence. Enjoy!

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Transfer Quality


    This is another of Warners' recent release of NTSC discs. If your system won't display NTSC, then don't torture yourself - pass on to the next disc. I originally hated the idea of NTSC discs in R4, but I'm warming to it. It helps that some of these discs offer superb transfers, at discount prices (they can make them cheaper because they are re-using transfers they have made earlier - they don't have to amortise the cost of a new transfer).

    The image is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. The original theatrical ratio was 1.85:1, so this is quite acceptable.

    The picture is attractive. It is rather sharp (with just enough softness to avoid too much aliasing) and clear, with very good shadow detail and no low-level noise. There's some light grain, especially on some of the darker scenes, but it feels more like an artistic touch than a defect - that's remarkable.

    Colours are initially a little muted by design, but there's no lack of saturation, and no oversaturation or colour bleed.

    There are some film artefacts, but they are few, and always tiny flecks - see the tiny spot at 11:42, and another at 65:25. I mention them to emphasise that this is really quite a clean transfer, which is pleasing, given that the film was made in 1979. There's no serious aliasing, no moire, and no shimmer (other than on TV pictures).

    There are subtitles in four languages, including English. They are clear, easy to read, accurate, and well-timed.

    The disc is single-sided and single layered, with an appropriate picture label. The single layer is ample, because we only get the film, a trailer, and some text. There's no lack of space.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The English soundtrack on this disc is undeniably mono - Dolby Digital 1.0. That's fine - this movie needs nothing more, and the original soundtrack was mono.

    The dialogue is clear and comprehensible, with no audio sync problems.

    The score, by Johnny Mandel, is rather good. It never draws attention to itself, and that's exactly what we need.

    That expensive sound system you've bought will get nothing to do - your surrounds, mains, and sub will just sit there, envying the centre channel, which carries the whole burden of this soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menus are static with gentle piano music behind them. There's a little bit of hiss behind the music, but it's not bad.

Theatrical Trailer (2:46)

    This is a simple trailer, a little too soft, with some slight distortion in the sound. They played around a little at the end, including the climax of Also Sprach Zarathustra.

Cast and Crew Profiles

    We get brief notes on each of Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, and Melvyn Douglas.


    Two pages listing the various awards this film has garnered. It's an impressive list.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This movie has been available in Region 1 for a while. The R1 disc is identical to the R4. The cover art is almost identical, but the R1 comes in a snapper case, with a silver on silver disc label; the R4 comes in a transparent Amaray case, with an attractive picture label that matches the cover. I commend the R4 to your attention unless you already have the R1.


    Being There is a thought-provoking film, presented nicely on DVD.

    The video quality is excellent for a film of this age.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are basic.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Sunday, June 23, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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Comments (Add)
"Warming to NTSC" ? DON'T! - Anon REPLY POSTED
Err, this disc is PAL - MickJT REPLY POSTED
Err: This disc is PAL - MickJT REPLY POSTED