Paramount // 1968 // 105 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // March 24th, 2009
Oscar Madison: "Now, kindly remove that spaghetti from my poker
Oscar Madison: "What the hell is so funny?"
Felix Ungar: "It's not spaghetti, it's linguini."
[Oscar picks up the plate of food and throws it against the kitchen wall]
Oscar Madison: "Now it's garbage."
Walter Matthau (Fail-Safe) and Jack Lemmon (Glengarry Glen Ross) acted together in ten films and Lemmon directed Matthau to an Academy Award nomination in Kotch. The young crowd probably recollects Grumpy Old Men when thinking of these two actors. However, their most famous and enduring collaboration is The Odd Couple, based on the play by Neil Simon (Lost In Yonkers).
Oscar Madison (Matthau) is divorced, behind on his alimony, and lives alone in an eight room Manhattan apartment. Oscar's friend, Felix Ungar (Lemmon), has family troubles of his own, having just been thrown out by his wife, Frances. Oscar is a lazy, dirty slob. Felix is an anal retentive, hypochondriac, neat freak. Oscar doesn't like living alone. Felix is suicidal and needs a place to stay. Oscar invites Felix to stay at his place. What could possibly go wrong? How about everything? The rest, as they say, is history.
Why has The Odd Couple endured? To begin, Lemmon and Matthau fit their characters to a tee, from Matthau's naturally slovenly, hangdog look to Lemmon's perpetual appearance of being on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Further, the film (and the play) is all about chemistry and these two have it in spades here: trading insults, facial reactions to each other's behaviour, body language, looks, and wardrobe. They complement one another perfectly from beginning to end. The rest of the cast, comprised of Oscar and Felix's cigar chomping poker buddies (including John Fielder, the voice of Disney's Piglet), and the Pigeon sisters (Monica Evans and Carole Shelley), are also excellent. And, of course, everything rests upon Simon's funny screenplay which is filled with cutting one-liners, ridiculous dialogue, and outrageous character traits (e.g., Felix clearing his sinuses at a diner).
However, despite the calibre of the cast and Simon's script, the movie version of The Odd Couple has little to recommend it. The film almost completely lacks cinematic vitality. The problem is that there is little to differentiate a staged version of the play from director Gene Saks's (Barefoot In The Park) film. The movie takes place almost exclusively in Oscar's living room, the camera is stationary for long stretches, and the ending of scenes and acts are obvious. Simon added some additional scenes for the film, but they have little effect in altering the rhythm of the picture. As a result, viewing the film is equivalent to watching a play, but without other audience members sitting around you. Such a feeling saps the energy from the film. If you don't agree with me, compare the stage version of Amadeus with the film. They are similar, but not interchangeable. The film version is bursting at the seams with a vigour that cannot be produced on the stage.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic is good for a forty-year-old film. It's not perfect, there is some light grain and the occasional minor imperfection, but the image and color are fairly bright and detailed. The surround sound is fine, but not put to full use because the film is pretty much all dialogue. Speaking of which, all the dialogue and Neil Hefti's famous theme music come through without problems.
There are a number of extras on this two-disc "Centennial Collection" edition from Paramount, but quantity does not equal quality. The first disc, which contains the film, features a passable commentary by Charlie Matthau and Chris Lemmon, the sons of the stars. The pair doesn't provide much analysis of the film and there are some stretches of dead air, but they tell some interesting stories about their famous fathers. The second disc contains a handful of featurettes, a couple of photo galleries, and the theatrical trailer. The five featurettes have self-explanatory titles: "In The Beginning...," "Inside The Odd Couple," "Memories From The Set," "Matthau & Lemmon," and "The Odd Couple: A Classic." These rather uninteresting segments feature Larry King, Brad Garrett, the sons, Saks, and others, discussing the process of bringing the play to the screen, casting, production, the friendship between Matthau and Lemmon, and the importance of the film. Additionally, there is a four page booklet with some background information about the film in the DVD case.
Yes, Matthau, Lemmon, and the rest of the cast are terrific. And yes, Simon's dialogue is excellent. However, this does not translate into a brilliant film. While definitely worth watching, as far as movie experiences go, there's a lot to be desired from The Odd Couple.
Not guilty, although Simon, Matthau, and Lemmon would later go on to commit the heinous crime known as The Odd Couple II.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 1968
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Photo Galleries
* Theatrical Trailer