I grew up with the Tony Randall/Jack Klugman sitcom version of “The Odd Couple.” Everything about it is funny. Having seen for the first time the movie, I never before imagined how smart Neil Simon could be. The movie outshines the TV series, and is worth the space on any standard comedy DVD library shelf.
In the TV series, Klugman’s Oscar is a bohemian bachelor living in slop, and apparently content. In the movie, Walter Matthau’s Oscar is no neater, but five times as deep. Although he lives in a divorced man’s squalor of old cigars and warm beer, he wants more. He’s lonely for his wife and kids, and regrets not making his alimony payments. His life is so disorganized that he wastes money by squandering cash on dinners out and gambling.
When Felix Ungar, as played by Jack Lemmon, Oscar’s poker buddy, comes to stay when his wife divorces him, lifestyles clash.
On the surface, the clash is about organization and housekeeping. More deeply, Felix and Oscar duel as Super Ego and ID. Consistently archetypal, they are, in a more modern sense, like Marge and Homer Simpson, each seeing life through their limited expressions. Felix is uptight, and forever second-guessing himself. Oscar is living life for the moment, and never stopping to consider his responsibilities.
Oscar cares about Felix more than their other poker buddies, and connects with him as alter self, regarding their friendship worth pursuing. Since Felix needs a place to stay, Oscar offers up his ample apartment. The conflicts arise soon after, but not without each appreciating what the other brings to the relationship. Ironies abound when Felix’s hypersensitivities gain him the affection of two dimwitted but attractive sisters, and Oscar’s unbridled hormones.
Oscar can’t help but enjoy Felix’s great cooking and cleaning habits. He eats better, saves money, and finds his home is a nice a place to be when cigarette butts don’t litter the floor.
No remake could collect such a cast. Matthau and Lemmon are known here as a duo on par with any of the great matches, like Bogie and Bacall, Bing and Bob, or Abbott and Costello. John Fiedler as the soft spoken family man, Vinnie, and Herb Edelman as Murray the cop are casted primely. One reason “The Odd Couple II” misses is this class cast. Matthau and Lemmon bring a lot to the table, but with Murray and Vinnie (plus Monica Evans and Carole Shelley respectively as the giggly sisters, Cecily and Gwendolyn Pigeon), anything made 30+ years later won’t do.
Superbly written, “The Odd Couple” is one of those comedies with intelligence. Never does Neil Simon try to pan off one-liners. Even as Oscar tosses out slicing one-phrased commentaries as swiftly as Grouch Marx, there is more than a quick chuckle behind it. It is the myriad of layers, subtle commentary and sly interjections that lift this script up an extra level, placing it as a classic.
Surprisingly entertaining is the theme. It is the same them as in the TV series, but plays in varied orchestrations throughout the movie’s context. It was one of the great TV themes, and to hear it extrapolated in several variations makes it so much more enjoyable.
I fully recommend “The Odd Couple.”
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The 1968 classic is revisited on DVD but this time for Paramount’s special “CENTENNIAL COLLECTION” release. This definitive release features commentary by the songs of Matthau and Lemmon but also a good number of lengthy featurettes that shows tribute to the popular film and to Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. An awesome tribute to this comedy classic!
VIDEO & AUDIO:
For the Centennial Collection of “The Odd Couple”, for a film created in 1968, the film looks very good on DVD. Video is presented in widescreen (enhanced for 16:9 TV’s). It was great to see the video scenes of New York in the 60′s.
As for audio, audio is presented in English 5.1 Surround and French and Spanish mono. With the film being a dialogue based film, everything is front channel and clear. And of course, the music, composer Neil Hefti’s theme song for “The Odd Couple” will always be remembered.
Unlike previous DVD releases of “The Odd Couple” which were sparse when it came to special features, the “CENTENNIAL COLLECTION” version features a good number of special features and quite lengthy as well.
* Commentary: – Commentary by Charlie Matthau and Chris Lemmon. The guys have an interesting conversation during the film and talking about their parents. How they were odd couple as friends in real life and on the film but still very good friends. Chris Lemmon talks about how his father was like Felix and Charlie talks about how his father was like Felix as well in real life. As Matthau puts it, the first “bromance” on film.
* In the Beginning… – A 17-minute featurette featuring interviews with Larry King (a good friend of Simon, Lemmon and Matthau), David Sheiner (who plays “Roy”), Carole Shelley (who plays “Gwendolyn Pigeon”), Gene Saks (the director of the film), Chris Lemmon (son of Jack Lemmon), Charlie Matthau (son of Walter Matthau), Brad Garrett (who played “Murray” and “Oscar” in the 2005 Broadway revival), Robert Evans (former studio head) and more. Each talking about their experiences of the watching “The Odd Couple” play, the film, their experiences with Neil Simon, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau and a good insight to personal experience on the film and the personal friendship between Lemmon and Matthau. A very good tribute to the film and the men. A wonderful and informative featurette.
* Inside The Odd Couple – A 19-minute featurette about the casting of the film. Also, an insight on why Art Carney (“The Honeymooners”, “Oscar”) who was in the original Broadway production with Walter Matthau, turned down the part. Also, behind-the-scenes of the budget of the film and how they could cast two popular actors and possibly a director like Billy Wilder on a tight budget and then what took place afterwards and Gene Saks eventually becoming the director. Eventually, the only way to get the two men in the film was to not use Billy Wilder and go with Gene Saks. Interviews with a few of the talent on the film and discussing about how they were cast for their roles. Very informative!
* Memories from the Set – A ten-minute featurette with interviews with director Gene Saks who would talk about the relationship on the film between Lemmon and Matthau. David Sheiner (who plays “Roy”) talking about how the second act was shot first and the first act second because Matthau broke his arm in an accident. Interesting tid-bits behind the scenes of the film.
* Matthau & Lemmon – A ten-minute featurette with both Chris Lemmon and Charlie Matthau and those involved with the film discussing the friendship of their father and how they were great friends for decades and how their friendship made their onscreen perfomance even much better. Both sons reflect on their father’s friendship and growing up with their father and the type of relationship they had. A more personal featurette based on family and friendship.
* The Odd Couple: A Classic – A three-minute featurettte featuring cast, those involved with the film, ChrisLemmon and Charlie Matthau discussing why they feel the movie had become a classic.
* Galleries – Image galleries from production and from the movie.
* Trailers – Theatrical Trailer (previously used on the 2000 DVD release)
And like previous Centennial Collections from Paramount, a booklet is included with information and tidbits about the film and its stars and also a cardboard slipcase that holds the DVD/case.
“The Odd Couple” will always be remembered as a comedy classic. In fact, it ranks #17 for the American Film Institute’s “AFI Top 100 Years…100 Laughs” category. And that doesn’t surprise me one bit, this film is just so enjoyable and entertaining.
The back and forth exchanges between Matthau and Lemmon will always be remembered, both men were just magnificent in this…
It just doesn’t get too much funnier than Matthau & Lemmon in this movie. Each scene is a treasure. I’d heard that Matthau wanted to play Felix first, saying that he could’ve “phoned in” his performance of Oscar. But, this was perfect casting. A line that still is one of the best is when Oscar goes through his littany of things that irritate him about Felix. He tells him to stop the little notes he leaves on his pillow. “We are all out of toilet paper. F.U. It took me three hours to figure out that F.U. meant Felix Unger!” You gotta own this one. It’s a classic.