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The Odd Couple: Centennial Collection DVD Review

The Odd Couple: Centennial Collection

March 18, 2009

Director: Gene Saks,
Starring: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, John Fiedler, Herbert Edelman, David Sheiner, Larry Haines,

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DVD Review

Based on Neil Simon’s hit Broadway play of the same name, The Odd Couple (1968) features the classic comedic duo of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau as hopelessly (and hilariously) mismatched roommates. Mike Nichols directed the play which won several Tony Awards. Art Carney and Matthau originally starred but Carney turned down the film thereby reuniting Lemmon with his co-star from The Fortune Cookie (1966).

The film’s now-instantly recognizable theme music was written by Neal Hefti and is used so effectively in the opening scene which introduces Felix Ungar (Lemmon), a sad sack family man who can’t even get it together to commit suicide. He arrives unusually late to the weekly poker game with his buddies, chief among them Oscar Madison (Matthau), a messy slob who is divorced. The poker game banter is funny and has the relaxed air of guys who have been friends for a long time. They argue and take verbal shots at each other.

Felix has recently broken up with his wife and is deeply depressed. He crashes overnight at Oscar’s pad. Felix is a neurotic mess, a hypochondriac and a neat freak, while Oscar has a sarcastic sense of humour and does whatever he wants: he eats food that is bad for him, shameless flirts with women and is a total slob. Lemmon and Matthau play off each other brilliantly. For example, in a restaurant, Felix loudly tries to clear his sinuses while Oscar tries to play it cool and low key. Lemmon plays Felix as a bundle of neurotic tics and exaggerated physical gestures while Matthau downplays his reactions with a wonderfully minimal performance.

Oscar invites Felix to move in so that he is no longer lonely and to cheer up his friend. How can a set-up like this go wrong? Easily, as their habits quickly get on each other’s nerves. Oscar likes his messy apartment just the way it is but Felix is a neat freak and quickly cleans the place within an inch of its life and is planning dinners for the two of them.

The Odd Couple cemented Lemmon and Matthau’s personal and professional relationships – they were lifelong friends and also made ten films together. The film received two Academy Award nominations and was also nominated for three Golden Globes. Its success resulted in an ABC television series starring Tony Randall as Felix and Jack Klugman as Oscar. In 1998, Lemmon and Matthau reprised their roles in an ill-fated sequel which only painfully reminded everyone how good the original was in comparison.

Special Features:

The first disc features an audio commentary by Charlie Matthau and Chris Lemmon. They share memories of their famous fathers and joke around with each other. Lemmon says that his dad had a lot of the same qualities as Felix in real life. They point out that Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason were going to star in the film. Lemmon and Matthau talk about Simon’s play and praise his memorable dialogue on this engaging track.

The second disc starts off with “In the Beginning…” which examines the inspiration for Neil Simon’s Broadway play. Larry King praises the play as “the perfect comedy,” while comedian Brad Garrett, who played Oscar in the 2005 Broadway revival, remembers the first time he saw the film. Friends, family and collaborators heap praise on Lemmon and Matthau.

“Inside The Odd Couple” takes us through various aspects of the film including stories behind the casting of Lemmon and Matthau. Director Gene Saks and producer Robert Evans talk about how Billy Wilder was pushed out of the gig and Saks got the job instead. There are plenty of filming anecdotes are told.

“Memories from the Set” features Saks and several cast members sharing memorable anecdotes about the making of the film.

“Matthau and Lemmon” features the sons of the two legendary actors reminiscing about their famous fathers and they talk about the chemistry they had together. In addition, cast members and celebrities chime in with their opinions.

The Odd Couple: A Classic” takes a brief look at its legendary status.

Also included are galleries containing production stills and movie photographs.

Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 89%

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