- « A Mighty Heart. On Blu-Ray March 24th. (*******7/10)
- To Catch A Thief, Paramount Centennial Collection. On DVD March 24th. (*********9/10) »
“In other words, you’re throwing me out.”
“Not in other words! Those are the perfect words!”
It’s the dialogue in The Odd Couple that makes it an absolute classic. Well, the dialogue and the chemistry between lead actors Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. I am going to assume everybody knows the concept behind The Odd Couple, that of a compulsive neatnik living with an out-and-out slob, and the chaos that ensues. Of course, it has been done to death in the years since 1968, starting with the Odd Couple TV series which is decent, but after a while (like, two seasons), the joke has run out. In the original movie, based on the Neil Simon Broadway play. It’s tough to miss with a formula as tried-and-true as this one, but it’s also difficult to make it genius.
It’s a testament to director Gene Saks, actors Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, and Neil Simon (play author and screenwriter) that they were able to turn a concept such as this one into something so transcendantly funny. The Odd Couple is absolutely hilarious. Very few comedies, in that era or this one, open with a relatively serious suicide attempt. Jack Lemmon, preparing himself for a leap from a tall building, is both sad and compelling, and hilariously inept, all at the same time. From there, when he moves in with his slovenly sportscaster friend, Walter Matthau, Lemmon is the heart and centre of the film. Matthau is pretty much a supporting character, but one of the best in movie history. And he gets almost all of the best lines.
“Don’t come to me with your petty problems. You get this one stinkin’ night a week. I’m cooped up here with Mary Poppins 24 hours a day.”
Matthau is such a powerful comedic force in this film that although Lemmon is the central character, Matthau is the one you remember when it’s over. A total man’s man, Matthau is also a disgusting pig, and although both Oscar and Felix manage somehow to meet in the middle, at least a little, by the end of the film, Oscar (Matthau) does not undergo a ton of personal growth here. In fact, neither one of them really does. And that’s part of the brilliance of the original play and this screenplay. Nothing could sap the comedic value of The Odd Couple faster than an ending where Oscar agreed to clean up and Felix agreed to loosen up and get dirty, and they had a big hug and forgave everything.
The Odd Couple comes out as the seventh volume in Paramount Home Entertainment’s excellent Centennial Collection, on two discs, March 24th. There are some terrific special features, including a feature-length commentary by Matthau and Lemmon family members, and vignettes about the movie on the second disc. I think this is also the only Paramount Centennial Collection movie so far that does not have a featurette on costume designer Edith Head. Because a costume designer for The Odd Couple would be a silly job. Matthau and Lemmon are the keys to this film, and they get their little pieces on the special features. I would have liked to see something on Neil Simon, because this is his film, through and through, but no DVD box set is perfect!