Odd Couple: Centennial Collection, The (US - DVD R1)
It took Gabe Powers three hours to figure out that 'F.U.' meant Felix Unger...
Old people. Am I right? Pfft. Always telling us about how much better their stuff is than our stuff. Trying to get us to watch their TV shows, listen to their music, and respect their movies that were turned into TV shows. The Odd Couple, might as well call it The Old Couple. Well, actually, it’s not that bad. Actually, if you squint it’s pretty good. I can see why old people like this kind of thing I guess. I might even watch it again in an hour or so.
After decades of in-jokes and sly references up to and including television commercials, people have forgotten exactly how great The Odd Couple is. It’s dark, subversive, pervasively adult, heartbreaking, and intently funny. The opening credits are set against Felix’s sadly failed suicide attempt, and a follow up trip for a drink at a strip club. The font choice is a literally skewed take on a more tradition serif typeface, the music (Neal Hefti’s unmistakable theme) shifts in tone from whimsical, to sad, to entirely ironic. That’s just the opening credits. I didn’t get it when my old people parents made me watch as a kid, but every subsequent viewing has led to a lot of laughing out loud, or what we kids these days call LOLs. These laughs are appropriately tempered by a series of deeply touching emotional moments.
I’m not going to lie to the rest of you kids, The Odd Couple is a dated film on some levels. The one element that occasionally doesn’t work is the physical comedy, which is a little too Jerry Lewis for me. The sexual overtones are pretty thick, and if made today the film would probably skew more towards a blatant PG-13 (like the Grumpy Old Men movies), but it was a different time, and sometimes us kids can take that kind of stuff into account when watching old people movies. It won’t hurt us.
The structure is very obviously based on a play, where all but a few moments of film take place in the same apartment, with a bare minimum of characters. The scenes are long, each featuring their own three act structure plots. The film itself has a plot so simple it can be summed up as ‘two friends move in together and their differences create conflict’. It’s beautiful in its simplicity, and it’s the kind of writing that we don’t see out of movies anymore.
‘That’s funny, I haven’t thought of women in weeks’
‘I fail to see the humour’
These youthful eyes have become used to the advantages of high definition video, even in cases when high definition isn’t called for. As a result I’m picking up on the minor problems that always come along with the standard definition format. I can’t say anything about this transfer as opposed to any previous DVD transfers, because I’ve never seen the film on DVD. The last few times I saw the film was on television, in widescreen. Those transfers easily featured less detail than this one, but I personally preferred the levels. It was slightly washed out I suppose, but this is pretty extreme. The brightest colours, mainly reds, create a neat popping effect against duller shades, but the edges aren’t the hardest. On the whole the colours are a little candied, but not too bright, the problem is with the contrast, which to these eyes is set a bit too high. The blacks are wonderfully rich, but they kind of overpower the pallet during the stage sequences. The high contrast leads to some pretty thick white edge-enhancement too. But this is a pretty personal look at things, and details are great for the film’s age.
If there were a contest for the single most unnecessary 5.1 remix, it may go to this disc. I don’t think I noticed a single lick of activity in the rear channels, and the stereo channels only act to augment the occasional score. There are very few problems with the track quality wise, but the surround sound remix is simply not needed or used. The volume levels are a bit low, but consistent. The quality of the voices does alter a few times throughout the track, which is probably a side effect of ADR, but things are always clear.
Disc one of this two disc set starts with a commentary track featuring Charlie Matthau and Chris Lemmon, the kids of the two famous, but now unfortunately no longer living stars. Neither commentator is particularly charming and they go off on some extremely boring tangents, but they also let their audience in on a few interesting behind the scenes facts. We don’t get a new and deep understanding of either actor or performance, but the commentary is consistent enough, and not a waste of time for fans.
‘In the Beginning…’ is a retrospective featurette, where various participants and minor celebrities talk about the play and film version of the story. It’s a love fest, but it’s presented in an informative matter. Things are split into sections, including writer Neil Simon, Jack Lemmon, and Walter Matthau. Interestingly I couldn’t find very much internet information on the film beyond a couple dinky factoids, so even at a slim seventeen minutes the info is welcome.
‘Inside The Odd Couple’ is more of the same, covering similar ground with basically the same interviews, or at least footage taken from different points in the same interviews. This round includes nineteen minutes of talk concerning behind the scenes casting choices, the fees paid for the talent, rehearsals, direction, production, and mention of favourite sequences. ‘Memories from the Set’ speaks for itself I suppose, and runs ten more minutes. I’m not sure why these interviews weren’t grouped with the other ones for one bigger making-of featurette, but I suppose it doesn’t make for a less informative series of anecdotes.
‘Matthau and Lemmon’ features even more interview footage, but I suppose it’s fair to give it its own section, considering it’s focused on the actors and their sons, not the film. This ten and a half minute featurette is warm and sweet, but a bit repetitive given the other extras. ‘The Odd Couple: A Classic’ is then even more repetitive, as the same interviewees slather a bit more praise upon the film, for another three boring minutes. Things are completed with two image galleries, and the original theatrical trailer.
Anyone that doesn’t enjoy the hell out of the scene where the odd couple attempts to couple with two British women is out of their mind. The Odd Couple is a bona fide classic, and if you haven’t appreciated it lately you might want to think about checking out this new release. The 5.1 Dolby Digital remix is entirely unneeded, and I’m not all that impressed by the repetitive, back slapping extras, but we could do worse than this new edition, which is a definite upgrade from the extra-less original DVD release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
All ages admitted
Release Date: 24th March 2009
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Subtitles: English, French and Spanish
Extras: Chris Lemmon and Charlie Matthau Commentary, 'In the Beginning', 'Inside The Odd Couple', 'Memories from the Set', 'Matthau and Lemmon', 'The Odd Couple: A Classic', Trailers, Image Galleries
Easter Egg: No
Director: Gene Saks
Cast: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, John Fiedler, Herb Edelman, David Sheiner
Length: 105 minutes
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