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Not many comedy pairs can say that they have been together on the big screen for over twenty years. Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon first starred in a movie together in 1966. Their next appearance together was a few years later in ‘The Odd Couple’. This is probably their most famous role as a duo, but our younger readers will probably remember them better for their roles in “Grumpy Old Men”. Paramount are now releasing their most famous outing together, ‘The Odd Couple’, on DVD. This is a review of the region two version.

Odd Couple, The
Felix Ungar (Jack Lemmon) has been thrown out of his home and is left wandering the streets after the break-up of his marriage.  He has been married for twelve years, but recently things haven’t been going so well. He takes the suggestion of a divorce badly and starts having suicidal thoughts. Meanwhile we are introduced to Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau), an unhygienic sports writer. Oscar has also had his fair share of marriage problems. He has split up with his wife and his only contact with his daughter is by telephone.  Times are hard for Oscar, and he is struggling to pay his ex-wife the required amount of maintenance for his daughter.  Oscar’s flat resembles a bombsite! He is one of the untidiest men you are likely to meet, and the idea of sell-by-dates seems to have been lost on him!

One night Oscar arranges a card game with several of his friends. The evening is going well until the group realise that Felix has not turned up. A phone call from his wife arouses fears that he is in one of his suicidal moods again. The group are concerned for his welfare, but to their relief Felix turns up soon afterwards. Felix has moved out of his family home and is now staying in a seedy hotel. Saddened by the decline of his friend, Oscars offers him a room at his house.  Oscars figures that if his best friend moves into the house, Felix will cook all the meals and he won’t need to go out for food anymore. This way Oscar would save lots of money, and even be able to pay his wife the childcare fees. A good plan, but as we see later on in the movie, things don’t quite work out as well as he hopes!

Odd Couple, The
What we learn as the film progresses is that Felix is a hypochondriac. He is always cleaning the house, and Oscar also notices that he has some unsociable habits which should not be aired in public. Felix likes everything to be spotless, and an example of this is when he disinfects the playing cards before his friends play with them each week. At first Felix finds Oscar’s flat a challenging task to keep clean, but gradually he gets annoyed by his flatmate’s untidy behaviour. Oscar, on the other hand, finds himself getting irritated by Felix’s constant moaning and picky behaviour. Oscar likes his flat the way it is and doesn’t want Felix tidying it every second of the day. The pair find themselves arguing a lot and this is where the fun starts! Ever found yourself living with nightmare lodgers? Well you will relate to some of the scenarios in this film.

When ‘The Odd Couple’ was released it proved to be a huge success. People could relate to the characters and their constant bickering. The movie went on to inspire a TV show and a stage production, which is still apparently playing in America to this day. I think the fact that this film works so well is largely down to the two main actors. Walter Matthau is renowned for playing grumpy characters, but in this movie the role is reversed. He is actually the more cheerful of the two and is constantly joking. The jokes throughout the movie are quite cheeky and sexist, not really what I expected from a 60s movie. I found it quite amusing to see a young Walter Matthau on the screen. Most of his movies that I have seen are recent ones.  Matthau has starred in over eighty movies altogether, and you can see from this film that he was a talented actor from early on in his career. Jack Lemmon is also competent in his role as Felix. You can see straight away in this movie that the pair have a good relationship on screen. They are like chalk and cheese, but the mismatch seems to work. Oscar’s cheeky sense of humour and Felix’s constant moaning produce some classic moments of comedy. The jokes are spread throughout the film so the audience don’t have a chance to grow tired of it. If you are looking for a classic comedy from the past, then I would recommend giving this film a try. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The acting is good, the jokes are free flowing, and there is enough of a storyline to keep you interested for the duration of the movie. They may be an ‘odd couple’, but they certainly know how to entertain!

Odd Couple, The
Paramount have provided a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer of this movie. As with my recent review of ‘The Italian Job’, I was very impressed with the transfer on offer here. Especially as the movie is over thirty years old, the clarity and detail are superb. There may be a little damage to the print (especially early on) but overall I cannot find cause to grumble. Colours seem a little subdued at times, but that probably has more to do with the type of film the movie was shot on. There was no sign of edge enhancement, and artifacting was also non-existent. Paramount have set high standards once again with old releases. This may not quite be up to the standards of ‘The Italian Job’, but it is a pretty remarkable attempt.

The audio aspect of this disc is also quite impressive. Paramount have provided us with a English 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. Unfortunately ‘The Odd Couple’ is not the type of movie to take full advantage of the track. During the movie I could not recall the rear speakers being used apart from occasionally during the musical score. The movie is completely dialogue driven, which means that the front speakers are adequate. The dialogue was clear and crisp throughout. Also provided on the disc are five restored mono soundtracks. They are German, English, Spanish, French and Italian. There are also eleven different languages accounted for with subtitles.

Odd Couple, The
Sadly with this disc all we get is a theatrical trailer. I actually quite enjoyed watching the trailer. It is a typical 60s trailer, but I wish they hadn’t included the irritating theme music. I forgot to mention during the movie section that I found the theme music for this movie extremely annoying. It was played frequently throughout the movie, and in fact I don’t think there was any other backing music used. The trailer is very slow paced, and introduces the two main actors. We are shown a few of the funny moments from the movie, but thankfully not too many. The trailer should wet the audience’s appetite enough so that they will want to see the film. Also watch out for the Paramount logo used in the 60s. Its quite amusing to see how much it has changed over the years.  

My knowledge and experience of movies from the 60s is sadly poor, so I wasn’t expecting too much from this movie. However, my expectations were more than exceeded by ‘The Odd Couple’. First class performances from the leading actors, as well as some funny one liners, mean that this is a movie definitely worth watching. The disc is a strange one to mark though. Impressive visual and audio elements are only let down by a lack of extras. Surely there must be some other material about? However the lack of extras are apparent on the region one version as well, so it was at least expected. Fans of the movie should buy this release if only for the presentation of the movie. If you have never seen it, then I would also recommend it.