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The Odd Couple

It's been a long time since Jack Lemmon's fussy Felix Ungar first cleaned up after Walter Matthau's messy Oscar Madison on the big screen, but their relationship — and Neil Simon's witty dialogue — is still as funny as ever. It all starts when Felix's wife, the unseen Frances, kick him out because she's fed up with his anal-retentive ways. Oscar, still recovering from a fairly recent divorce himself, feels sorry for his despondent, possibly suicidal friend and takes him on as a roommate, even though he knows Felix could use a little lightening up ("You're the only man in the world with clenched hair," Oscar says to his pal in a typically Simonesque observation). At first, things go well — Felix actually likes cooking and cleaning, so he gets a kick out of straightening up Oscar's filthy bachelor pad. And Oscar enjoys having someone else around. But things go haywire when Felix's compulsive fastidiousness goes overboard, and he starts driving Oscar crazy — he insists on coasters, agonizes over his meatloaf, and, to top it all off, doesn't want to play along with Oscar when the slovenly sportswriter asks two bubble-headed English girls out on a date. The Pigeon sisters — played by Carole Shelley and Monica Evans — are part of a terrific supporting cast here that also includes John Fiedler (the voice of Piglet in Disney's cartoons) and Herb Edelman as two of Oscar and Felix's poker buddies. The reparteé around the card table is one of the best parts of the movie — well, that and when Felix hilariously reduces the Pigeon girls to tears during their dinner date. It should be noted that these days, when most people hear the name "Felix Ungar," they probably think of Tony Randall, who recreated the role so well on the long-running TV series (co-starring Jack Klugman as Oscar). But no one could play the nagging, insecure fuss-budget as well as Lemmon; his chemistry with the late, lamented Matthau is, as always, outstanding, and his Felix has more depth than Randall's ever did. As portrayed by Lemmon, Felix recognizes his faults and honestly wants to be less irritating, but he just can't resist his urges to wipe up muddy footprints or, in one memorable scene, to scrape a plateful of linguine off the kitchen wall. And the movie is the better for it. The Odd Couple stands the test of time as a classic comedy — so well, in fact, that one barely notices the lack of extras on Paramount's DVD. The only features are the theatrical trailer, scene selection, English subtitles, and French dubbing. But since the clear DD 5.1 and the crisp widescreen transfer, from a good source print, make the film seem as fresh as when it was first released in 1967, what else do you really need? Okay, maybe a keep-case. Phew!
—Betsy Bozdech



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