Neil Simon's classic stage comedy made an effortless transition to the big screen in 1967, when The Odd Couple
provided Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau with a tailor-made mid-career affirmation of their status as two of cinema's greatest funny men. Lemmon is Felix, manically obsessed with cleanliness and housekeeping, struggling to understand why his wife wants a divorce. Matthau is Oscar, his slovenly poker-playing buddy who invites him to take the spare room and lives to regret it as they rapidly and comically come to grief like an old, totally incompatible, married couple, revealing exactly why their respective wives have had enough. "I don't think two single men living alone in a big eight-room apartment should have a cleaner house than my mother", Matthau wails, trying to make sense of the disintegrating situation.
The pair devour Simon's typically sharp and witty script in a frenzy of classic one-liners that allow Lemmon's trademark twitchy neurosis and Matthau's baleful cussedness to flourish. Great as they are, though, they are nearly eclipsed in the funniest scene of the film by Monica Evans and Carole Shelly as a couple of British expatriate sisters from the apartment upstairs. Carry On innuendo briefly meets Manhattan repartee and the screen crackles with brilliance. It's a comic masterclass.
On the DVD: The Odd Couple on disc has no extras apart from the original cinema trailer, but the film, presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, with Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, is pristine, Neal Hefti's score providing that instantly identifiable flavour of sophisticated 1960s American comedy. --Piers Ford