Movies · Reviews

A Frustrated Jack Lemmon Headlines a Triple Feature of Laughs

Jack Lemmon’s fidgety need for control has never been better than it is in this Neil Simon comedy masterpiece.
The Out Of Towners
By  · Published on May 29th, 2022

Imprint Films is a sub-label from Australia’s ViaVision, and they release finely curated Blu-rays of beloved films from decades past. Their latest releases include The Out-of-Towners and The Odd Couple box-set.

The Out-of-Towners

George (Jack Lemmon) and Gwen (Sandy Dennis) are celebrating. He has a sure-thing interview in New York City almost guaranteeing him a promotion, so the couple leaves small-town Ohio behind and flies into the Big Apple the night before. Weather strikes forcing the plane to land in Boston, and almost immediately everything that can go wrong does — in spectacular fashion. Their luggage is lost, a train ride to NYC gets them in past their hotel reservation’s hold time, the city’s ongoing sanitation strike has the streets in chaos, and they’re robbed. Twice. How badly do they want this promotion?

Everyone has their favorite Neil Simon play/film, and for me The Out-of-Towners lands a close second behind Seems Like Old Times (1980) — another film still awaiting a Blu-ray release, [cough cough] eh, Imprint Films? — in being near perfection. It’s one of the great “single night” movies, up there with Martin Scorsese’s After Hours (1985) in its non-stop display of ingeniously crafted twists of fate that leave its protagonists frustrated and audiences laughing.

The film was remade in 1999 with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn, but even that talented pair can’t match what Lemmon and Dennis deliver in Arthur Hiller’s original. The chemistry between them is stellar whether they’re bantering, yelling, or simply offering up telling expressions. Lemmon’s tightly wound performance would be shtick in lesser hands, but here it’s a masterclass — if you’re not laughing every time he takes down another person’s name to report them then I don’t know what to tell you. The Out-of-Towners is just comedy gold all around, and while this is a light Blu-ray release it’s still a must-own for fans.

Imprint’s new Blu-ray of The Out-Of-Towners features an HD presentation directly from Paramount Pictures, and while it’s a decidedly unimpressive print it’ll have to do for now. Age and imperfections abound with the picture meaning it looks closer to what you’d expect from an older DVD release. Bottom line, it’s fine, but here’s hoping someone has plans for a proper restoration. (Hint hint, Paramount Presents…) The disc also includes the following extras.

The Odd Couple

The Odd Couple CollectionFelix (Jack Lemmon) is done with life. To be fair, it’s his wife who’s done with him, but after wandering the streets with suicide on his mind he instead ends up at his good friend Oscar’s (Walter Matthau) apartment. Oscar lets the dejected man move in on a temporary basis, but it’s clear almost immediately that these two personalities are not destined to mix. Felix is a fussy neat-freak, Oscar is a grouchy slob, and the two can’t help but clash despite the expansive size of both the apartment and the city itself.

Some have referred to The Odd Couple as one of the greatest American comedies ever made, and it’s hard to dispute that. The pairing of Lemmon and Matthau is almost always a home run, and this classic showcases their magical chemistry in every scene. Both characters are initially trouble by design leaving viewers laughing along with their awfulness, but both pull the audience in by growing and becoming better people — and they have each other to thank for it. It’s a fantastic dynamic highlighting both actors’ comedic and emotive skills, and it’s easy to see why the premise made a smooth transition to television.

Imprint’s new box-set is their usual slick affair and holds three separate cases for this film, the sequel, and the TV episodes. This Blu-ray uses a recent master from Paramount, and it looks quite good. Sharp blacks, strong colors, and just enough fuzz to retain the film’s original look make for a great presentation. The disc includes a trailer, a photo gallery, and the following extras.

The Odd Couple II

It’s been thirty years, and both Felix and Oscar have gone their separate ways to lead their separate lives. The pair reunite, though, when news comes that their kids are getting married — to each other — meaning these two cantankerous old friends (enemies?) are once again forced to get along. A series of unfortunate events leaves the two jammed together in a rental car for the long haul drive to Florida. What could possibly go wrong?

Legacy sequels are always a risky endeavor — have tastes changed? should they follow the same shtick or try something new? are the talents still up to the challenge? — and The Odd Couple II is a mixed bag as a result. There’s no denying that both Lemmon and Matthau are still masters of the comedy game, but the material they’re working with here isn’t really up to their level despite the return of Neil Simon behind the typewriter. There are some laughs here and there as their road trip takes some unexpected turns, and the supporting cast (including Jean Smart and Christine Baranski) is solid too. Too many of the beats feel slight and artificial, though, leaving the eventual laughs sounding equally hollow. Meh, it’s fine.

The disc includes the trailer, a photo gallery, and the following extras.

The Odd Couple on Television: Classic Episodes

The third Blu-ray included in The Odd Couple Collection box set is a curated set of ten episodes from the television series. There’s probably some method to their inclusion here, most likely the taste of the Imprint folks overseeing the release, but they work as a solid sampling across all five seasons. Both Tony Randall and Jack Klugman are well suited as Felix and Oscar, respectively, but neither compares to the OGs.

The disc includes promos, a photo gallery, and the following extras.

The region-free release of The Out-of-Towners and the box-set of The Odd Couple can be ordered directly from Imprint Films or from Diabolik DVD.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.