Tag Archives: Janet Margolin

Take the Money and Run (1969, Woody Allen)

Take the Money and Run kind of dangles on a line. It’s occasionally a screwball comedy–something the Marx Brothers would have done–and alternately a thought-out spoof of documentaries. The breeze moves the film’s direction and it’s hard to know where it’ll go next. Allen has a significant problem with the film’s structure, however, with the documentary makers never a part of the film. It’s never clear why they’re making a documentary about Allen’s incompetent criminal. As far as the film’s pacing goes, this oversight doesn’t have much negative effect. Take the Money and Run moves fairly well, only getting tedious in some of the longer scenes. Where it goes wrong is with the interviews. The people who are interviewed, the school teachers, the parents, the psychiatrists, don’t have a logical order. The clips are assembled for humorous effect. If a scene isn’t ending on a particularly funny note, in comes the interview clip with the punch line.

Allen’s fantastic as the lead, easily transitioning between the voiceover interview (he doesn’t appear on screen, as an interviewee, until the last shot, which doesn’t make any sense), the narrated segments (it’s a brilliant idea for a first film, especially a low budget one, because lots of it is just Allen walking around) and the actual acting scenes. His deliveries are all excellent and there’s a lot of physical humor in the film, smart physical humor, which benefits a great deal from his direction.

The film is alternately manic and placid. The narrated sequences can be as benign as Allen walking down a street or as excited as him robbing a bank. The humor’s quiet–for the most part–in both approaches. There are rarely any loud jokes and many expect the viewer to be paying attention–the one with the pants, for instance, isn’t funny unless the viewer is aware of how he or she was watching the scene.

The shot framing does not work for the documentary approach–I’m not sure why I’m harping so much on Take the Money and Run being a documentary spoof, except maybe the lack of direction and the reliance on narration–but Allen’s camera moves rather well. Or, more accurately, Allen knows how to move people in front of his camera. The editing is occasionally jumpy (and not in a way to lend itself to the concept), but it’s a decently made film. Marvin Hamlisch’s score does occasionally get to be a little much.

The supporting cast is mostly Janet Margolin. She does a good job, but her role isn’t particularly difficult. She’s just got to be too good for Allen and constantly show it.

Take the Money and Run, pardon the expression, runs out of steam towards the end, when it becomes one sketch after another. The sketches aren’t particular to the film, they’d work just as well on a variety show, and Allen can’t quite come up with a cohesive gesture. It’s a fine first film, though, but its execution is its greatest success.

However, the Cool Hand Luke spoof is hilarious.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Woody Allen; written by Allen and Mickey Rose; director of photography, Lester Shorr; edited by Paul Jordan and Ron Kalish; music by Marvin Hamlisch; produced by Charles H. Joffe and Jack Rollins; released by Cinerama Releasing Corporation.

Starring Woody Allen (Virgil Starkwell), Janet Margolin (Louise), Marcel Hillaire (Fritz), Jacquelyn Hyde (Miss Blair), Lonny Chapman (Jake), Jan Merlin (Al), James Anderson (Chain Gang Warden), Howard Storm (Fred), Mark Gordon (Vince), Micil Murphy (Frank), Minnow Moskowitz (Joe Agneta), Nate Jacobson (The Judge), Grace Bauer (Farm House Lady), Ethel Sokolow (Mother Starkwell), Dan Frazer (The Psychiatrist), Henry Leff (Father Starkwell) and Mike O’Dowd (Michael Sullivan); narrated by Jackson Beck.


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Last Embrace (1979, Jonathan Demme)

Last Embrace goes a long way in showing what’s wrong with Hitchcock homages. Most of Last Embrace isn’t even a real Hitchcock homage–it’s a Niagara homage and Niagara was Henry Hathaway–but Embrace is supposed to be Hitchcock, down to Miklos Rozsa’s score (but he never did any Hitchcock). So it’s kind of a second-hand Hitchcock homage, a homage to Hitchcock homages, only without being funny about it. Last Embrace shows why location shooting and accurate film stock (versus Technicolor) miss the majority of the point to the Hitchcock film. Oh, geez, I just remembered the last two references (I forgot the earlier ones, because the Niagara realization threw me). Psycho and Suspicion.

The problem with the bad Hitchcock homage is Demme, but the problem with the film overall is the screenplay. The film’s missing its denouement, sure, but it fails to tell its two stories–one, of a secret agent who has a breakdown and, two, of a man who’s on a mysterious hit list for something he doesn’t know he did. Last Embrace is from a novel and I’m sure the novel went deeper in to some of the particulars, but for the film to ignore the first plot once the second one takes over (much more entertaining, thanks to a wonderful Sam Levene). It’s a pointless ninety-seven minutes and not even an amusing experience.

Some of the acting is fantastic. Since Roy Scheider doesn’t have much to do–and he’s Cary Grant from Suspicion for the last fifteen minutes–his performance is best in pieces. Demme shoots New York beautifully and Scheider works great in New York, so it works out more often than not. Like I said above, Levene is a wonderful presence in the film and it’s impossible to imagine it without him. Janet Margolin, who I remember from nothing, is absolutely fantastic in the film. She really holds it together until Levene shows up. John Glover is–strangely–bad and annoying as an annoying professor, which is too bad.

The film runs ninety-seven minutes, but I doubt there’s a superior hundred and ten minute version out there. Demme tries to go for style above substance (or story) and when the best thing about your style is transitional shots of New York City… well, the movie’s in definite trouble. But most of the fault–there not being a main character, just someone who has different reactions to different people and different situations–falls on the script (and seeing screenwriter Shaber’s credits, Last Embrace is a singular achievement).

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Jonathan Demme; screenplay by David Shaber, based on a novel by Murray Teigh Bloom; director of photography, Tak Fujimoto; edited by Barry Malkin; music by Miklos Rosza; produced by Michael Taylor and Dan Wigutow; released by United Artists.

Starring Roy Scheider (Harry Hannan), Janet Margolin (Ellie Fabian), John Glover (Richard Peabody), Sam Levene (Sam Urdell), Charles Napier (Dave Quittle), Christopher Walken (Eckart), Jacqueline Brookes (Dr. Coopersmith), David Margulies (Rabbi Josh Drexel), Andrew Duncan (Bernie Meckler) and Marcia Rodd (Adrian).


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