Woody Allen is Virgil Starkwell in TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN, directed by Allen for Cinerama Releasing Corporation.

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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