"I was so touched by her that, I don't know, after fifteen minutes I wanted to marry her... and after a half hour I completely gave up the idea of snatching her purse."
- Virgil Starkwell (Woody Allen) about Louise (Janet Margolin)
"That looks like 'gub'--it doesn't look like 'gun.'"
- Bank Teller reading Virgil's holdup note
Although it followed his WHAT'S UP TIGER LILY (which was mostly just a humorous redubbing of a Japanese spy film), TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN was truly Woody Allen's directorial debut. After spending years writing gags for television comedies and as a stand-up comedian, Allen began to appear in films in the mid-1960s. He developed some frustration with the way his writing was being used and decided to make films himself, with the result being TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN. Allen plays Virgil Starkwell, the world's most inept thief, as an early version of the nebbish, neurotic persona he would later perfect. The film combines two formal styles; in part it is played as a documentary about Virgil's life and his turn to crime, with a voice-over narration and interviews, but many of the scenes are shot like a standard fiction-comedy feature.
Although in light of Allen's later work the film may appear a bit crude, many of the elements of his filmmaking and comic style are evident in it. In common with his other early works (such as BANANAS and SLEEPER) the plotting is very loose, as the narrative exists mostly as a skeleton on which to hang a series of gags and jokes. The influence of fellow Jewish comedians the Marx Brothers is fully evident in that structuring principle (Allen even goes as far as to have a scene where Virgil's parents disguise themselves in interview with false Groucho glasses), as well as in the combination of verbal quips with slapstick visual gags (such as Allen attempting to play the cello in a marching band). Although TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN seems a bit simplistic, it still retains its comedic effect and offers an early view of Woody Allen's later filmmaking style.
Woody Allen casts himself as a desperate criminal one step ahead of the law in this riotous comedy full of slapstick silliness. Allen's directorial debut is a terribly funny mockumentary about a crook who tries and tries to pull off heists and robberies but never to any avail because of his incredible incompetence and stupidity, which leads to his downfall every time, including using a fake gun made of soap--and getting caught in the rain.
Essential Cinema |
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Theatrical Release |
Theatrical release: August 18, 1969.
Filmed on location in San Francisco and San Quentin, California.
The opening narration (Jackson Beck) states that Virgil Starkwell was born on December 1, 1935--the same day that Woody Allen was born.
Narrator Jackson Beck was the voice of many Paramount Newsreels; his voice can also be heard in RADIO DAYS.
Estimated budget: $1.6 million. The film came in under budget and ahead of schedule.
The film was shot using a single-truck mobile studio that had been built for I SPY by Fouad Said, who is credited with the locations for TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN.
The film marked Allen's directorial debut; he said, "I am operating on the principle that the less you know about directing, the better off you are."
The actual documentary footage used in the film includes shots of Kaiser Wilhelm, Richard Nixon, and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Don Frazier, who appears here as the psychiatrist, Dr. Julius Epstein, appeared in BANANAS as the priest hawking cigarettes in the fake commercial.
Virgil's temporary transformation into a rabbi is mimicked in ANNIE HALL, when Annie's grandmother pictures Alvy as an orthodox Jew.
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