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"Take the Money and Run" is an absolutely hilarious Woody Allen film,
done in a quasi-documentary style, about a career criminal, Virgil
Starkwell, who has a very unsuccessful career. His prison breaks don't
go as planned, his robberies are a disaster and usually coincide with
someone else's robbery of the same place, and his planning of a job
would be fine if only he weren't talking to an associate in a
restaurant while the police are in the booth behind him. One nice perk
of failure: while attempting to rob a young woman's purse, he falls in
love with her (Janet Margolin). Virgil does admit at one point thinking
of foregoing robbery and taking up a career in singing. He doesn't
mention the cello, which gave him his start in music - and crime.
This is one of those laugh out loud even when you're alone movies of which there are all too few. But this is one. Over a tough, FBI-type narration, we watch Virgil's futile attempts at making money through crime, see his parents (disguised) interviewed, as well as his wife and the various police and investigators he meets along the way.
It's amazing to look at this film and then look at "Match Point" done 35 years later and see the evolution of this brilliant man. Woody Allen is capable of rock-solid comedy as well as provocative movie-making. Although he's had a few blips along the way, one wonders what he'll think of next.
TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN is Mel Brooks-like in structure and gags, but
definitely Woody Allen at his comical best. Its not his greatest picture
any means, but perhaps the best of his early slapstick flicks (SLEEPER,
BANANAS). "Virgil Starkwell" has a hard time stealing right from the
When a criminal gets a gumball machine "stuck to his hand", you know he's
in the wrong gig. Woody Allen is right at home with this innocent,
documentary-style drip on the unintentional hilarity of 60's crime
documentaries. Woody, or "Virgil", seems to be playing Woody as usual,
something we all know runs through his entire body of work. This movie is
very much like his innovative ZELIG of 1983, a black and white docu-spoof
about a fictional chameleon.
Jackson Beck's narration is PERFECT in making the outrageous material seem "serious". It no doubt inspired the short spoofs "Saturday Night Live" would go on to produce for years, investigative reporting seemingly important, yet ridiculous in content. "Virgil's" parents are in disguise (Groucho Marx nose and glasses) whenever they are "interviewed". The chain gang escape is one of the funniest sequences I have ever seen. Woody also moves into romantic territory with the beautiful Janet Margolin, who had a nice, fat purse for "Virgil" to steal, but also has a quick reaction to his inept robbery attempt and, of course, they fall in love. She is there for "Virgil" to live for during his always brief prison stays and to pick out his clothes for a robbery. There are some familiar elements here, most obviously the beautiful young girl falling for a middle-aged homely Woody.
TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN is all about raw comedic filmmaking and mockery. It is not a situational film at all, just a bunch of perfectly cohesive episodes of this perfectly moronic bank robber, who spells gun G-U-B. Wouldn't that throw us all off if we were the bank tellers taking a note during a stick up ?
For those of you who think that all Woody Allen's movies are vapid
stories of neurotic rich New Yorkers, you need to see his early movies.
"Take the Money and Run" is a good example. Allen plays Virgil
Starkwell, an inept criminal. No matter what sort of crime he tries to
pull off, something always goes wrong. Probably the funniest scene is
when he tries to escape from jail like John Dillinger did. Other scenes
include the time when the authorities use him in an experiment, with a
Anyway, Woody Allen's old movies were really funny. The thing was that he created a bunch of outlandish premises and infused his New York Jewish humor. This is what comedy is all about!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is Woody's first "real" movie and it's pretty good. Surprisingly so,
in fact, when you consider the he began as a stand-up comic dealing out yoks
that were by necessity strictly verbal. Some of the yoks here work -- "He
told me was a gynecologist but he didn't speak no foreign languages" -- and
some don't -- "The prisoners were served one hot meal a day, a bowl of
steam." But the visual gags and Allen's physical performance more than make
up for the jokes that flop. In fact the first joke in the movie is visual,
and imaginative: Allen plays a cello in a marching band. Still, it's a
first feature, and it shows. The camera is shakey and the photography not
always first rate. He was to improve with practice. Here he has a scene in
which he is having a private argument with his wife in the bedroom, but he's
shackled to half a dozen escaped prisoners, who laugh at his entreaties and
make wisecracks during the conversation. A similar scene in "Love and
Death," with a promiscuous Diane Keaton holding the hand of her husband on
his deathbed. The husband says something like, "I know you're pure and
you've been faithful to me." The attending priests and doctors begin
puffing and humming while trying to stifle their laughter. It isn't that
the later scene is necessarily funnier, it simply takes it for granted that
the audience can get in on the joke without being prompted.
There are several discernible sources for the story. The most obvious is "I Was a Fugitive From a Chain Gang." Some of the scenes -- the breaking of ankle shackles with a heavy sledge hammer -- are repeated and played for laughs. I can't be sure that "Cool Hand Luke," which was released the year before, is an influence but it certainly seems so. There may be something of "Bonnie and Clyde" in it too.
Woody hasn't got the great all-star cast that he was to assemble for his post-"Annie Hall" efforts, but what he has is pretty neat. The snarling James Anderson stands out as the Chain Gang Warden, in the Strother Martin role. What a face! Howard Storm as the hold-up victim/arresting officer is a familiar face and a welcome voice. Marcel Hilaire may not actually BE Fritz Lang but he ought to be! But aside from Allen, the most important role is that of Janet Margolin as his wife, Louise. Her talent as an actress was modest, although she could sometimes outdo herself, as, for instance, the sympathetic closet Jew in "Morituri," a dramatic part. Here she's no more than adequate, but she is so attractive that it hardly matters, and the role hardly calls for thespian fireworks. She was 26 when this was released. She was always pleasant, a strange, wistful combination of vulnerability and sex appeal, and some suggestion emanated from her performances that suggested she was that way offscreen as well. Her career and her life ended with a bad death at a relatively early age. Marvin Hamlisch's score is apt and easy to listen to.
It's an amusing debut for Woody. You'll laugh out loud at it, unless you're a real sourpuss.
In an age of tee hee funny blockbuster comedies, this is a FUNNY knee- slapping side-splitting tear-producing pause-the-DVD-so-as-to-not-miss-a-line-movie. Hollywood just does not make movies like this. It's a love story between a crook and a beautiful woman. No, it's the story of a little red headed kid who went on to pull off the worst bank heist ever. No, it's the story of a cons escape from prison. It's all of these. Only Woody could have had Virgil fall madly in love with Louise, want to spend the rest of his life with her, then only later on, decide he doesn't want to steal her purse. Classic. Only Woody would have his bank robber pull off a bank job with a mis-spelled note then have him escape from a chain gang on foot running beside men on bikes. Fantastic movie and fun for all. Prepare to laugh.
Very early Woody Allen winner has the all-time lovable loser trying to make ends meet with girlfriend and future wife Janet Margolin. Allen, obviously pretty unskilled in most everything, decides that he can do just what the title of the film says and achieve true happiness with his one true love. Documentary-styled footage makes the picture unfold in a quietly uproarious way as Allen uses corny techniques used by most news organizations to tell a story that would have looked very odd without his insight being involved. Allen's films only work because he makes them work usually and that is definitely the case with "Take the Money and Run". Once again he shows unlimited potential and would use this movie, more than any other, as a spring-board for much future success in the 1970s, 1980s and beyond. 4 stars out of 5.
Take the Money and Run (1969) was Woody Allen's motion picture debut
(sans 'Tiger Lily). The film follows the life of a criminal loser, shot
in a faux documentary style. Allen used the most out of his small
budget and made an amusing film. This was the beginning of his
slapstick/farce phase that would last until the early 70's. An
interesting start for one of America's most unique film-makers of that
era. The script by Mickey Rose and Woody Allen is deeply engraved with
screwball humor from their childhood icons such as the Marx Brothers
and Charles Chaplin. This film showed the promise of a brilliant
director who would become a major player in Hollywood in the years to
come. Highly recommended.
This is the first truly "Woody Allen" movie--directed and starring Allen himself. He had previously lent his, at the time, good name to some horrible projects such as CASINO ROYALE, WHAT'S UP TIGER LILY? and WHAT'S NEW PUSSYCAT? While I will be one of the first ones to say that many of the jokes fall flat, the ones that do are so funny and unusual that it's easy to forgive the movie's many short-comings. One of the stupidest and funniest parts of the film was how it was done semi-documentary-style and this parents appeared with "Groucho Glasses" (with fake nose, mustache, etc. And, when mom says "he was a good boy" and dad interrupts by saying he was "always bad--I knew he'd never amount to anything" it was a riot and was so much the opposite of what you'd expect to see in such a documentary. Other great moments include his becoming, temporarily, a Hessidic rabbi, the escaped chain gang sequence and the abortive bank robbery. Rarely have I laughed so hard--it's so funny and it's a shame this spark of raw humor was so seldom evident in his later films.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Years before THIS IS SPINAL TAP, Woody Allen exploded into movie theatres with his outright, groundbreaking, zany mockumentary TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN which in its brief run presented the story of one hapless Virgil Starkwell, one of Allen's many anti-heroes, who entered into a life of crime but even then was considered inept to the nth level. In one of the movie's most hilarious moments (which itself is a nod to the type of cerebral Surrealism and cinema of the absurd which Bunuel championed), Starkwell tries to rob a bank in the most polite of ways, but none of the clerks can make up their minds if the word he's written is "gub" or "gum". (It's actually "gun.") They do, however, stage a contest in which people may vote for whom they prefer rob this bank. Woody Allen was asked by his producers to change the ending for TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN because it was deemed too bloody (it was, in fact, purportedly close to that of BONNIE AND CLYDE); hence, the ending that survives today. As a whole the movie is a classic of Allen's early wacky comedy and features Janet Margolin as Starkwell's wife and then-partner Louise Lasser in a small role.
Woody Allen hit gold with his second film, "Take the Money and Run", which
is a basic film that works on so many levels and is memorable strictly for
its charm and good wit.
The story follows Allen's Virgil Starkwell, whose life is told in documentary fashion. We learn he had a strange childhood and turned to crime to fulfill his needs. We learn of his romance and sympathize with him as we engage in prison escapes and witness him put in a chain gang. The documentary style might prove to be a "gimmick" of sorts, but it works because had the story been told any other way it simply would not have worked.
Also, "Take the Money" is an early token of what's to come and what the general audience will expect of Allen; smooth drama balanced by fast, witty monologues and lots of self-humiliation. To see this is to witness the early work of the director who ultimately brought us "Bananas", "Sleeper", "Manhattan", and the Oscar-winning "Annie Hall". And if anything, just track it for its over-the-top humor, not as in-your-face funny as "Sleeper" or as sexually hilarious as "Annie Hall", but it's warm and withdrawn, balanced all together by a very good ending (always one of the weaker parts in almost all of Allen's films).
Highly recommended! ***+ (8.5/10)
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