Woody Allen's feature-film debut, Take the Money and Run, a mockumentary that combines sight gags, sketchlike scenes, and standup jokes at rat-a-tat speed, looks positively primitive compared to his mature work. Primitive,... more » but awfully funny. Allen plays Virgil Starkwell, a music-loving nebbish who turns to a life of crime at an early age and, undaunted by his utter and complete failure to pull off a single successful robbery, continues his unbroken spree of bungled heists and prison breaks even after he marries and raises a family. Narrator Jackson Beck, whose stentorian voice of authority makes a perfect foil for Starkwell's absurd exploits, lobs one droll quip after another with deadpan seriousness. Though spotty, Allen tosses so many jokes into the mix that it hardly matters and when they hit they are often hilarious: the chain gang posing as cousins to their old-woman hostage ("We're very close," Virgil explains to a dim cop), arguing with a dotty movie director who is supposed to be their cover for a bank robbery, Virgil's escape attempt with a bar of soap. Allen spoofs decades of crime films, everything from I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang to Bonnie and Clyde, but you don't have to know the movies to enjoy this goofy, sometimes clumsy, but quite clever comedy. --Sean Axmaker« less
Jeffrey Ellis | Richardson, Texas United States | 01/29/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Though I usually enjoy Woody Allen's more recent work, I'm one of many filmgoers whose heart still belongs to his earlier, anything-for-a-laugh, anarchistic comedies like Bananans, Sleeper, and this one. Take the Money And Run was Woody Allen's first real film to direct himself and it remains one of his funniest. Disguised as a documentary, this 1969 film tells the hilarious story of Virgil Starkweather, the world's most inept (if stupidly optomistic) thief. Like most of Woody Allen's early films, everything is played almost solely for the laughs it might provide and nearly forty years later, it all holds up very well. Lots of hilarious stuff in here (at times, this film is the funniest Mel Brooks film that Mel Brooks never made) but my personal favorite bits would have to include: Virgil's parents who disguise their indentities by wearing Groucho Marx glasses but will be familiar to anyone whose seen any of Allen's films, Virgil's attempt to rob a bank is foiled when none of the clerks can read his bad handwriting, another robbery goes wrong when a rival gang decides to rob the same bank at the same time, Virgil's attempt to escape from prison by making a fake gun out of soap is ruined when it starts to rain, the sight of Woody Allen on a southern chain gang (and being punished by being locked in the hole with an insurance salesman), and especially the scene where a man Virgil attempts to mug turns out to be not only a childhood school friend but an undercover cop as well. Directing with a wild-anything-goes-spirit, Woody Allen gives one of his first (and best) "born loser" performances as Virgil. Amongst all the madness, the film also presents a bizarrely sweet love story between Virgil and his wife, who is well-played by the lovely (and the sadly no longer with us) Janet Margolin. Always underappreciated, Margolin was one of those forgotten, at times almost painfully vulnerable actresses that one can't help but fall in love with everytime she appears on screen. Though overshadowed by the later Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow, Janet Margolin was Woody Allen's first unlikely love interest (in both film and briefly real life) and they have a strong chemistry together that adds much heart to a wild film. Take the Money and Run remains hilarious and will be enjoyed by both fans of Woody Allen and classic film comedy."
Comedy without errors
Holy Olio | Grand Rapids, MI USA | 06/15/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is the best of Woody Allen's strictly-for-laughs movies. The interview segments which he uses for both comedic and dramatic purposes in many of his films are probably the most fun here, particularly his "parents" who wear disguises. The gags are much better than in his "Bananas" and the more than slightly silly plot doesn't bog down as in his "Sleeper". There are no big moral soapboxes, this movie is just funny."
DVD Quality: Great picture, crummy sound
David Taber, SalesLogistix CEO | CA United States | 07/16/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a review of the Take the Money and Run -- not the movie, but the DVD itself. The movie is a classic comedy that is appropriate for kids of 10 and over, as well as adults. If you've never seen it, the humor is a riot even though it's over 30 years old. The DVD was just released and is a brilliant example of film restoration. The color is perfect, the grain is almost invisible, and you couldn't hope for a better print. The two-sided disk has TV-format on one side andletterbox on the other, but as the film was originally shot for TV the images are nearly identical. There are a couple of extra items that you can access after the end of the film, but they're typical stuff.The sound, however, leaves a lot to be desired. It's essentially mono, which is what you'd expect for a late-60's TV movie, but there are long intervals of noticeable hum. If you have a high-quality audio system, the 60-Hz hum sections are really annoying. In addition, there are a couple of key scenes where the voices have been so severely filtered that they sound quite unnatural. In a bizarre twist, the defects are more noticeable on better speakers...and almost imperceptable on a cheap TV speaker. So, listen to this one on your crummiest TV and you won't feel compelled to write reviews like this one!"
Smart, crazy, consistently hilarious
David Taber, SalesLogistix CEO | 03/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is early Woody Allen at his hilarious best. He proves here that, when he wants to, he can go purely for laughs and score big. There are countless verbal and physical gags in this film and they're all brilliant. Beneath all the glorious bits, however, is a sweet love story--not so sweet that it obscures the comedy, however. This movie has ideas so fresh and funny, they'll stay with you forever. I know I'll never forget the first time I saw that gorilla chasing Woody out of a pet shop."
BEST WOODY ALLEN MOVIE OF ALL TIME WITH STILL BEST LEADING L
C. Scanlon | among us humans | 08/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Compare this film to any other Woody Allen movie and you will see why it is the best and most solid work he ever did.
His leading lady is also the sweetest, most beautiful, noble while still just a bit not-all-there ethereal beauty he ever starred with, and then she disappeared into the Sixties haze.
THe gags are great, although through getting frequently stolen now fall flat in some cases. For instance when this was made having an escaping chain gang member respond to Woody's "You're crazy!" (of course later in his pretentious later movies he would have said You're insane) it was out of left field for the low life con to reply "That's right! I'm a paranoid schizophrenic, but we're still going to escape!" as the terminology was unknown to almost everyone back then. Also the reference to a high speed digital computer. Now it is not unusual for his aunt to have one, and the reference to What's my line? is lost now. Still this is the all time greatest Allen film, with the roots of later explorations.
Never has he achieved this level of parody again, rather he now makes homages to other styles (as Curse of the Jade SCorpion mimics rather than mocks screwball comedies of sixty years ago.)
Get it. It is the best we will see. Like listening to Bob Dylan while he was still awake and intelligent and not worn out by too much road and stuff. "