Reviewed by Colin Jacobson
MGM's recent boxed set of Woody Allen films nicely summed up most of his
early directorial work, as it encompassed films released from 1971 to 1980.
However, the package didn't completely cover his "formative" years as a few
of the pictures he directed weren't offered. Allen's first film at the
helm, 1966's What's Up, Tiger Lily? is nowhere to be found on DVD,
but his second, 1969's Take the Money and Run is out from Anchor Bay.
Since I'd seen so much of his other material, I decided to complete my run
and check out this oldie as well.
Take the Money and Run fits in very neatly with Allen's other work of
the era. For those accustomed to his later, more introspective films such
as 1977's Annie Hall or 1979's Manhattan, prepare yourself for a mild shock. TTMAR, as with
other early-Seventies pieces such as 1971's Bananas and 1973's Sleeper, goes for much more of a slapstick vibe and offers quite
As with those movies, I thought TTMAR was a very hit or miss affair.
The film presents a faux documentary about Virgil Starkwell (Allen), a
not-too-competent crook. It uses interviews and other techniques to tell
the tale of his life of crime. Of course, it doesn't stick purely to the
documentary format, since many scenes shows actions that couldn't have been
recorded on film, but it uses the style to its comedic advantage.
Because of the format, TTMAR doesn't have a real plot, but none of
his other films of the era did either. At the time, Allen's pictures were
essentially cobbled-together sketches; a vaguely unifying thread attached
them but no true storyline existed. Nonetheless, TTMAR holds
together reasonably well and provides an intermittently entertaining
When Allen strikes his target, the results could be quite amusing; the
extended discussion of his handwriting on a stick-up note provides some
surreal entertainment, and plenty of other minor bits work nicely as well.
The worst part about Allen's "sketch" comedies is that they can become
tedious quickly. The lack of a storyline can make the movies progress at a
slow pace, or at least one that feels that way; without a coherent idea of
where the film is going, the tale can seem tedious.
TTMAR suffers slightly from Allen's choice of leading lady. As
Virgil's wife Louise, Janet Margolin looks lovely but provides little comic
spark. She seems drab and lifeless in the role and does nothing with it.
Since the film contains no major roles other than Virgil and Louise, this
creates a small void at the top.
Nonetheless, I think Take the Money and Run works better than some of
his other films of the era. I definitely prefer it to Sleeper and
1972's Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex,
and it's a little better than Bananas, but I don't think it compares
to more intelligent material like Annie Hall or 1975's Love and Death. TTMAR isn't a great piece of work, but it's a
generally fun comedy that largely achieves its goals.