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Woody Allen's first film as writer, director and star is a documentary style pseudo-biographical
farce about Virgil Starkwell, one of the screen's most hopeless would-be thieves. Partly narrated (by
Jason Beck) Take The Money And Run is a likeable spoof of crime drama and prison breakout
thriller, and mimics romantic tragedy really well.
Virgil tries to play cello in a marching band but carrying his chair slows him down. He attempts robbery armed with a cigarette lighter. After his first spell in prison he struggles to get and find a purpose in life, until he meets the beautiful Louise (Janet Margolin). However, marriage and fatherhood don't cure Virgil of his criminal tendencies, or natural ineptitude. Soon, he's the FBI's gangster of the year. Capture during a bank heist, where Allen's men are disguised as a film crew, leads to hard labour on a chain gang. When six men escape, shackled together, on five bicycles - guess who has to jog alongside?
The Jewish gags are mostly at the expense of the bungling Virgil's anonymous parents, interviewed wearing Groucho Marx masks, while the film's overall tone of humour is deadpan, and there's a definite emphasis on quantity of jokes rather than quality. One of the best recurring gags concerns the actor's trademark geek spectacles. Young street bullies take these from Virgil to stamp on them. Later, a trial judge does the same thing. Eventually, Virgil adopts the submissive defence of smashing them himself whenever confronting authority.
This is vintage Allen rather than classic comedy - but the sheer volume of both visual and scripted material makes this worth a few laughs, however many times you've already seen it.
DVD extras: on screen texts include production notes, star biography, career trivia, quotes by Allen and others about him, slide show (full-screen) with sound from the film.
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