Take the Money and Run
‘Take the Money and Run’ is a mock-documentary about the criminal and somewhat comedic life of Virgil Starkwell (Woody Allen).
Now this program chronicles Virgil's experiences both in and out of prison, and aided by numerous interviews, his life is expanded upon by – his parents – his teacher – his physiatrists – his wife, Margaret (Janet Margolin) – fellow gangsters – and the plethora of police officials whom were involved in his case.
THE BEGINNING: Virgil's story starts with a quick recap of his childhood, explaining the underprivileged life that he had, as well as the contradictory pursuits in which he partook in. For example, Virgil had no acumen for the cello lessons he attended, even though he stole just to partake in this musical hobby.
That’s when Virgil decided to start his life of crime.
THE DECENT: Regrettably, after being jailed for his first failed attempted robbery, Virgil spends over a year in prison, until he is released due to the governor subjecting him to a medical experiment - with Virgil’s permission of course.
The only side effect to this endeavor, however, was that he is transformed into a rabbi for a short while.
THE LOVE: Once free, Virgil starts off where he left off - committing petty crimes on the streets again. Though, due to a chance encounter, Virgil meets and falls in love with a cleaner, Margaret.
Now you would have thought that this was a good thing for him, right? But no - Virgil tries to rob a bank to provider for her - her gets caught - and - BANG! Gets arrested once more.
Thankfully, Margaret goes to meets Virgil in prison, and she tells him that she will wait for him until he is free - whenever that will be.
THE CHASE: Due to Vigil escaping prison by mistake, both he and Margaret go on the run together, with the police in hot pursuit. Not only that though, but Virgil and Margret have a kid during this time too - whilst he meanders his way through a number of menial jobs, before he lands one in an insurance company’s mail-room.
UPS AND DOWNS: Regrettably, Virgil's next few years are a very turbulent time for him, and those around him as well. Hes blackmailed by someone he works with - he stages a robbery, literally - he gets arrested and joins a chain gang - plus, he escapes his confinement and goes to New York City with Margaret in toe.
Oh! Once free, Virgil does what he normally does, and - well - I am sure that you can guess the rest of it by now? Huh? BOING!
'Take the Money and Run' was Woody Allen’s maiden voyage as actor / director / writer, showcasing his sixties talents in the only way he can - a satirical way. Personally speaking, I found that this mockumentary gave Woody the platform that he needed, to comment on - as well as take the pi** out off - a criminal lifestyle that you know was a hoot for him to put down on paper.
Well, some of the scenes in this film are just bordering on the farcical, such as: (1) Trying to rob a bank with a misspelled note. (2) Escaping from a chain gang with chains still tied to both his and his fellow inmate’s legs. (3) Being madly in love whilst taking your time to forget about stealing from your intended. And (4) Explaining away the cello and motherly love, HA!
The delight for me in watching this film, is the sketch like quality in each of the scenes. I am sure that you could pluck any segment out of the whole, and it would stand up well on its own merit. Here, check out my favorite scene from the movie...
Listen, I am not trying to imply that the film is fragmented in anyway, oh no - as it's pace is very smooth due to the documentary style it conveys. Also, the plot (which is a little illogical at times) manages to stay on track, to tell this rise and fall – rise and fall – rise and fall... tale, of a once great comedic criminal.
Moreover, I would like to say something negative about 'Take The Money and Run', just so I can present a more balanced opinion within this review. But I cannot find anything bad to say about this film at all - nothing - except for the facts: (1) One hundred San Quentin prisoner's were paid a nominal fee to star in the prison sequences. (2) The reason why Woody directed this film in the first place, is because of the turbulent time he had working on the first film we wrote - 'Casino Royal' with Peter Sellers. Plus, he did ask Jerry Lewis to direct it - but he had other work commitments he had to tend to. (3) This film was drastically re-edited once completed. Originally Virgil violently died at the end [which had to be cut out] and the overall plot re-tightened [for pace]. All thanks to editor, Ralph Rosenblum. (4) This film is deemed the first 'mockumentary', as well as the first film that Woody writes, stars, and directs. And (5) There are a couple of nerdish facts in this film as well. For example - the name of the phychiatrist, Dr Julius Epstein, was probably a homage to the writer of 'Casablanca' - the 'soap gun' scene is a wink at John Dillingers famous Jail-Break - and the bread in which a camera is concealed in is Jewish in origin, and called a 'Challah'.