Review: Take the Money and Run

Take the Money and Run (1969)
Woody Allen, Janet Margolin, Louise Lasser. Written by Woody Allen and Mickey Rose. Directed by Woody Allen.

Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run is mostly a mockumentary, but don’t analyze it too closely or you find all kinds of things that make it far more like a traditional narrative and not really a mockumentary at all. Unlike This is Spinal Tap, which has an on-camera interviewer and a camera directly addressed by its subjects, this movie has footage where there never would have been a camera, as when our main character Virgil Starkwell attempt to break out of prison with a fake gun made of soap and shoe polish.

Still, the absurdist comedy is fairly enjoyable if you’re the sort to laugh when the voiceover narrator explains that Virgil’s chain gang is fed one meal per day: a bowl of steam. Or when Virgil recounts how he met his wife, a woman whose purse he attempts to snatch, explaining, “After fifteen minutes I wanted to marry her, and after half an hour I completely gave up the idea of stealing her purse.” Honestly, a lot of this feels like the boring parts of Benny Hill or Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

I think this is the tenth Allen film I’ve seen, of the movies he wrote and directed, so there are no surprises here; nor are there any wows. The one revelation for me is Janet Margolin, who plays Virgil’s wife. She’s very, very, very pretty. Also a pretty good actor and quite possibly the best thing about this film. She was also in Annie Hall, which I have seen, but I do not remember her in it. Might have to bump that one up in the queue.

My major gripe is not with the film itself, but the format of the DVD I watched it from. I was under the impression that Allen didn’t want his films viewed in any format he hadn’t intended, which is why Manhattan is the first letterboxed movie I ever saw on TV. The DVD I saw had it in pan-and-scan, something that almost made me eject the disc before it even got started.

Not much to look at here, outside of Margolin.


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