Take the Money & Run, Woody’s second directorial venture, was witty, funny in parts and nutty, albeit tad unpolished and inconsistent – facets that marked most of his early works. This comic mockumentary – a form that he would use to far greater effectiveness with Zelig – was on a bumbling gangster who earned national notoriety despite being hilariously lacking in skills, finesse and intelligence. Elements like neurotic behavior, irreverence, cinematic references and sharp one-liners provided an interesting window into the later, and more accomplished, works by him. Virgil Starkwell (Allen) is a diminutive, nervy and clumsy misfit belonging to a working-class family who gets drawn into a life of crime despite being anything but a smooth operative. He keeps moving in and out of jail despite his botched attempts at spectacular bank robberies, thus making him an antithesis to the iconic Depression-era criminals like John Dillinger. Meanwhile he falls in love with and marries the beautiful Louise (Janet Margolin) who too is a misfit like him. The story played out like a serious documentary, punctuated with newsreel commentaries and interviews of people who knew him at various points of his life. The narrative was filled with straight-faced humour, situational comedy, deliberately over-the-top gags, inside jokes, genre parody and associated wry satire. He didn’t manage to hit the jackpot at every turn as there were a few mishit here and there, but the ingenuity of the approach and Woody’s natural ability at eliciting smirks and laughs even out of silly moments, made this a fun, light-hearted watch. The film also marked the beginning of his long and successful association with producers Jack Rollins and Charles H. Joffe.
Director: Woody Allen