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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Take the Money and Run (Full Screen Edition)
Take the Money and Run (Full Screen Edition)
MGM // PG // July 6, 2004
List Price: $14.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted August 22, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

I have a deep love and affection for the films that emerged from the first era of Woody Allen's career. Probably my favorite of the era is Bananas, one of the most non-apologetically silly films ever committed to film, but I cannot sing praises enough for What's Up Tiger Lily, Allen's redubbed Japanese spy picture that seems to get more dated, more ridiculous, and more hilarious every time I watch it. Fans of Allen's later work might be surprised at the less- (actually non-) contemplative, more slapsticky nature of these movies; you won't find the textured and nuanced filmmaking put on display in, say, Manhattan, Annie Hall, or Crimes and Misdemeanors. Movies like Sleeper, Love and Death, and Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex went straight for the yuks. And for the most part, they succeeded.

Take The Money And Run was Allen's first real foray behind the lens in 1969 (although Tiger Lily was his first feature-film directorial credit), and it contains much of the same silliness he'd come to refine up through Love and Death. Allen stars as... well his usual screen persona, really. He plays Virgil Starkwell, a would-be bank robber earmarked by his own stammering incompetence. The movie is shot documentary-style, featuring an off-screen narrator interviewing people from Virgil's past, while different vignettes play out on-screen.

Allen's Virgil Starkwell is pretty much the same character as Fielding Mellish from Bananas, Miles Munroe from Sleeper, and even Boris Grushenko from Love and Death. It's the same stammering, put-upon, emotionally harangued character that Allen's pinpoint comic timing has perfected over decades of comedic performances. But here the film seems to be less cohesive and a little more scatterbrained than it needs. There are some definite laughs here: the results of a prison laboratory experiment that temporarily turns Starkwell into a rabbi is making me gigglesnort even as I type this sentence. But the film seems a little too chaotic and jumbled for its own good. Furthermore, Janet Margolin as the leading lady in the film is a tad weak. I kept pining for Louise Lasser or Diane Keaton, two lovely ladies who seemed to be able to keep up with Allen's patented schtick. There are some big laughs, but they are a bit more scattered and less frequent than in later movies.

Still, Take The Money And Run is worth a view for Allen fans. Unfortunately, this DVD is not worth anyone's time. The disc is saddled with a full-frame transfer that eschews the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. So you can pretty much give this DVD a solid pass.

The DVD

Video:

Take The Money And Run is presented in a full-frame aspect ratio of 1.31, and, being that the transfer has been modified from its original AR, this drops the video rating by a full star. Since this disc has been previously released in widescreen, one can only wonder why the rerelease has been so hideously marred. Still, the picture looks fairly decent. The picture is somewhat sharp and nicely detailed, and colors are nicely rendered. There is some minor print noise evident and evident grain structure, but nothing too excessive, especially given the age of the film. Still, given that this isn't an OAR release, I cannot in good conscious say this is a good transfer.

Audio:

The audio is presented in monaural Dolby Digital 2.0. There's nothing to write home about here. The audio is adequate and serves the movie well, but the quality of the audio is a bit thin and shrill at times. The orchestrations seem a little flat and non-impressive, but overall there's nothing too detrimental here for a thirty-five year old film.

Extras:

There are no extras on this disc.

Final Thoughts

Not one of Woody Allen's better works, Take The Money And Run still manages to generate some laughs. Unfortunately, this DVD generates nothing but shrugged indifference. A non-OAR transfer and lack of bonus features pretty much relegate this disc to a "must-miss" status. I'd recommend a rental, but not of this particular DVD; go find the one with the widescreen transfer instead. End communication.

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