The first film that Woody Allen directed, starred in and wrote (What's Up Tiger Lily, made three years prior in 1966, was technically co-directed by Senkichi Taniguchi) was 1969's satire of hardboiled crime documentaries, Take The Money And Run.
The film introduces us to Virgil Starkwell (played by Allen himself). We first meet him as a kid constantly having his glasses crushed by bigger, tougher kids. He's a klutz, a bit of a goofball, really, but eventually he lands in place in the high school band as a cellist. Eventually, Virgil's penchant for lying and petty crime lands him a spot in a local gang that in turns lands him a spot in prison. After he makes his way out of the big house, he meets a beautiful woman named Louise (Janet Margolin) as she sits in the park and draws. She catches him looking at her, they make small talk and when she asks what he does her lies, again, and tells her he's a cellist in the New York Philharmonic. They hit it off, both of them outsiders to a certain degree. Virgil was picked on and bullied as a kid, she grew up in a military family with an alcoholic mother.
They hang out for a bit and make dinner plans, but Virgil, fresh out of the slammer, is broke. To come up with the money he needs to wine and dine his new lady friend, he decides to rob a bank. When the teller and then the president can't agree on whether or not he's written ‘abt natural' or ‘act natural' and ‘gun' or gbt' on his note, Virgil once again finds himself locked away behind bars.
From here, Virgil winds up escaping from prison only to commit another bumbling crime that sees him locked up again. As he goes in and out of different facilities, Louse promises to wait for him. She does and after they switch states and he actually lands an honest job, his past comes back to haunt him.
Take The Money And Run is nicely paced, never going for more than a few minutes without a sight gag or a quip. The way that the film is setup, partially as a faux-documentary (complete with narration from Jackson Beck, the same Jackson Beck who narrated all of those G.I. Joe cartoons in the eighties!) featuring interviews with people who knew Virgil (his shrink, his parents, etc.) allows Allen to control the film quite effectively. The humor here isn't often particularly sophisticated, but it is often quite clever. Allen's comedic timing is strong, he's great with the physical side of the humor in the film, and his sad sack vibe suits the character and the story quite well. Little moments, like his attempts to rehearse how to best remove his glasses before his date with Louise, help to make Virgil likeable in a lot of ways. It's for this reason that we can't help but want he and Louse to make a go of it. Janet Margolin plays things pretty straight for the most part, she's calm and quiet and just a genuinely nice person. When he asks her to back him a cake with a gun in it and then a dozen cookies with a bullet inside each of the, she tells him she'll bake for him but she won't provide him with weapons. She too is likeable. They make a ‘cute' if somewhat unlikely couple.
Production values are decent, aided by some great location footage of actual prisons for some of the scenes where Virgil is in the clink. San Quentin in particular, along with over a hundred of its inmates, is put to good use in the film and adds to the authenticity of the look of the scenes that take place behind bars. Marvin Hamlisch's adds to the film's light comedic tone quite nicely.
Not every joke is a winner in the film, but more often than not this one works really well and Take The Money Run stands as a highlight in the early part of Allen's career.The Blu-ray:
Take The Money And Run is presented by Kino Lorber Studio Classics on a 25GB Blu-ray framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. This isn't going to make anyone's list for best looking HD transfers of all time but it does offer a noticeable upgrade when compared to the DVD. The movie has always been sort of soft looking on VHS and DVD, and that's presumably how it looked theatrically, and that is carried over to this release. Having said that, we do get better detail, depth and texture than we've seen in past editions. Close ups show this off better than medium and long distance shots, but even there we see more that we have before. Color reproduction is decent as well, and black levels are pretty good. There's some mild print damage here and there but no problems with any edge enhancement, noise reduction or compression artifacts.Sound:
The only audio option on the disc is a DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track in the film's native English. The audio here is an accurate representation of how the movie has always sounded, which is to say that the mix isn't particularly fancy but it gets the job done. The score has decent presence here, the levels are properly balanced and there are no audible issues with any hiss or distortion. Range is limited, obviously, as this is a single channel mix but all in all it sounds fine. Optional English subtitles are also provided (though there are some odd typos here where sometimes ‘the letter ‘L' will replaced with an ‘!').Extras:
Extras are slim. We get trailers for a few other KL Studio Classics comedy Blu-ray releases, menus and chapter selection, no more, no less. It's also worth mentioning, however, that Kino has provided reversible cover sleeve art for this release. It would have been nice to get some background info on this one, but it's this writer's understanding that Allen doesn't allow featurettes or commentaries to be made for his films.Final Thoughts:
Take The Money And Run is good harmless fun. While Allen would go on to make better films in many different genres, this is a solid way to kill eight-five minutes with his trademark nebbish humor and more sight gags than you can shake a stick at. The Blu-ray release is far from reference quality and light on extras (as most home video releases of the director's films tend to be), but the presentation quality is decent and the movie holds up well. Recommended.