Take the Money and Run ,
Take the Money and Run is a 1969 American comedic mockumentary directed by Woody Allen and starring Allen and Janet Margolin (with Louise Lasser in a small role). Written by Allen and Mickey Rose, the film chronicles the life of Virgil Starkwell (Woody Allen), an inept bank robber. Filmed in San Francisco and San Quentin State Prison, Take the Money and Run received Golden Laurel nominations for Male Comedy Performance (Woody Allen) and Male New Face (Woody Allen), and a Writers Guild of America Award nomination for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen (Woody Allen, Mickey Rose).
Virgil Starkwells story is told in documentary style, using both stock footage and interviews with people who knew him. The film shows Starkwell entering a life of crime at a young age. As a child, Virgil was a frequent target of bullies, who would snatch his glasses and stomp them on the floor. As an adult, Virgil is inept and unlucky, and both police and judges both ridicule him by stamping on Virgils glasses.
Starkwell is arrested for trying to rob a bank after passing to a teller a threatening note that misspells the word “gun”. Sent to prison, Virgil attempts escape using a bar of soap carved to resemble a gun. Unfortunately for Virgil, it was raining outside and his gun melts. Starkwell does escape prison, but by accident. Joining a mass breakout plan, Virgil is the only inmate not warned that the scheme had been called off. Outside but unemployed, Virgil finds no way to support himself and his family. Eventually he is rearrested and sent to a chain gang where he is undernourished (the single meal of the day is a bowl of steam) and brutally punished (consigned to a steam box with an insurance salesmen).
Starkwell again escapes but is eventually captured when attempting to rob a former friend who reveals he is now a cop.
Starkwells story ends with Starkwell back in prison. He is sentenced to 800 years but remains upbeat knowing that “with good behavior, I can get that cut in half”. In the last scene, Starkwell is shown carving a bar of soap, and asking the interviewer if it was raining outside.
This was the second film directed by Woody Allen, and the first with original footage (after Whats Up, Tiger Lily, which consisted of visuals taken from a Japanese James Bond knockoff). He had originally wanted Jerry Lewis to direct, but when that did not work out, Allen decided to direct it himself. Allens decision to become his own director was partially spurred on by the chaotic and uncontrolled filming of Casino Royale (1967), in which he had appeared two years previously. This film marked the first time Allen would perform the triple duties of writing, directing, and acting in a film. The manic, almost slapstick style is similar to that of Allens next several films, including Bananas (1971) and Sleeper (1973).
Allen discussed the concept of filming a documentary in an interview with Richard Schickel:
Take the Money and Run was an early pseudo-documentary. The idea of doing a documentary, which I later finally perfected when I did Zelig was with me from the first day I started movies. I thought that was an ideal vehicle for doing comedy, because the documentary format was very serious, so you were immediately operating in an area where any little thing you did upset the seriousness and was thereby funny. And you could tell your story laugh by laugh by laugh… The object of the movie was for every inch of it to be a laugh.
The film was shot on location in San Francisco, including one scene set in Ernies restaurant, whose striking red interior was immortalized in Alfred Hitchcocks Vertigo (1958). Other scenes were filmed at San Quentin State Prison, where 100 prisoners were paid a small fee to work on the film. The regular cast and crew were stamped each day with a special ink that glowed under ultra-violet light so the guards could tell who was allowed to leave the prison grounds at the end of the day. (One of the actors in the San Quentin scenes was Micil Murphy, who knew the prison well: he served five and a half years there, for armed robbery, before being paroled in 1966.)
Allen initially filmed a downbeat ending in which he was shot to death, courtesy of special effects from A.D. Flowers. Reputedly the lighter ending is due to the influence of Allens editor, Ralph Rosenblum, in his first collaboration with Allen.