Take the Money and Run (Woody Allen) - 1969

I saw this movie at a naval air base while the Vietnam War was raging.  It was the funniest movie I had ever seen.  After 40 years, I still love it.  I believe that this was the first of the modern movie parodies.  Woody spoofs all crime documentaries with the silliest of jokes and non sequitur.  As a teenager, he tried to play the cello in a marching band but he kept falling behind because he had to move his chair forward.  The documentary also includes film of an interview with his dysfunctional parents who are wearing fake noses and moustaches to disguise their identity.

Virgil Starkwell's life of crime is interrupted several times by various prison sentences.  Some of the best jokes occur in prison.  (He was sentenced by one judge who then stomped on his glasses.)  During a visit with his girl friend (Janet Margolin), Virgil asks her to bake a cake with a gun it and a dozen chocolate-chip cookies with a bullet in each one.  During one escape attempt, he takes the warden's daughter as a hostage.  The warden asks him what the daughter was doing (kissing Kowalski) and is relieved to learn that Kowalski is not a midget.  Virgil finally gets out of prison by volunteering to take an experimental vaccine that temporarily turns him into a rabbi.

Some of the jokes that were classics in 1969 are rather dated today.  At one point, Virgil lies when asked if he had ever operated a high-speed, digital, electronic computer.  He says "Yes" and explains that "My aunt has one."  Twenty years later, his aunt probably did have one.  The joke is still great in context. 

The bank robbery jokes are also classics: the misspelled note ("gub"); the bank film with a boring short ("Trout Fishing in Quebec"); "Who wears beige to a bank robbery?"

The crimes ("dancing with a mailman" and "marrying a horse") and the punishment (being locked in a "sweatbox with an insurance salesman") are silly jokes that have been borrowed in similar form by many other parody movie writers.  However, I think the best scenes in the movie are those with the six-man chain gang that escaped and was chased through the countryside.  At one point, the guys try to convince a police office that they are just visiting their aunt for St. Abernathy's Day.  He was falling for it until one of the guys had to go to the bathroom and the old lady ratted on them while all six of them left the room together.  In this low budget movie, Woody did not bother to retake the scenes wherein chain gang member cannot stop laughing.  I am glad that these were kept in the film.

I know that Woody does not think these early movies were very good but I think this one works perfectly as a parody.  The music (by Marlin Hamlisch) is excellent.  Look for Woody's second wife, Louise Lasser toward the end, and co-writer Mickey Rose as one of the convicts in the chain gang. [JAM 10/10/2009]

["... it's an OK little piece of nonsense for first effort.  But I can't do that now." - Woody Allen in 2006 Conversations with Woody Allen]

["When I wrote (the screenplay), Jack Rollins didn't want me to appear in and direct a film ...  And I didn't care about directing it.  I just didn't want somebody to ruin it." - Woody Allen in 2006 Conversations with Woody Allen]