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Woody Allen
Woody Allen, Janet Margolin, Marcel Hillaire, Jacquelyn Hyde, Lonny Chapman, Jackson Beck
Woody Allen, Mickey Rose

He robbed 16 banks. He got caught 16 times. His record is perfect.
Rated R.

Widescreen 1.66/16x9
English Digital Mono

Runtime: 85 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 6/15/1999

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Take the Money and Run (1969)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

MGM's recent boxed set of Woody Allen films nicely summed up most of his early directorial work, as it encompassed films released from 1971 to 1980. However, the package didn't completely cover his "formative" years as a few of the pictures he directed weren't offered. Allen's first film at the helm, 1966's What's Up, Tiger Lily? is nowhere to be found on DVD, but his second, 1969's Take the Money and Run is out from Anchor Bay. Since I'd seen so much of his other material, I decided to complete my run and check out this oldie as well.

Take the Money and Run fits in very neatly with Allen's other work of the era. For those accustomed to his later, more introspective films such as 1977's Annie Hall or 1979's Manhattan, prepare yourself for a mild shock. TTMAR, as with other early-Seventies pieces such as 1971's Bananas and 1973's Sleeper, goes for much more of a slapstick vibe and offers quite broad humor.

As with those movies, I thought TTMAR was a very hit or miss affair. The film presents a faux documentary about Virgil Starkwell (Allen), a not-too-competent crook. It uses interviews and other techniques to tell the tale of his life of crime. Of course, it doesn't stick purely to the documentary format, since many scenes shows actions that couldn't have been recorded on film, but it uses the style to its comedic advantage.

Because of the format, TTMAR doesn't have a real plot, but none of his other films of the era did either. At the time, Allen's pictures were essentially cobbled-together sketches; a vaguely unifying thread attached them but no true storyline existed. Nonetheless, TTMAR holds together reasonably well and provides an intermittently entertaining experience.

When Allen strikes his target, the results could be quite amusing; the extended discussion of his handwriting on a stick-up note provides some surreal entertainment, and plenty of other minor bits work nicely as well. The worst part about Allen's "sketch" comedies is that they can become tedious quickly. The lack of a storyline can make the movies progress at a slow pace, or at least one that feels that way; without a coherent idea of where the film is going, the tale can seem tedious.

TTMAR suffers slightly from Allen's choice of leading lady. As Virgil's wife Louise, Janet Margolin looks lovely but provides little comic spark. She seems drab and lifeless in the role and does nothing with it. Since the film contains no major roles other than Virgil and Louise, this creates a small void at the top.

Nonetheless, I think Take the Money and Run works better than some of his other films of the era. I definitely prefer it to Sleeper and 1972's Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex, and it's a little better than Bananas, but I don't think it compares to more intelligent material like Annie Hall or 1975's Love and Death. TTMAR isn't a great piece of work, but it's a generally fun comedy that largely achieves its goals.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+ / Audio C / Bonus F

Take the Money and Run appears in both its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 and in a fullscreen edition on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the letterboxed image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the widescreen side was rated for this review. Overall, the DVD offers a flawed but fairly satisfactory picture.

Sharpness provides the image's high points, as it always appears nicely crisp and well-defined with virtually no examples of softness. Moiré effects and jagged edges caused no problems. Print defects generally seemed minor but could be more serious at times. Some light grain appears throughout the film, and periodic speckles and scratches were discerned. More significant are the tears and hairs; these occur only a few times but they're quite nasty when they happen.

Colors are somewhat muted but they largely look accurate and solid, without and real concerns; no signs of bleeding or noise appear, and I found the hues to seem pleasing. Black levels are fairly deep and dark, and shadow detail was appropriately heavy without seeming excessively thick. For a more than 30-year-old movie, the DVD presents a decent image but it's no better than that.

The same can be said for the monaural soundtrack of TTMAR. Dialogue fares somewhat poorly, as much of the speech appears edgy and tinny. However, it always seems easily intelligible, so although it wasn't very natural, it worked effectively. Effects vary but usually are thin and flat with slight distortion at times. Music also seemed excessively bright but it was decently well-reproduced and smooth, and it also featured a little bit of adequate bass. The soundtrack certainly is nothing special, but it's usually acceptable for a film of this scope and vintage.

Less satisfying are the DVD's supplements. There's absolutely nothing here. Go to the "Main Menu" and you'll find two choices: "Play Movie" and "Chapter Selections". Geez, at least the MGM DVDs included trailers, but this one's as basic as it gets.

Despite that weakness, Take the Money and Run is a mildly satisfying production. The film offers a moderately entertaining look at early Woody Allen; it's not a great piece of work but it can be somewhat amusing. The DVD provides fairly average picture and sound with absolutely no extras. The disc may be worthwhile for Allen fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.7142 Stars Number of Votes: 14
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