One of the things about subscribing to a movies-by-mail service like Zip.ca is that my obsessive tendencies in watching films can be catered to. So one of the things that I’m doing is going through and adding many older films and collections of films. One of the collections that I’m going through are the early films of Woody Allen and I started with Take the Money and Run, which was his first feature film that he wrote, directed and acted in from 1969. Done in mockumentary style, it’s filled with bits of Allen’s standup and elements that show up in his later work. There are some great sight gags, non-sequiturs and strange situations. At times there is a feeling similar to later comedies such as Airplane! While it is a comedy, the skill in the film is how the cast plays it completely straight which allows Allen to riff and inject jokes into the scenes. The film also features one of my all-time favourite comedy scenes where Allen gives a note to a bank teller who has trouble reading it. The absurdity builds as the teller calls other coworkers over to help him decipher the note as Allen patiently waits and tries to explain.
Structurally it’s more of a parody of prison and crime films, there are some nice moments between the characters that suggest elements that emerge in his later films. The film holds up very well with very few jokes that require a great deal of knowledge of the time. It’s fascinating (and very funny) to see the early work of a director after seeing much of their later work.