Cinerama Releasing Corporation

Take the Money and Run (1969, Woody Allen)

Take the Money and Run kind of dangles on a line. It’s occasionally a screwball comedy–something the Marx Brothers would have done–and alternately a thought-out spoof of documentaries. The breeze moves the film’s direction and it’s hard to know where it’ll go next. Allen has a significant problem with the film’s structure, however, with the documentary makers never a part of the film. It’s never clear why they’re making a documentary about Allen’s incompetent criminal. As far as the film’s pacing goes, this oversight doesn’t have much negative effect. Take the Money and Run moves fairly well, only getting tedious in some of the longer scenes. Where it goes wrong is with the interviews. The people who are interviewed, the school teachers, the parents, the psychiatrists, don’t have a logical order. The clips are assembled for humorous effect. If a scene isn’t ending on a particularly funny note, in comes the interview clip with the punch line.

Allen’s fantastic as the lead, easily transitioning between the voiceover interview (he doesn’t appear on screen, as an interviewee, until the last shot, which doesn’t make any sense), the narrated segments (it’s a brilliant idea for a first film, especially a low budget one, because lots of it is just Allen walking around) and the actual acting scenes. His deliveries are all excellent and there’s a lot of physical humor in the film, smart physical humor, which benefits a great deal from his direction.

The film is alternately manic and placid. The narrated sequences can be as benign as Allen walking down a street or as excited as him robbing a bank. The humor’s quiet–for the most part–in both approaches. There are rarely any loud jokes and many expect the viewer to be paying attention–the one with the pants, for instance, isn’t funny unless the viewer is aware of how he or she was watching the scene.

The shot framing does not work for the documentary approach–I’m not sure why I’m harping so much on Take the Money and Run being a documentary spoof, except maybe the lack of direction and the reliance on narration–but Allen’s camera moves rather well. Or, more accurately, Allen knows how to move people in front of his camera. The editing is occasionally jumpy (and not in a way to lend itself to the concept), but it’s a decently made film. Marvin Hamlisch’s score does occasionally get to be a little much.

The supporting cast is mostly Janet Margolin. She does a good job, but her role isn’t particularly difficult. She’s just got to be too good for Allen and constantly show it.

Take the Money and Run, pardon the expression, runs out of steam towards the end, when it becomes one sketch after another. The sketches aren’t particular to the film, they’d work just as well on a variety show, and Allen can’t quite come up with a cohesive gesture. It’s a fine first film, though, but its execution is its greatest success.

However, the Cool Hand Luke spoof is hilarious.



Directed by Woody Allen; written by Allen and Mickey Rose; director of photography, Lester Shorr; edited by Paul Jordan and Ron Kalish; music by Marvin Hamlisch; produced by Charles H. Joffe and Jack Rollins; released by Cinerama Releasing Corporation.

Starring Woody Allen (Virgil Starkwell), Janet Margolin (Louise), Marcel Hillaire (Fritz), Jacquelyn Hyde (Miss Blair), Lonny Chapman (Jake), Jan Merlin (Al), James Anderson (Chain Gang Warden), Howard Storm (Fred), Mark Gordon (Vince), Micil Murphy (Frank), Minnow Moskowitz (Joe Agneta), Nate Jacobson (The Judge), Grace Bauer (Farm House Lady), Ethel Sokolow (Mother Starkwell), Dan Frazer (The Psychiatrist), Henry Leff (Father Starkwell) and Mike O’Dowd (Michael Sullivan); narrated by Jackson Beck.

Straw Dogs (1971, Sam Peckinpah)

Little known fact: the British Tourist Authority actually funded for Straw Dogs. They were sick of Americans moving over.

Obviously not true, but it would explain a lot. Not many films have such singularly evil human beings as those portrayed in Straw Dogs, but then few feature such textured evil human beings either. The film’s perfectly comfortable with assigning features by crap shoot and the complexity of the result is some of the film’s point.

But it’s hard to say if Straw Dogs really ends up having a point. It’s an amazing piece of American cinema, not just for its influential status in film history (the list of films inspired by the conclusion goes on and on), but because it’s so constantly unexpected. Jerry Fielding’s score changes drastically from the beginning to end–it starts out ominous, but ends in a rousing, glorious spirit (Straw Dogs, with the empty English skies and Fielding’s score, often reminds of Jaws). The editing–from Paul Davies, Tony Lawson and Roger Spottiswoode–is always competent, but it slowly becomes astounding. The first hints–sound from one scene playing over another–are discrete, to the point the first full scene of that type seems like a syncing error. But nothing can forecast the end, with its constant fast cuts from angle to angle. John Coquillon’s photography is similarly essential.

Peckinpah’s direction is masterful. Every single shot in the film–and given the rapid cutting at the end, there must be a lot–is perfect. Every move Peckinpah makes here is more than perfect, they’re unequaled.

The majority of the film isn’t calm discomfort–I think the end sequence runs longer than it seems and the initial conflicts kick off early–but the beginning’s scenes introducing Dustin Hoffman and Susan George are nice, concise storytelling. During their first scene at home together, I wondered why the film didn’t open with Hoffman and George boarding a plane for England. It soon becomes apparent the two don’t know each other very well or at least aren’t prepared to spend every waking hour together. As the story progresses, even after all she endures, it becomes hard to empathize with her, if only because Peckinpah treats her so hostilely. Following a scene all her own, which clearly illustrates her suffering, George still manages to perplex. She and Hoffman, though married and in almost all their scenes together (with the one monumental exception), are on completely different paths.

As for Hoffman–who didn’t like the film and only did it for the money, which accounts for my earlier statement about the film successfully having a point, as the lead working disingenuously seems to effect such things–he’s fantastic. Straw Dogs is frequently cited as being a “pushed too hard” story–the poster even advertises it as such–but the film never necessarily pushes Hoffman over any edge. In fact, it seems more like Hoffman would have responded in the first five minutes as he did in the last thirty. It makes the film even more confounding (and rewarding).

I haven’t seen Straw Dogs for a while, but I’m sure I had the same reaction at the end I did this time–it’s better than I remembered.



Directed by Sam Peckinpah; screenplay by David Zelag Goodman and Peckinpah, based on a novel by Gordon Williams; director of photography, John Coquillon; edited by Paul Davies, Tony Lawson and Roger Spottiswoode; music by Jerry Fielding; production designer, Ray Simm; produced by Daniel Melnick; released by Cinerama Releasing Corporation.

Starring Dustin Hoffman (David Sumner), Susan George (Amy Sumner), Peter Vaughan (Tom Hedden), T.P. McKenna (Major John Scott), Del Henney (Charlie Venner), Jim Norton (Chris Cawsey), Donald Webster (Riddaway), Ken Hutchison (Norman Scutt), Len Jones (Bobby Hedden), Sally Thomsett (Janice Hedden), Robert Keegan (Harry Ware), Peter Arne (John Niles), Cherina Schaer (Louise Hood), Colin Welland (Reverend Barney Hood) and David Warner (Henry Niles).

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