Saturday, December 9, 2023

The Fourth Top 10 + 2, continued


The next instalment of the next Top 10 + 2, the fourth of such lists.

As I have I have previously posted, my Top 10 + 2 films is based on “watchability”, those films which you (meaning me) like to watch more than once and enjoy thoroughly for whatever reasons. Hence Groundhog Day was on the list, Citizen Kane is not, at least in my case never having had the urge to watch Citizen Kane more than once. My friend Steve cringes at my choices .

The reason my first list was called Top 10 + 2 was that I had difficulty whittling the list down to 10.


The current list so far:
How Green Was My Valley
It Happened One Night
The Maltese Falcon


Today’s film:

Take the Money and Run


The film:

Take the Money and Run is a 1969 American mockumentary crime comedy film directed by Woody Allen. Allen co-wrote the screenplay with Mickey Rose and stars alongside Janet Margolin. The film chronicles the life of Virgil Starkwell, an inept bank robber.

Virgil Starkwell's story is told in documentary style, using fake stock footage and 'interviews' with people who knew him.

He begins a life of crime at a young age. As a child, Virgil is a frequent target of bullies, who take his glasses and stamp on them on the floor. As an adult, Virgil is clumsy and socially awkward, and both police and judges discipline him by stamping on his glasses.

The fun continues in that vein.

So many funny moments:
  • Virgil playing cello in a marching band
  • The escape with the rest of the chain gang, having to speak to the sheriff while shackled together
  • The parents on camera wearing false noses, glasses and moustaches so that they can’t be identified
  • The demand note to the bank teller during the robbery where they argue over the spelling of “gun”
  • The prison escape which fails when he is caught in the rain with a pretend pistol carved from soap

Movie trivia:

This was the second film directed by Woody Allen. He had originally wanted Jerry Lewis to direct, but when that did not work out, Allen decided to direct it himself. This film marked the first time Allen would perform the triple duties of writing, directing, and acting in a film.

The film was shot on location in San Francisco, including scenes filmed at a Bank of America branch on the 4th of July 1968, and in Ernie's restaurant, whose striking red interior was immortalized in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958).

Other scenes were filmed at San Quentin State Prison,]. One hundred San Quentin prisoners were paid a small fee to work on the film during the prison sequences. 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.

Woody Allen later said he was not nervous about his first day but was so excited about shooting on location in San Quentin prison that he cut his nose shaving that morning. The mishap can be seen in the prison scene in the movie. He and his team found the inmates there to be very friendly and cooperative. The prison authorities also eagerly welcomed the production but issued a warning: cast and crew were always to be accompanied by guards and if taken hostage, the gates would not be opened to secure their release.

Virgil Starkwell was born on December 1, 1935. This is Woody Allen's actual date of birth.

The original ending of Virgil dying in a hail of bullets would have been followed by a brief humorous scene at his funeral when his wife hears him whisper from below ground, "Get me out."

The ending was changed and made lighter. Virgil is captured when attempting to rob a former friend who reveals he is now a cop. He is sentenced to 800 years, but remains optimistic knowing that "with good behavior, I can get that cut in half". In the last scene, he is shown carving a bar of soap and asking the interviewer if it is raining outside.

Woody Allen thought of using his then wife, Louise Lasser, for his leading lady (who is called Louise in the story), but she was a screen unknown. He did, however, cast her in a comic interview scene as a neighbor stunned to learn that the "idiot" she knew was actually a criminal mastermind.

The contract Woody Allen had with Palomar Pictures gave him carte blanche to do what he wanted with this film, including final cut, setting the precedent for how he works to this day. "They never bothered me," he said. "It was a very pleasant experience. And from that day on I never had any problems in the cinema from the point of view of interference in any way."

Woody Allen's first cut was deemed to be decidedly unfunny, including his death scene in a slow-mo hail of bullets, like Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Producers Jack Rollins and Charles H. Joffe convinced him to sit with top editor Ralph Rosenblum to see what could be salvaged. The first thing Rosenblum did was cut out the gory ending, then he restructured the film completely, and generally tightened up Allen's loose narrative. This effort transformed the finished film into a comedy classic. Rosenblum subsequently became Allen's editor of choice on most of his next films, including Bananas (1971), Sleeper (1973), Love and Death (1975) and Annie Hall (1977).

Virgil's inept attempt to escape prison by carving a gun out of soap and turning it black with shoe polish is loosely based on real life bank robber John Dillinger's famous escape from the Crown Point, Indiana jail using a wooden gun blackened with shoe polish.


Watch the film by clicking on:

Official trailer:

“I am pointing a gub at you”

Chain gang:


Let me know how you enjoyed it, Steve

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