Freeze Frame #101: Take the Money and Run

Take the Money and Run, one of Woody Allen’s earliest directorial ventures, is a strange sort of movie. It plays brilliantly in your imagination when you hear someone tell you about it. It seems like a minor classic. But when you actually sit down and watch it, the laughs don’t come as easily.

My guess is that part of this has ot do with the tone of the movie. It is narrated as a faux-documentary about a phenomenally incompetent criminal named Virgil, so the entire narrative is very matter-of-fact. Now this works brilliantly sometimes, but not always. Sometimes, the acting is just too low-key to generate laughs.

There is, however, one scene that is just about perfect. Virgil goes to a bank with the intention of robbing it, waits his turn at the teller’s counter and then hands over a note.

Teller: What does this say?

Virgil: Uh, can’t you read that?

Teller: I can’t read this. What is this? “Abt natural”?

Virgil: No it just reads, “Please put $50 thousand into this bag. Act natural.”

Teller: Does it say, “Act natural”?

Virgil: (pointing to the note) “I, uh, am pointing a gun at you.”

Teller: That looks like “gub”, it doesn’t look like “gun”. No, it’s “gub”. That’s a B.

Virgil: No you see, it’s an N… G-U-N.

Teller: George, would you step over here a moment please.

[His colleague George comes over]

Teller: What does this say?

George: “Please put $50 thousand into this bag and… abt” – What’s “abt”?

Teller: “Act”. Does this look like “gub” or “gun”?

George: “Gun”. But what’s “abt”, mean?

Teller: It’s “act”…A- C-T, act. Please put $50 thousand into this bag. Act natural.

George: Oh, I see, this is a hold up.

Virgil: Yes.

This entire conversation happens in a normal tone of voice, as though they’re discussing the procedure for opening a checking account. It gets even more absurd after this, but you get the idea.


3 thoughts on “Freeze Frame #101: Take the Money and Run

  1. Rajendran says:

    I thought, the whole movie was just a bunch of such vintage Woody Allen moments. It is one of those cases where the whole is not equal to the sum of the parts. There were individual moments of brilliance like when he turns into a rabbi as a side effect of vaccination or when he makes a gun with soap and tries to escape. Aside from these snippets ( of course the gub/gun conversation) that make you chuckle, the film in its entirety had nothing to rave about.

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