Woody Allen's first directorial achievement is a frequently hilarious, sometimes misfiring satire of crime movies. Allen plays the typical shlemiel, a put-upon wimp who becomes a compulsive criminal. Told in semidocumentary fashion, with a rambling narration by Jackson Beck (who was
heard as the narrator on radio's "Superman" for years), it prefigures Allen's work years later in ZELIG.
One-liners galore, lots of episodic scenes and some good satire, with the intercutting of actual news footage to establish the era (President Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower figure prominently). A bit of homage to Claude Lelouch in the love scenes between Allen and Margolin, then into the jail
sequences that can best be appreciated by those familiar with I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG, THE LAST MILE, or any of several jail movies. A spotty picture with many delicious moments, including a sequence where Allen hires an over-the-hill movie director (Hillaire) to pretend he is shooting a
film about a bank robbery so that Allen and his men can use that as a cover for their actual robbery of the institution. Everything is going well until a rival gang arrives with the same intention. Several inside jokes are unfathomable to viewers from the hinterlands.
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