101 Funniest Screenplays

Written with his childhood friend, the comedy writer Mickey Rose (the duo would next collaborate on Bananas) Allen directed and starred as Virgil Starkwell, a criminal “wanted in six states for assault, armed robbery, and illegal possession of a wart.” The film – complete with a newsman’s voice-over narration – is a pre-mockumentary, covering the life and times of a criminal so inept his penmanship gets in the way of a bank robbery. The movie lived and died from gag to gag, and some of these are zany and inspired enough to stand the test of time. They include Virgil’s attempt to break out of prison with a gun carved from soap (it rains that night), and a flashback to the time he played the cello in a marching band. As the first film in Allen’s long oeuvre, it displays comedic sophistication and cinematic innocence.