Woody Allen's debut as writer-director is a crime movie spoof told in semi-documentary style. Compulsive thief Virgil Starkwell (Allen) lands himself in prison after attempting to hijack an armoured car. A failed breakout with a gun fashioned from soap brings the threat of an increased sentence unless he agrees to take part in a dangerous medical experiment. Paroled as a result of his co-operation, he resolves to turn his back on crime and pursue true love with laundress Louise (Janet Margolin). But whilst there are bank jobs to be bodged, Starkwell remains a danger to society and himself.