Virgil Starkwell (Woody Allen), born in the slums of Baltimore, will be known to police by five aliases before he is 25 years old.
A shortish, frail-looking kid with horn-rimmed glasses, Virgil is shy and likable, has a high IQ but resents authority and soon takes to crime (robbing gum-ball machines.)
At 18, Virgil is lonely and confused. Unable to concentrate in school, he has long dropped out. Despite his intelligence and above-average vocabulary, jobs are unavailable.
So, using a toy pistol, he sticks up an armored car and takes off with a sack of quarters which spill all over the street ashe runs. This caper lands him in the state prison, anarchic and poorly run institution which Virgil determines to leave as ...