A graduate student becomes unwittingly involved in an escaped
Nazi's diamond-smuggling scheme involving his own brother.
Marathon Man (1976)
Directed by John Schlesinger
Written by William Goldman
Starring Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier, Roy Scheider,
William Devane, Marthe Keller, Fritz Weaver, Richard Bright,
Based on the novel by William Goldman
Oscar Nominations - Best Supporting Actor (Laurence Olivier)
Marathon Man is the movie that made an entire generation terrified of dentists. That scene even earned this movie a spot on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments. I just want to get this out there from the start. The scene isn't that bad. It's incredibly tame by today's standards, and it doesn't really define the movie anymore. What does define the movie is the terrifying performance from Laurence Olivier as escaped Nazi war criminal dentist Christian Szell. Without him, this movie wouldn't be half as good. Now that we got that nasty business out of the way, let's talk Marathon Man.
Dustin Hoffman plays Tom "Babe" Levy, a graduate student with emotional hangups related to his father's suicide. It's not Hoffman's best work. He phones it in most of the time, and doesn't hold a candle to Olivier or Roy Scheider, who plays Babe's criminal brother James "Doc" Levy. When Doc is killed, Babe is kidnapped by Szell, who believes Babe is privy to certain information. He isn't, but that doesn't stop Szell from torturing him with dental tools. There's a lot of unresolved subplots, such as the exact scale of Szell's diamond network and Elsa's true motives, but the main story is so engaging that you don't really notice until later.
Marathon Man is a decent flick that features one of Olivier's scariest performances, and that's the first and best reason to watch this film. Szell is inhuman in his torture and seems to relish the memory of his past life as Auschwitz's psychotic doctor. Olivier was one of the first method actors who disappeared into his craft, and this film is no exception. It's one of those films every film buff should see at least once.