75 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2001
I'll spare you a long talk about the movie, except that it's one of the best thrillers ever made. Enough said. Now for this new DVD. Finally we get this classic in widescreen, that alone should please many fans. (-The opening credit scene has a different letterboxing than the rest of the movie, for some reason.) The extras will make you drool !. A new documentary with most of the people involved with the movie, except Olivier, of course. Sadly, neither William Devane, Fritz Weaver, Richard Bright or the director take part. Still, it's great to hear the stories surrounding this excellent suspense movie, like why it was decided to give Olivier's character that last infamous meal !. -But it makes sense, considering what Hoffman's character went through. At one point when talking about Olivier, Hoffman is almost in tears. Touching. Strangely enough, I found the full-screen clips shown during the documentary to be sharper than the movie itself presented on this DVD. Stll, you must get this release, even if the price is a little high. There's also a very good 70s making-of featurette with interviews. Take ANY thriller made today, compare it to "Marathon Man", and "Marathon Man" will win on ALL levels. It's as simple as that.
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2001
One of the great suspense dramas of the 1970s, MARATHON MAN is a somewhat violent buy often stylish and sinister intrigue thriller that remains a high watermark of its genre.
Dustin Hoffman portrays the Columbia University graduate student and marathon runner who becomes caught up in a deadly game involving smuggled diamonds belonging to a Nazi fugitive (Laurence Olivier). Hoffman's brother (Roy Scheider) was one of the couriers helping to transport the diamonds, which are now in a safety deposit box in a Manhattan bank; and when Olivier kills Scheider, it is assumed by Olivier and his henchmen that Hoffman knows something about them. He is strapped to a dental chair in an abandoned warehouse, forced to undergo dental torture at the hands of the Nazi, who had been a dentist. Olivier keeps asking him numerous time, "Is It Safe?" (regarding the diamond stash). Hoffman doesn't know a thing, but this doesn't stop Olivier from performing a root canal--one of the most squeamish sequences in cinematic history.
Excellently directed by John Schlesinger and scripted by William Goldman (from his own novel), MARATHON MAN features a typically fine performance by Hoffman as the man in the middle, and Olivier, arguably the greatest actor that ever lived, as the very devious Nazi fugitive. Scheider, who was brilliant in JAWS, scores more points here, as do William Devane and Marthe Keller. The opening sequence, a vicious and somewhat hilarious car-to-car argument between an irate Jew and Olivier's brother which ends in a collision with an oil truck, sets the story's machinations off, and is deftly handled by Schlesinger in a manner Hitchcock would have admired.
If you have a fear of dentists, of course, you may want to steer clear of MARATHON MAN. But if intense suspense is your game, this is as good a film to start with.
32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2002
Tom (Dustin Hoffman) studies history, partly because theories of history are so clear cut and comforting, unlike life, and partly because years earlier, his father committed suicide after having been branded a communist. As he matures, he learns that books and a love of history cannot prepare him for the real world. In MARATHON MAN, Tom learns that the real world is far more dangerous than the relatively minor razzing that a local street gang subjects him to. He learns that the people who are the closest to him are not what they appear to be. His brother Doc (Roy Scheider) is a businessman with a secret life as a CIA agent. His girlfiend Elsa (Marthe Keller) is mixed up with an escaped Nazi dentist, ex-Auschwitz Commandant Szell (Sir Lawrence Olivier). The movie starts off slowly with Tom first believing in then later finding out the truth about Doc and Elsa. He learns that all three have been looking for a hidden cache of diamonds stolen from Jews during the Holocaust.
MARATHON MAN stands out as quite different from other chase and thriller films that seek to capitalize on the genocide of the war. Here, Dustin Hoffman plays Tom as decidedly unheroic. He can run fast and far, and shows creative talent in tight situations, but he is no fist fighter. He is constantly bullied and beaten by a variety of thuggish types. He endures a brutally realistic session as a prisoner in a dentist's chair when Szell uses his dental skills to extract facts rather than molars. Yet,despite Tom's lack of martial skills, he proves every bit the equal of spy types who kill for a living. As convincing a job as Hoffman does as Tom, the real star is Olivier as the demented dentist Szell. Olivier is absolutely convincing as the former camp commandant who will stop at nothing to retrieve the stolen diamonds. While seeking to ascertain the value of his diamonds, Szell goes to the diamond district of New York, a business run by the very people he killed in massive numbers some thirty years earlier. An old woman and a diamond dealer recognize him and the tension generated by his potential exposure forces the viewer to see events from the unlikely perspective of the hunter who is now the hunted. Olivier was a deserved nominee for best supporting actor as Szell. The movie points to a climactic confrontation between Tom and Szell, and when it arrives, the sparkly diamonds serve only to throw light on the ongoing but long postponed battle between a man who thought the passing of time would excuse and justify his acts and a man who is determined that all bills, even overdue ones, must be paid in full.
43 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2003
If you're a fan of this film - don't buy this DVD (the Paramount "Widescreen collection" 120mins as sold in the UK). It has been clumsily edited to the point that key sequences no longer make sense. The renowned drilling scene, for instance IS NOT IN THIS DVD despite the fact that it appears in on the back cover and the inlay. Check imdb - the film is supposed to be 125 minutes long - not 119. A disappointing experience for me after much anticipation, and a sad end for what in its true form is an outstanding piece of film.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2005
After reading and loving William Goldman's brilliant novel, I first saw MARATHON MAN (MM) in its initial theatrical release when I was 13 years old, and the years haven't diminished its power for me. Sure, the plot gets a little more convoluted than it absolutely needs to be, but in a way it's because Goldman's screen adaptation (with a little uncredited tweaking by Robert Towne) takes into account the all-too-human character flaws of his heroes and villains, and the mistakes people make when they're fearful and paranoid. The stellar cast, from Dustin Hoffman's Babe Levy, the nebbishy grad student-turned-avenger (you'd never know he was pushing 40 in real life) to Marthe Keller's vulnerable femme fatale Elsa to Oscar nominee Sir Laurence Olivier's imperious, coolly evil Christian Szell to William Devane's slick, shadowy agent Janeway, are uniformly superb, with Roy Scheider deserving a place in The Suave Hall of Fame for his portrayal of Doc Levy, a.k.a. government agent "Scylla." If Scheider hadn't been so charismatic and engaging, Doc's murder in mid-film wouldn't have such impact, and the movie would suffer for it. As powerful as the cast, script, and John Schlesinger's direction are, however, I think the special secret ingredient that gives MM its punch is its atmosphere. The naturalistic, sometimes washed-out color palette almost lends the film a black-and-white film noir look. Almost every person in the film is angry, cynical, emotionally wounded, and/or generally negative in some way. And what really struck me was that onscreen, it seems like chaos and disaster are exploding all over the world. Look at the riots and bombings taking place in France in early scenes with Doc and Janeway (nicely subtle homosexual subtext there, by the way). Also, if you listen carefully to newscasts in the background, you'll notice there's nothing but bad news: murders, suicides, all kinds of violence all over (including the "chicken" game between the old Jew and Szell's brother as the film begins). MM is by no means a happy film -- even when our hero wins, he's already lost so much his victory seems hollow indeed -- but it never fails to grab and haunt me each time I watch it. If you love the film, you'll want to own the DVD not only for the superb letterboxed print, but also for the terrific extras, including both new and vintage making-of documentaries with Hoffman, Scheider, Keller, Goldman, producer Robert Evans and other major MM players, as well as rare rehearsal footage and the original theatrical trailer.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2004
Dustin Hoffman is Thomas Levy, history graduate student at Columbia and obsessive runner. He's obsessed too with the death of his father, another historian, who was driven to suicide by the McCarthy witch-hunts, a preoccupation distrusted both by his pompous and disagreeable professor (Fritz Weaver) and by his brother Henry (Roy Scheider). Henry is believed by Thomas to be a bigshot executive for an oil company but in fact he is an undercover agent working for some obscure special operations outfit. In this capacity he is embroiled with the plans of evil former Nazi torturer Dr. Christian Szell (Olivier) to come to America to pick up a collection of diamonds extorted from Jews during the war, now in a New York bank. Things seem to be turning nasty. People are trying to kill Henry. And indeed the bad guys seem to be taking a bit of an interest in Thomas too as well as in his new Swiss (or is she?) girlfriend Elsa (Marthe Keller).
This great thriller is one of the highpoints of 1970 American cinema. Everyone involved is at the height of their powers. For both Hoffman and writer William Goldman it was project that followed "All the President's Men". For Scheider it followed fairly hot on the heels of "Jaws". And it's one of the high points in the career of distinguished British director John Schlesinger who died just a few months back. Schlesinger's direction is brilliant. The set pieces are extraordinarily well put together starting right at the front in a brilliant scene where an initially innocuous road rage incident turns into a catastrophic road accident. And the atmosphere of New York's streets is superbly captured throughout, in the scenes that track Hoffman's running forays, in the famous scene where former inmates of Auschwitz recognize Szell in the street; and throughout; indeed it counts as one of the great New York movies.
The acting is splendid too. Hoffman and Scheider on excellent form. Keller and the plot line involving her work less well and that is perhaps the movie's weakest aspect. But it's more than compensated by Olivier whose Dr Szell, a.k.a. "Der Weisse Engel", is one of the greatest and most frightening of screen baddies and makes Hannibal Lecter look like a pussycat. (A story I remember hearing about the movie that may very well be apocryphal but is still fun. Apparently when Hoffman was required to enter a room after supposedly having been out running, he would go running for real first to create the requisite exhausted, out of breath effect. Olivier, on having this explained to him, is said to have inquired: "Why not try ACTING, dear boy?"). And of course he gets centre-stage in one of the scariest scenes ever. "Jaws" played on our fears of large unseen marine predators; "Nightmare on Elm Street" on our fear of nightmares; "Arachnophobia" on our fear of spiders. But Goldman and Schlesinger are cleverer than any of these and tap into our deepest and most primal fear of all, fear of visiting the dentist, with unforgettable effect.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Contrary to what some of the other reviewers have said, I consider this to be a very well produced look into the nature of the secret and often-murky world of espionage and big-stakes intrigue. Set in New York City at a thinly disguised Columbia University, the thriller stars Dustin Hoffman plays Tom Levy, a psychologically tortured graduate student in contemporary 20th century history who is the surviving younger son of an activist-scholar father, a man who had committed suicide after suffering vilification and career demise at the hands of the McCarthy hearings in the early 1950s. Roy Scheider plays Tom's older brother Henry, who has chosen a different means to face the world of power and privilege as a corrupted agent who is scheming with his best friend and handler (William Devane) to surreptitiously blackmail a reclusive Nazi war criminal, the infamous White Angel of the death camps, Christian Szell, wonderfully played with panache and chilling deadliness by the consummate Sir Lawrence Olivier.
Due to an unfortunate accident involving his equally anti-Semitic brother, who acted as Szell's agent in laundering the ill-gotten mother lode of diamonds Szell had personally stolen during the war from victims of the Holocaust, the evil dentist is forced to leave his hideout in the South American jungle to retrieve all the remaining diamonds to ensure his financial future. And the game of high stakes cat and mouse is on, a game involving several sub-plots, and involves an unlikely collage of good and bad guys in one of the most mind-twisting and yet entertaining spy flicks this side of "The Three Days Of The Condor".
This film borders on being film noire, and offers very graphic and violent sequences that are not fro children or the squeamish. The cast is excellent, and takes us through the fast paced and often unpredictable murder and mayhem that courses like a river out of control through the length of the movie. The psychological dimensions of the film are interesting, as are the accurate looks at what complications and perversions the human heart seems capable of us. If any movie will make you wonder about things that go bump in the night, it is a movie like this wonderful thriller from Director John Schlesinger of people caught in the midst of a maelstrom they don't really understand or know how to deal with. Enjoy!
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Made from William Goldman's novel, MARATHON MAN is a very good thriller movie, the sort of thing that the fine director John Schlesinger did very well indeed. Although the film was released almost ten years after THE GRADUATE, Dustin Hoffman in some of the scenes looks as youthful as he did in that film and sometimes he lapses into the same speech patterns as he used in THE GRADUATE. You half way expect Mrs. Robinson to walk into the room at any time. Roy Scheider and William Devane give respectable performances, but the best acting has to be that of the great Laurence Olivier who plays the Nazi Christian Szell for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.
Olivier's torture scene with the dental equipment is as chilling the third time I saw this movie as it was the first. The scene of course is a classic and not to be missed.
For this sort of movie, MARATHON MAN is about as good as they come.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2000
Suspenseful, smart, and jolting, the effects of Marathon Man still resonate after more than twenty years. Dustin Hoffman is spectacular as a graduate student running from people that think he knows more than he does. Everything about it is classic. Among the memorable scenes is the "Zell, Zell, Zell" scene in which an ex-concentration camp prisoner confronts the Nazi diamond theif in a crowded street. The torture scene with Dustin Hoffman is also very memorable. The car and running chases will quicken your heart beat. The performances are amazing. Laurence Olivier brilliantly plays the role of a Nazi so greedy and diabolical, that he would eat diamonds rather than give them up to their rightful owners. William Devane is equally as awesome as an agent who isn't what he appears to be. This movie will leave you feeling breathless, and somewhat disturbed. If you want to watch an intelligent,well-directed, well-acted, and well-thought-out movie, GET THIS MOVIE!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I hadn't seen this film for a great many years but remember what a hit it was when it first hit the silver screen. Got this for a Xmas present so who was I to argue. I do not provide summaries or opinions on the great cast, et al. This review is based solely upon the quality of the transfer to Blu Ray. At first I was going to give it 3 stars and then changed it to 4. The film has legs though it is not as fast paced as I remembered it.
VIDEO Transfer….Marathon Man comes in at 125 minutes long with an average Mbps rate in the high 20s. Contrast is very good for this older film and color grading is natural. The film does retain the softer focus of film and not the hard edging of video. There is a very light grain noticeable on back ground walls and sky but it really is hardly perceptible. Much depends upon the quality of the TV monitor you are using, mine is a Panasonic ZT 65". Blacks can be deep in parts but slightly gray in others. Small details tend to be slightly soft but that is what film does. I saw no dropouts or artifacting anywhere in the video so, at least, they used a cleaned up master. All in all, while the imaging is not what I would consider demo material, it is all around good.
AUDIO…The lossless DTS HD MA 5.1 provides nice, clean and transparent dialogue but that is about it. There are a few pans across the front audio stage but the film basically all comes through the center channel. Your surrounds are not utilized as they could have been with a remastering of the audio and the LFE channel doesn't come in to use either. While you are offered the original mono soundtrack, I see no reason why they couldn't have remastered the audio to utilize a 5.1 home theater. What you get is a nice and clean stereo. 2.5 stars for the audio.
Extras….Some excellent extras are included with interviews with living cast and crew made in 2001 discussing how the film was brought together, the cast's relationships to each other and more. It was brought out that there were several cut scenes and alternate scenes…why these were not included on the Blu Ray is beyond me. I would have loved to have seen them.
Another excellent extra were a few rehearsal scenes that were filmed and included. The actors doing their lines and riffing off each other. It held my interest.
All my reviews are of this nature, focusing solely upon the actual quality of the Blu Ray transfer and I do hope that this review has been of some HELP to you regarding your purchase.
Thanks for reading.