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Marathon Man

Updated: Mar 21, 2023

One of the best action thrillers of the seventies and in my all-time Top 100 films, MARATHON MAN still holds up as an intelligent, suspenseful film.

A young Dustin Hoffman stars as Babe, a marathon runner in training and NYC college student, quietly following the path of his famous scholarly father.

The first half hour of the film alternates between Babe's quiet life and the globe trotting adventures of his brother Doc (Roy Scheider) a wealthy diamond courier for a shady agency that may or may not be part of the government.

Scheider is terrific and his scenes at a Paris Opera House and a violent battle with an assassin in his Paris hotel suite are brilliantly staged by Director John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy, The Falcon and the Snowman).

When Babe is drawn into the shady world of diamond smuggling and that ring is connected to Nazi madmen hiding in South America, he is attacked, kidnapped and finds his life turned upside down.

The most legendary scenes of the film involve the Nazi ringleader of the smuggling operation, Szell, played with a quiet intensity by Laurence Olivier in an Oscar nominated performance.

Szell method of persuasion embraces dentistry without Novocaine. As he says, its much better to drill into a healthy tooth, as those nerves are fully alive! Ouch. This probably did for dentists in 1976 what Jaws had done for the ocean the previous year.

Driving all the pieces of the film is a terrific screenplay by one of America's best screenwriters, William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Princess Bride).

Marthe Keller and William Devane provide great support.

At just over two hours, the entire film flies by at a great pace, with Hoffman knocking it out of the park as a young man trying to survive attack after attack. Note the difference in Babe between the film's opening scenes and its closing moments. The setting's the same, the run is the same, but the man is entirely different.

Marathon Man gets an A+ and just leaves you asking one question.

Is it safe?

Is it SAFE?

...........IS it safe....

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