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MAY 19, 2014

It has been said that MARATHON MAN did for dentists, what Psycho did for showers and the film is generally known for its famous “Is it safe?” oral surgery torture scene, but it is more than just that iconic moment and is one of the better paranoid thrillers of the 1970’s. 

Directed by John Schlesinger with a script by William Goldman, MARATHON MAN follows confirmed pacifist Babe Levy (Dustin Hoffman) as he’s unwittingly pulled by his older brother Doc (Roy Scheider), into the search for a Nazi War criminal named Szell (Laurence Olivier). 

Due to a chain of events, Szell has come out of hiding in order to retrieve millions in diamonds that are locked away in a safety deposit box in a New York bank. Paranoid that he will be robbed, Szell enlists help to protect him, but when they turn out to be unreliable, he takes matters into his own hands. 

Mistaken for being part of a double-cross scheme, Babe is pulled in way over his head and must do things that are counter to who he thought he was in order to survive. 

The movie succeeds due to a taut script but also on the strength of its actors. A dream cast at the time, Hoffman was the hottest young actor of his generation, Scheider was off the heels of JAWS (1975) and it gave Olivier, considered the greatest stage actor of all time, another chance to shine on the silver screen. His role would earn him an OSCAR nomination and make him the bane of Dentists even to this day. 

For his first foray into the thriller genre, Director John Schlesinger keeps the plot moving but also remains adept at the human element, which he perfected a few years earlier with his breakout film MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969). 

If you are a fan of thrillers, especially the 1970’s paranoid thrillers like THE CONVERSATION (1974), THE PARALLAX VIEW (1974), THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (1975) and ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976) you definitely need to watch MARATHON MAN. It’s one of the greats and it will keep you on the edge of your seat. Just make sure you know if it’s “safe” next time you visit your Dentist.