Most helpful positive review
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
The terror among us!
on 4 March 2004
What an incredible film!
This starts off as a slow simple everyday scene in New York which after a chain of events builds into a plot involving ex-Nazi war criminals, diamond-smuggling, anti-Semitic feeling, and a fast-paced chase leading to its inevitable bloody climax!
The gripping storyline had me hooked from the outset.
Ex-Nazi Szell, played by Olivier, has come out of hiding in Brazil to retrieve his diamonds. Hoffman's brother, played by Roy Scheider (fresh from "Jaws" fame), works for the Secret Service tracking Szell who is believed to have stolen the diamonds. After a double-cross which he witnesses (don't want to give too much away here!) Hoffman's life is in danger and he desperately tries to avoid Szell and his henchmen's clutches...
The entire cast are on top form.
Dustin Hoffman plays a convincing student and went for days without sleep to prepare himself for certain scenes like the dental torture scene (hence the immortal line from Olivier "why don't you try acting, dear?" when Hoffman asked him for advice).
And although Olivier was battling with gout and cancer during the entire shoot, he comes up with one of the performances of his career, horribly convincing as the sadistic Nazi Szell.
Marthe Keller, the Swiss model whose film debut was in Marathon Man, also impressed, especially as she spoke virtually no English as filming began!
The pace of the film also puts you on the edge of your seat (you're never sure who to trust), and although things start off calmly, it builds and builds into a brutal film, with a handful of shockingly violent and unexpected scenes. The most famous dental torture scene has been described in detail, which really is squirm-inducing, certainly one of the most terrifying scenes in cinema history. It's more the allusion to violence rather than seeing everything in graphic detail that makes it so effective. You may not want to go to the dentist ever again...
Schlesinger plays out the scenes of Olivier's Szell at large on the New York City streets wonderfully well (the Big Apple never looked so threatening!), the bustle of the city almost concealing the horror of a war criminal at large.
This is still valid today, what with the constant fear of terrorists living in our midst.
The DVD transfer has only improved the film - colour, sound and picture quality are fantastic and have been digitally restored. Equally impressive are the special features on this DVD edition, with excellent commentary and an interesting documentary ""Going The Distance: Remembering Marathon Man" with interviews from most of the cast & crew (Marthe Keller looks even more attractive over 25 years later!)
To sum up this has to rank as one of the best, most powerful, dark and disturbing thrillers I've ever seen. Although it does look a little dated now, this DVD should definitely have a place in your collection. Highly recommended.