Marathon Man DVD: Review By Evan "Mushy" Jacobs

An interesting thriller that is thickly layered and features a top notch cast.
  • OVERALL
    4.0
    GREAT
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
An interesting thriller that is thickly layered and features a top notch cast.
THE BAD
A movie from this time period in film certainly deserves a commentary track.
THE FEATURE
Clocking in at 125 minutes Marathon Man is a 1970s thriller of the highest order. This film features many characters, all of which circle around Babe Levy (Dustin Hoffman). This movie takes it's time telling it's story but it all begins with the brother of Nazi Christian Szell (Laurence Olivier) dying in a car crash. This disrupts some distribution channels between the "behind the scenes" characters of Doc Levy (Roy Scheider; Babe's brother) and Peter Janeway (William Devane). Then Doc Levy gets killed and people start coming after Babe. It soon becomes apparent that Janeway's business cuts both ways and that Elsa (Marthe Keller), Babe's new girlfriend, is also in on this game. Essentially, Szell profiteered greatly during the Holocaust and certain American's have been protecting his interests in the states. With Babe now involved in all this, it becomes apparent that anything he knows is too much.

While I found this story somewhat convoluted and hard to follow, I don't think that it's mood, tone, pace and the acting heavyweights involved can be denied.
THE EXTRAS
Magic of Hollywood

A terrific featurette made when this movie was in production. It is probably because this featurette is so "old school" that I like it so much, but I truly think it grabbed me because producer Robert Evans basically takes us through the process of making a film. We hear from director John Schlesinger, Hoffman, Olivier (and other actors) and basically get a firsthand account of all the logistics employed to bring this movie to fruition. If you watch nothing else on this DVD, make sure you watch this.

Rehearsal Footage

We are taken through the process these actors go through as they develop their characters. How they are unafraid to work with the material and massage it until they get it just where they want it. I think it would be interesting for people who know nothing about movies to watch this, because I think that ultimately they would have a much deeper understand for what actors do.

Going the Distance: Remembering Marathon Man

Similar to the Magic of Hollywood featurette, we get an updated account of this movie. The cast is on hand to talk about the film and while I enjoyed this, it seemed somewhat redundant after watching the older featurette. There is some good stuff here but I appreciated the "show" approach they employed in the first featurette, instead of how they "told" us what we were seeing in this one.
THE VIDEO
Widescreen Version Enhanced for 16:9 TVs. This movie looks really solid considering that it is 30 years old this year. The DVD compression doesn't seem to have bumped up the image quality much, but I also found it interesting that Schlesinger didn't use a lot of 1970s techniques in terms of how the film was edited. The structure is pretty classical but the subject matter and the depth of the story is where this movie really shines.
THE AUDIO
Dolby Digital. English 5.1 Surround. Restored English Mono. French Mono. English Subtitles. The sound on this movie has been kept up nicely as well. They have layered it in such a way (I really loved the synthesized score) that the audio stands out like a lot of films from the 1970s. Thankfully, they didn't let this movie get consumed by it's mood but considering the plot of the story, I don't think that was a luxury they really had.
THE PACKAGE
The cover of Marathon Man gives us a shot of Dustin Hoffman, in a hooded sweatshirt, pointing a gun directly at us. The back features some shots from the film, a Special Features listing, a description, cast list and technical specs. Nothing too special but Marathon Man is a movie worth checking out.
THE FINAL WORD
This movie works because we are never really sure about any of the characters. There is a weird anticipation because everybody could be good or bad depending not only on your perspective, but on the motivations of the various characters that inhabit this world. Hoffman, Scheider, Olivier and Devane are a top notch cast, and they know how to turn on the various emotional levels to keep this film suspenseful. Marathon Man is done in such a way that is not just a political thriller, but also a horror movie as well. Considering that it examines the ghosts of our past and how they effect the present, that makes the themes of this film all the more scarier.

I knew there was a reason why Marathon Man was included in the film Terror in the Aisles.

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Comments (1)

  1. Shelley

    Great film and performances from the entire cast.

    5 years agoby @shelleyFlag