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MARATHON MAN, 1976
Starring Laurence Olivier, Dustin Hoffman, William Devane, Marthe Keller and Roy Scheider
In New York City, the brother of an infamous Nazi war criminal is killed in a head on collision car accident. Shortly thereafter, members of a covert US government group called "The Division" begin to be murdered one by one. When the brother to one Division member sees his brother knifed to death, it is revealed that former SS dentist Szell, "the White Angel" of Auschwitz, is wrapping up loose ends to smuggle priceless diamonds from the United States.
This film was not exactly one I would normally watch prior to learning about it. But, due to a family member raving on about how good it was, I decided to buy it during the January sales and I have never regretted that action at all.
Babe (Hoffman) is someone going places. A dedicated history student, he takes his efforts seriously. However, relaxing one night in his bath, he is kidnapped by some shady looking guys and delivered to the evil Nazi Szell, who made a fortune offering Jews a ticket out of misery for a hefty price. Hiding this money in a bank deposit box, Szell discovers his brother, who held the only other key to open this box, has died and is a tad paranoid about whether his money is safe or not. Babe’s brother Doc (Scheider) found out the hard way about knowing of the money which Szell had stashed away and paid for with his life.
Onto the kidnapping, Babe is tortured by Szell and asked whether or not his money is safe. Escaping from his clutches, Babe then tries to find out what the truth is and how to sort out this problem which he has unfortunately become involved in. With his life on the line, will Babe ever discover these horrors before it’s too late?
Sir Laurence Olivier is someone I have not paid much attention to over the years. The only movie I have seen him appear in, which blew everyone out the water, is “Henry V” but here, in a Hollywood film of all things, he shows what an amazing and versatile actor he really was. Yes, I agree that some portrayals of Nazi’s have been stereotypical in previous cinematic representations but I believe Olivier personifies this character. Like Glenn Ford did as Jonathan Kent in the 1978 version of “Superman”, Olivier held a benchmark for the Nazi villain which hasn’t been bettered since.
A fan in recent years due to his role in “The Graduate”, I have since gone onto hunting down and watching many of Dustin Hoffman’s movies. “Kramer Vs Kramer” is a wonder, and even “Hook” has its good points. But it is here, in the form of Babe, that Dustin Hoffman gives a performance of such magnitude that it must surely rate in the top five of his career.
Not that these two stalwarts give the only noticeable performances, but also Scheider as well. A hugely underrated actor who deserves far more recognition than being someone who killed a giant shark twice, his brief yet memorable portrayal of doomed Doc is wonderful, in particular his death scene.
Full of suspense, this is one the finest thrillers seen on the silver screen. I admit I am giving away my mid-twenties age here, but they really don’t make them like they used to.