Combustible Celluloid
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With: Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier, Roy Scheider, William Devane, Marthe Keller, Fritz Weaver, Richard Bright, Marc Lawrence, Allen Joseph, Tito Goya, Ben Dova, Lou Gilbert, Jacques Marin, James Wing Woo, Nicole Deslauriers
Written by: William Goldman, based on his novel
Directed by: John Schlesinger
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 125
Date: 10/06/1976

Marathon Man (1976)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Playing Safe

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In this thriller with horror film overtones, Roy Scheider plays a suave and clever spy who inadvertently brings his brother (Dustin Hoffman) in on his plan to stop a Nazi spy (Laurence Olivier) from traveling to New York to retrieve and sell a boatload of stolen diamonds. Hoffman's overcooked and hysterical performance hasn't aged well, but Scheider looks great as the well-dressed cool guy and Olivier turns in his most notoriously frightening performance as the Nazi dentist who tortures Hoffman in the dental chair, chanting the mysterious question, "Is it safe?" as he drills.

As directed by John Schlesinger and written by William Goldman (based on his own book), the film works best when it slows down, but for much of the running time, it swings all over the place at once.

Paramount's DVD features an excellent transfer and a vintage making-of documentary -- hosted by legendary producer Robert Evans -- which is far more interesting than most new documentaries. The disc also includes rehearsal footage of Hoffman, but it's just more of his overtrained mannerisms.

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