Tom Levy, who is nicknamed Babe by his older brother Henry Levy, an oil executive who in turn is nicknamed Doc by Tom, is a Ph.D. candidate in History at Columbia University. He is also training to run a marathon. Tom is paying homage to his deceased father, H.B. Levy, in pursuing the same studies as him, his father who committed suicide while being under investigation solely for being a Jew. Tom's work doesn't sit well with Doc who wants Tom to move on with his life. While at Columbia, Tom meets and begins to date Elsa Opel, a foreign exchange student also in History. While out for a walk in Central Park late one day, Tom and Elsa are mugged, the unusual aspect of it being that their attackers were men in suits. Tom will learn that the mugging was not a random attack after someone close to Tom is found murdered, the deceased who was not who he purported to be. From here, Tom is thrown into an international plot concerning a WWII Nazi named Christian Szell in hiding, and a large cache... Written by
When the professor asks the students the question about the Tennyson quote, you can see Babe write the answer on his desk table. In the close-up, he is writing the answer on the back of his notebook. See more »
[Janeway arrives back at Szell's hideout where Karl and Erhard are waiting; Janeway is revealed as a double agent, which horrifies Babe even more]
[screams to Janeway]
I saw you kill them! You killed them! You killed them! You killed them! You fucking killed them! You killed my brother!
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The ending credits scroll with Babe's jogging route as a backdrop. See more »
1970s movies are so cynical, aren't they? Dark, depressing, and often grainy-looking and washed out. "Marathon Man" fits that description. It's good, of course - very good - but it's not exactly a good time. Know what I mean?
William Goldman, one of Hollywood's few celebrity screenwriters, wrote both the original novel and the script for this film version. I find him a bit overrated, but here he does a good job of elevating hack-level thriller material into a sort of art form. The beginning of the film is particularly well-written and intriguing, since it's full of creepy and cryptic events that are not immediately explained. But, alas, I find the ultimate explanation of these events to be rather prosaic and disappointing.
So, I think the movie's strengths lie in the acting and directing, more so than the story. Olivier and Scheider give particularly great performances, and Marthe Keller comes across as appropriately sweet and sexy (her big "secret," though, should be really easy for anyone to guess!) I'm a little less enamored of Dustin Hoffman, whose character is inexplicably nicknamed "Babe." He's just way too old to be a typical graduate student (almost forty years old, to be precise), and he simply doesn't have much charisma to me. Usually I like normal-looking, non-glamorous actors, but somehow Hoffman doesn't float my boat.
Still, it's hard not to sympathize with the poor guy while he's being pursued, beaten, tortured etc. The "dental horror" scene is still quite effective, though it's rather short; I was more impressed by the subsequent chase through the dark streets of NYC. (The city, by the way, looks like a hellish, crime-infested, debris-strewn pit in this movie - like it does in most 1970s productions!)
In the end, "Marathon Man" isn't quite another "French Connection," but it's got more than enough suspense to crush a lot of the dross that infests theaters today. It's worth watching just for the terrifying scene when the bad guys start tearing Hoffman's door off its hinges - it's good stuff.
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