Marathon Man

Marathon Man (1976)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Roy Scheider, Laurence Olivier, Marthe Keller
Extras: Featurette, Interviews, Rehearsal Footage, Trailer

John Schlesinger's "Marathon Man" is a classic among thrillers and it is now receiving a re-promotion from Paramount with a new low $14.95 price tag. While not entitled a Special Edition, this release nonetheless sports some great additional features, making it an even more attractive package.

Based on William Goldman's novel, the film tells the story of Babe Levy (Dustin Hoffman) a graduate student and marathon runner in New York who is pulled into a mystery of murder and intrigue without his knowing. Nazi fugitive Christian Szell (Laurence Olivier) is sending out henchmen in the US to kill a number of seemingly random people and then finally decides to appear from his exile in Uruguay to visit the US in person. Although Babe is in no way affiliated with Szell for some reason his path keeps crossing that of the killers and Szell himself until Babe finally realizes the secret of these encounters and cold-blooded murders, but not before Szell would prove to him why he was one of the most feared people in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

"Marathon Man" is a fascinating film. The film sets up its premise and the mystery cleverly by leaving the viewer in the dark about many of the underlying facts. We see events unfold without knowing how they relate to each other and only gradually the viewer – like Babe in the film – is able to connect the dots and make sense of the web that is spun around the characters. There are countless highlights in the film, many accentuated by the superb cast that brings these characters to life with charisma, subtle intrigue or ice-cold menace. Namely Laurence Olivier is simply amazing as the sadistic Szell and has deservedly received an Academy Award nomination for his performance. But also Dustin Hoffman and Roy Scheider are giving it their all, making sure "Marathon Man" is a film you won't easily forget.

The transfer that Paramount delivers on this DVD is featuring the film in its original widescreen presentation, enhanced for 16×9 TV sets. Rich with detail, the image is always clean and clear and without overt blemishes. A few speckles are evident and the transfer shows some grain in select scenes, but over all it is a pretty good transfer overall. The color palette looks dated, but reflects the filmmakers original intended look of the movie, with many brownish tones that are warm but give the film a definite 70s look and feel. The transfer feels a bit on the dark side but I assume this is again according to the film's original look and not detrimental to the DVD. Non edge-enhancement or compression artifacts are evident, making this a good-looking presentation.

The audio on the DVD is presented in a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital remix. It is a solid track, though don't expect a lot of surround usage here. It is subtle and understated, and despite its being remastered the audio still sounds a bit dated as well with a somewhat limited frequency response, stemming from the technical limitations of the original elements. But the track is free of distortion or sibilance, as well as hiss or any other defects, adding to the overall presentation of the film.

As extras Paramount has included cast and crew interviews on the release, giving viewers the chance to learn a bit more about the making of the film and the characters involved while rehearsal footage and the original 1976 Making Of featurette give even more insight into the filmmaking process of this remarkable film.
The release is rounded out by the movie's original theatrical trailer.

"Marathon Man" is a cool 70s-style thriller that offers plenty of suspense and intrigue. The viewer is always guessing, trying to figure out what's going on and how events and people are connected. As the film is suddenly switching into overdrive and races towards its finale you will find yourself glued to the edge of your seat, no doubt. This is a film everyone should be familiar with and given its new low price point, there's no reason why you shouldn't have a copy of it in your DVD collection.