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A truly harrowing film, MARATHON MAN is a clever series of accidents that produce a nightmare thriller with an unrelenting attack on the viewer's nerves. Babe Levy (Dustin Hoffman), a Columbia University graduate student who runs whenever possible, dreaming of the Olympic marathon, is
haunted by the memory of his father's suicide, brought about by the McCarthy witchhunts. Babe's brother, Doc (Roy Scheider), an American secret agent, helps sneak Szell (Laurence Olivier), an old Nazi, into the US from South America. Szell's brother, who has watched over a fortune in jewels taken
from Jewish concentration camp victims, has died, and Szell has come to New York to collect the booty. After killing Doc, Szell uses the tools of his dentist's trade to torture Babe for information the student doesn't possess. Putting his marathon training to use, Babe escapes Szell, and
eventually the pursuer becomes the pursued. Hoffman is excellent as the crazed Szell's victim, and Olivier is the essence of evil, his sadistic acts so expertly enacted that the film has a deeply disturbing quality. John Schlesinger's direction is highly stylized and more than effective, jammed
with action and offering unforgettably terrifying scenes. Scheider is good as the errant older brother, and William Devane is his usual tricky self as the double-dealing intelligence chief. William Goldman's script, based on his novel, is morally confused but literate and full of surprises.