Marathon Man: Disturbing Thriller Arrives on 4K Ultra HD

L-R: Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man. Courtesy of Paramount.

Marathon Man is a very disturbing thriller thanks to its dentistry scenes and makes its arrival on 4K Ultra HD by way of Kino Lorber.

“Is it safe?” These three worlds would really elevate the film to the next level. Let me say that the dentistry scenes are very tortuous. It is certainly a very far cry from what we see in Little Shop of Horrors. I know that William Goldman wrote the book and screenplay but we could do without a Nazi torturing a Jew. Ultimately, the scene–and the rest of the script–would earn Marathon Man a spot in AFI’s top 100 thrillers.

Marathon Man was the first thriller for filmmaker John Schlesinger and he certainly pulls it off. It’s also safe to say that the filmmaker pulls off the fear and pain that the film is trying to convey. Also, make sure to watch the two bonus documentaries because they add some additional context to the film. The earlier doc is heavy on producer Robert Evans but this is to be expected. At the time, nobody would insure Laurence Olivier because of his ill health. Eventually, insurance came through for a six week period after convincing from Evans. After shooting for 11 weeks, the adrenaline was helpful because Olivier would go onto live for another thirteen years.

Ph.D. student Thomas Babington “Babe” Levy (Dustin Hoffman) is an avid runner. He soon finds himself in a plot involving stolen diamonds and Nazi war criminal Christian Szell (Laurence Olivier), one of the most terrifying villains in cinematic history. Szell’s brother, Klaus, is killed early on and at this point, he can no longer trust any of the diamond couriers. Babe’s brother, Henry “Doc” Levy (Roy Scheider), is posing as a oil executive but he’s really working for a secret agency with Commander Peter “Janey” Janeway (William Devane). As a side note, Babe and Doc’s father, H.V., killed himself as a result of the McCarthy hearings.

I’m not going to dive into the large gist of the plot. People get murdered or betrayed. There’s some thrilling chases that I’m going to get into momentarily. At the end of the day, Szell dies after getting into a fight with Babe and of course, it’s because he stabs himself. What can I say? The Nazis deserve their deaths to come in this sort of way if they aren’t being sentenced to death. It’s a different ending book but I have to say that I agree with Dustin Hoffman. The film’s ending works much better than what had been originally written on the page.

Kino Lorber Studios Classics has been on a roll of late with its licensed titles. This time around, it is a Paramount title that earned an Oscar nomination for Laurence Olivier. Per the documentary, producers Robert Evans and Sidney Beckerman and screenwriter William Goldman sat down to discuss who they wanted to direct and star. Suffice it to say, they got their first choices in director John Schlesinger and actors Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier. In watching the two actors together, it’s fascinating to watch their methods. Hoffman is an organic actor and so he comes from an entirely different approach than the veteran Olivier. The younger star also puts in the work when it comes to the running. He’s not faking it at all–that’s him out of breath for real.

I’ve seen thrilling chases through the years but nothing like Dustin Hoffman running for his life. They took some nine days to film the sequence. Meanwhile, there’s a scene where he’s being tortured in a bathtub and wanted to be under water for as long as possible. Listen, we can discuss the magic of Hollywood for all we want but sometimes, there’s no substitute for the real thing. On the other hand, New Yorkers are happily participating in the on-screen magic during a scene featuring Olivier strolling through the Diamond District.

It’s different to watch Roy Scheider starring in a non-Jaws role–this was only his fourth major film in his career. Meanwhile, one is able to see then-Broadway stage star William Devane’s promising potential in the late 1970s. While their characters are gay and in love in the novel, you really do not see this on screen. The film implies this very subtly during a scene in Paris but not anywhere as extensive as in the source material. Swiss actress Marthe Keller rounds out the rest of the main cast. All in all, the film features a superb cast and this is rare for a genre film during the 1970s. Without Hoffman, the film would probably not have gone forward. His casting is what makes or breaks the movie, maybe more than anyone else.

Here’s a fun fact: the film preceded both Bound for Glory and Rocky in becoming the first film using the Steadicam to see the big screen. They use the camera heavily during the running and chase sequences. Coincidentally, both Marathon Man and Rocky are being released today on 4K UHD.

By the time one finishes watching Marathon Man, Laurence Olivier’s terrifying performance will still be on their mind.

Bonus Features


  • Brand New HDR/Dolby Vision Master – From a 4K Scan of the Original Camera Negative
  • NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historians Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson
  • 5.1 Surround and Lossless 2.0 Audio
  • Triple-Layered UHD100 Disc
  • Optional English Subtitles


  • Brand New 2022 HD Master – From a 4K Scan of the 35mm Original Camera Negative
  • NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historians Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson
  • The Magic of Hollywood…Is the Magic of People: Original Making of Marathon Man (21:14)
  • Going the Distance: Remembering Marathon Man (29:07)
  • Rehearsal Footage (21:06)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • 10 TV Spots
  • 2 Radio Spots
  • Dual-Layered BD50 Disc
  • Optional English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: John Schlesinger
SCREENWRITER: William Goldman
CAST: Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier, Roy Scheider, William Devane, Marthe Keller, Fritz Weaver, Richard Bright, Marc Lawrence

Paramount released Marathon Man in theaters on October 8, 1976. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.