Marathon Man (1976)

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Released 8-Apr-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-The Magic Of Hollywood - Original Making Of Marathon Man
Featurette-Going The Distance: Remembering Marathon Man
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Rehearsal Footage
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1976
Running Time 120:14
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (77:01) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By John Schlesinger

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Dustin Hoffman
Laurence Olivier
Roy Scheider
William Devane
Marthe Keller
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $35.95 Music Michael Small

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Greek
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    When I started my DVD collection, I made a list of movies that had a profound impact on me, movies I really wanted to add to my collection. It was quite a list (still is - I've been adding to it almost as fast as I knock films off of it). Many of them have been released on DVD, and I have joyfully collected them. Some have been released in beautiful condition, and I've been very happy. Some have been treated shamefully, and I've been sorely disappointed. As each one appears I get excited, hoping that they have decided to give that particular movie the respect it deserves. I've recently noticed that a good number of the movies I've been waiting for come from the 70s - probably because that is the decade I was in high school and university - the dating years, when going to a film was an excellent excuse for a date. This is one of those, with the added bonus of being likely to cause your date to cling to you during the strongest parts (we weren't as enlightened in the 70s...).

    Marathon Man is a powerful movie. It had enough of an impact that I bought the novel. William Goldman adapted the screenplay from his own novel, and did a superb job. Both the novel and the movie start by disorienting you - they present a series of scenes, each involving different people. You are challenged to work out how all these scenes fit together, and gradually you get to see the connections. Part of the suspense comes from trying to anticipate these connections.

    This is not a horror movie, but it contains one of the most famous horrifying scenes of its decade. I suspect this film put many people off going to the dentist for a considerable period. Amazing how much fear can be packed into the short question: "Is it safe?".

    This film has an impressive cast. Dustin Hoffman as the marathon man (the book makes much more of the marathon aspect) of the title. Laurence Olivier, defying age, cancer, and weakness, to play Christian Szell. Roy Scheider as, no, I can't say - that might spoil it for you. Likewise William Devane, and Marthe Keller. In the making-of featurettes, the producer says more than once that he was amazed that they got all their first choices in both cast and crew - they wanted Hoffman, they wanted Olivier, they wanted Schlesinger, and got them all... This is two of the greatest-ever actors working off one another, under a great director. They make it look easy, of course.

    Despite being a marvellously crafted thriller, it has moments of black humour - like the moment when Roy Scheider hits a man trying to kill him, but using his injured hand - the reaction is perfect. Likewise the confrontation in front of Babe's door, when the gang is trying to break in.

    This is not a film for the squeamish, but I think standards have changed in the last 25 years. This is the first film I recall seeing that showed a fight ending with a sickening crack as someone's neck was broken. Nowadays that's fairly common in an action film. Still, there's more than one rather graphic moment - don't say I didn't warn you.

    Everything in this film is set in motion by an early case of road-rage - it is kinda funny watching two seventy- or eighty-year-old drivers behaving like hooligans. This behaviour is partly justified by one of them driving a car with its heater stuck on in the middle of summer - I guess nowadays they wouldn't bother with the justification, because we're familiar with the concept.

    If you haven't seen this film, then I recommend you give it a try. If you have seen it, then you know what I'm talking about.

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Transfer Quality


    The movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. The original theatrical ratio was 1.85:1, so this is close; I didn't notice any obvious misframing, so they seem to have done a good job on this. The opening and closing credits are presented in an interesting way, slightly inset, with fine black bars around the picture - I think this is because the credits extend to the edges of the frame, and they did not want them clipped. The R1 has black bars on all four sides during the credits, but the R4 only has them on three sides.

    The image is quite attractive, mostly quite sharp and clear, with very good shadow detail and no low-level noise. There are moments (particularly in a couple of low-light night scenes) when there's noticeable grain, but these only add to the atmosphere.

    Colour is quite impressive for a film from the 1970s. As is not uncommon, some reds are rendered rather more orange, and colours are a little drab, but this is a film stock issue, and not attributable to the video transfer. The more films you watch from this era the more accustomed you become to this phenomenon. The transfer has captured the colours of the original film quite faithfully.

    There is almost no aliasing - nice work (the R1 shows quite a bit more aliasing, and moire). There are no apparent MPEG errors. Clearly they've taken some real care with this. Unfortunately, they seem to have been forced to use a display print: the reel-change markings are quite obvious (20:21, 39:41, 59:09, 76:53, 94:40, 113:16), and a little annoying. There are numerous film artefacts, mainly flecks and spots in black and white. There's a small hair at 41:19. The film artefacts are not particularly distracting, because they are small.

    There are subtitles in nine languages, although there are twelve subtitle tracks - for some reason there are two sets of subtitles in each of French, Spanish, and Italian - I could not determine the difference. I only watched the English subtitles. There's an error at 20:23 where the audio says: "You might end up leaving larger tracks than that", but the subtitles read "You might end up leaving larger tracks than Dad". Generally speaking, however, the subtitles are accurate and well-timed, as well as being easy to read in white with fine black borders. Interestingly, the R1 version has subtitles in yellow, and the aforementioned error is not present - looks like it was subtitled by a different person.

    The disc is single-sided and RSDL-formatted. The layer change comes at 77:01. It is visible, but not troubling.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are soundtracks in four languages. I only listened to the English - it is a Dolby Digital 5.1 effort.

    Dialogue is easy to comprehend. Audio sync is mostly good, but there's an obvious slip at 20:16. The same slip is visible on the R1, leading me to attribute this to an ADR error in the source material.

    Michael Small's score is well-suited to the film. It bears some resemblance to his score for Klute, but that's understandable, given that both films are thrillers.

    The original soundtrack (not provided on this disc, but present on the R1) was mono. It has been remixed to 5.1 for this disc, but there's little in the way of rear directionality. The surrounds do provide some depth, but it is mostly a bit of the score. The subwoofer supports gunshots and explosions, but doesn't get much of a workout. To be honest, I felt the soundtrack was just fine, even without directional sound.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are some excellent extras on this disc - nice stuff for a movie that's over 25 years old.


    The main menu is animated with music. There's a glitch at the start of the music. Interestingly, the same glitch occurs in the same spot in the R1's menu music. The two menus are quite similar, but they only have one setup menu, while we have one for audio and one for subtitles (more languages to deal with).

Featurette - The Magic of Hollywood (20:20)

    A long making-of, made at the same time as the movie - it is narrated by the producer (Robert Evans). It is somewhat self-congratulatory, but that's normal. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. There are lots of film artefacts, including some rather ugly ones - I guess this film was not stored as carefully as the feature film, or hasn't been restored.

Featurette - Remembering Marathon Man (29:05)

    A new documentary about this movie, made at the 25th anniversary of its release. The actors and crew have clearly aged - Roy Scheider, in particular, shows the 25 years; Marthe Keller just looks even more beautiful. It makes an interesting contrast with the previous featurette. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

Rehearsal Footage (20:12)

    This is a real bonus! This is a series of scenes that were filmed during rehearsals, each followed by an interview with one of the actors in the scene, discussing his or her character. These scenes are not in the film, but they are not deleted scenes - they are scenes where the actors are exploring their characters. Really quite interesting stuff - this is the sort of material you can only get on DVD - very cool. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

Theatrical Trailer (2:15)

    The theatrical trailer in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. It is in excellent condition.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 disc is missing:

    The Region 1 disc is missing:

    I spent quite a bit of time trying to determine if the two discs were drawn from the same hi-def transfer. I suspect not, but I have no proof. The R1 seems a little darker, with slightly reduced shadow detail. You can buy either disc, and be happy, I'd say, but I'd suggest the R4, because of the increased resolution of PAL, and its likely lower price.


    Marathon Man is a classic thriller, presented rather well on DVD.

    The video quality is very good, impaired by film artefacts.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are excellent.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, March 11, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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