By Dan Delgado
Note: This blog post spoils most Marathon Man, but since it's been over 45 years I think it's okay.
I love the move Marathon Man.
I first saw it when I was a kid, about nine years old I think (which by the way, Marathon Man is not a movie for nine-year olds) and have always been fascinated with it.
If you’re not familiar, it’s a paranoid 70’s thriller about college guy named Babe (Dustin Hoffman), who’s training to run marathons and gets caught up in his brother’s spy job of transporting diamonds for an old Nazi (Laurence Olivier). It doesn’t really end well for anybody.
There’s plenty of blood and violence and it’s best remembered for a dental torture scene. However, for me my favorite part of Marathon Man is Hoffman’s spy brother Doc, played by Roy Scheider.
The movie moves as two separate stories for the first half or so. Babe and Doc are divided up with no explanation as to their relationship. For every scene of Babe at school and awkwardly dating a European gal (Marthe Keller) is followed by a scene with Doc running around Paris doing spy stuff. He’s meeting people at operas, killing an Asian dude in his hotel room and just being a general badass.
Then halfway through the movie you see the connection. Doc shows up to visit Babe and you realize these guys are brothers. My favorite scene in the movie is the dinner the two of them have with Babe’s new girlfriend. She’s a fraud, keeping an eye on Hoffman in case Doc does some funny business with Olivier’s Nazi. Doc is onto her game and cleverly exposes her, though Babe doesn’t believe it.
Doc doesn’t make it much further than that in movie and we’re left with Babe to deal with the aftermath. And this is where the problem is. There’s not enough Doc! We needed an entire movie with this character and instead we get only about 60% or so. It’s just not right. However, there is a small consolation prize out there... somewhere.
Filmed and cut from the movie is an 8 1/2 minute scene in which Doc meets an aging spy named Ape at an airport bar. The guy is old and on the way out he knows it. When Ape goes to the bathroom and doesn’t come back Doc goes to investigate and finds that he’s been killed while on the toilet by two assassins. He loses it and goes crazy on the two assassins, likely killing them. This also scene happens in the novel Marathon Man as well, however he spares their lives giving them with the lesson of leaving a man with his dignity. He understands killing Ape was their job, but doing it while he was on the toilet with his pants down was unconscionable.
William Goldman, the writer of the book and screenwriter of the movie, thinks it was cut because the scene was too violent. He’s said the cut is to the detriment of the movie because it shows us a vulnerable side of Doc and without the scene Doc comes off as a “superstud”.
He’s right, Doc does seem like a superstud until the moment he doesn’t. However, this scene of Doc defending a Doc spy’s honor would only make him more awesome. I’m not sure who to petition or who to bother about it, but somewhere deep in the vaults of Paramount Pictures this scene must still exist. Someone out there must have it. Maybe it’s lying around producer Robert Evans house somewhere. Has anyone checked? Was it in his estate auction?
It’s been decades now, it’s time to put this out in the world. The real crime in Marathon Man has nothing to do with Nazis, diamonds, or dental work. Well maybe the dental work too. The real crime is denying us more of Doc.
Goldman must have realized how great his character creation was, he wrote a followed up novel about a resurrected Doc that becomes a killing machine called Brothers. Putting this clip out on YouTube, Criterion Channel, on a Blu-ray, or wherever you put these things these days, of Marathon Man would help right a great wrong and spotlight one the most underrated movie characters in history.