Last night I saw a TCM Classic Film Festival screening of Marathon Man at the Chinese. The first two-thirds are excellent and close to great…okay, I’ll go further and call it one of the best thrillers of the ’70s except for the last 10% to 15%. A lot of films are like this — superb in the opening phases, delightful applications of intrigue and curiosity…and then the payoff disappoints.

I only know that the more William Goldman‘s plot unfolds and the more we learn about the smallmindedness and the old-man desperation of Laurence Olivier‘s Dr. Christian Szell, the less intriguing it all becomes. Suggestions are more powerful than specifics.

I love the old Jew vs. old German road rage scene in midtown Manhattan. And the spooky Parisian sequences with Roy Scheider, culminating in that superb hotel room fight with the Asian guy with the creepy eyeball. Dustin Hoffman‘s grubby apartment and the Latinos across the street who taunt him and the anguish that he feels over his dead father are fine flavorings. And Olivier’s line about Americans: “They were always so confident that God was on their side. Now I think they are not so sure.”