Tuesday, January 2, 2007


Is it safe?

Is what safe?

Is it safe to criticize a great writer when you aren't even qualified to call yourself a hack? In any event, I better get an industrial-strength sized bottle of oil of cloves ready...just in case.

Every now and then, a movie is better than the book but "MARATHON MAN" is not one of those occasions.

Author William Goldman's list of accomplishments are prolific, varied and excellent. They include Broadway, novels, screenwriting and much more. However, Goldman definitely missed the mark twice in the Marathon Man novel...or shall I say--he really had some better ideas for the movie.

The opening scene of the movie is right on target. Two old men in separate cars, drive through the Yorkville section of Manhattan. We find out later that one of these men is the *brother (see below) of the book's villain. They jockey for position while screaming road-rage insults on a narrow street. Suddenly, an oil truck backs into their path and BOOM. Great visuals, very exciting.

The book's treatment of the same sequence is different. It's good that the readers learn the motives of both drivers but....in this case, Goldman, while interlacing some clever back-story to these septuagenarians, also adds the oil truck driver into the mix...placing him in a luncheonette around the corner. Therefore, his truck is stationary when the two road-warriors somehow hit it. Hence, the reader is stuck with the driver's reaction from a block away while he's dunking a bialy into his java. Very disappointing.

The other time that Goldman did a better job with the movie was the end. CAUTION, if you're one of the six people on the planet who never saw the movie (or read the book) you may want to stand away from your computer or cover your eyes because I'm going to be giving away the end.

The movie ends with Babe Levy (Dustin Hoffman) taking Dr. Christian Szell (Laurence Olivier) to the reservoir in Central Park that he runs around to practice for the marathon. Being familiar with the territory, Levy lures Szell into the small building that regulates the water levels, pollutants...whatever. Amid loud motor noise and water rushing beneath them, Levy forces Szell to swallow some diamonds. In the dialog, the viewer is reminded of the hardness of diamonds so they appreciate the torturous pain...the revenge etc. Bravo--hurrah for the good guys...yaddy-yadda.

In the book, Goldman also has them going to Central Park. But they stop and go behind some bushes. Levy tells Szell off as Szell begs to buy him off. Then Levy shoots him. There's a little more to it but not (YAWN) much.

For more information about William Goldman, search his name and visit the Wikipedia site. I guarantee his resume will bring many surprises.

* Courtesy of the Internet Movie Database, the actor who plays Klaus Szell (Dr. Christian Szell's brother) is named Ben Dova. I really don't think any further embellishment is necessary...its funny enough already. But NO ! Because the name Ben Dova struck me as odd, to say the least, I did further research and I wasn't disappointed.

Trust me, I'm not smart enough to make this up. GET THIS, Ben Dova's real name is Joseph Spah. And he was a survivor of the Hindenberg in 1937. AND, he was also suspected of placing the bomb (if there was one) because other survivors witnessed him regularly leaving the passenger area to check on his dog.

The FBI however, cleared him of any wrongdoing.

And for you dog lovers, I'm sorry to say the article specifically mentioned that the dog (name not included) perished in the disaster.

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