YMMV / Marathon Man

  • Adaptation Displacement
  • Complete Monster: Christian Szell, aka The White Angel (because of his hair), was a Nazi dentist working at Auschwitz, and used to falsely promise protection to the Jewish prisoners in exchange of their gold hidden in their teeth, before sending them to the gas chambers. After escaping World War II, Szell sells most of his Nazi comrades to a shadow government agency in exchange for protection and assistance in his diamonds smuggling (the ones he stole from the Jews). When he goes to New York to claim a box of diamonds he becomes increasingly paranoid for his safety starting to kill Henry "Doc" Levy, one of his collaborators, believing him to be a traitor. He then kidnaps Docís brother Thomas "Babe" Levy and, wanting to know "Is it safe," cruelly tortures him with his dental instruments, first digging a hole in his cavity and then drilling a healthy tooth "until (he) reach(es) the pulp", all the while maintaining a friendly attitude. After he convinces himself Babe doesn't know anything, he orders him to be killed anyway. He later uses a retractable knife to slash the throat of a Holocaust survivor who recognizes him.
  • Fridge Logic: Why does Szell go to a New York diamond market in person to do business when he could send a lackey or do business by phone?
    • Is it safe? Is it safe? Szell is too paranoid to do this. As Babe mentions in the film's (and I think the book's) ending, all of the trouble came because the Nazi was afraid that he would be robbed by anyone he worked with. The book has a few excerpts of his thought process, obsessing over his safety.
    • ''CALL THE POLICE!!''
      • What are the police going to do when the people after Babe are working for a rather shadowy branch of the government?
  • Ho Yay: Henry and Janeway. (It's more explicit in the novel.)
  • Memetic Mutation: Is it safe?
  • Nightmare Fuel: The torture sequence. It takes every fear people have of going to the dentist and amps it up to Eleven on the nightmare dial.
    • During screening, the director noticed a LOT of people leave during the drill scene... and tentatively come back.
    • The scene where Babe's apartment is being broken into. He locks the bathroom door, but can do almost nothing as it is slowly, inevitably broken down...
    • Speaking of the drill scene, here's a nice little thought experiment you can drift off to: In the first torture scene, Szell jabs one of Babe's cavities with his probe, which is painful enough to make Babe scream in agony. Then when Szell brings out the drill, he reassures Babe he won't be drilling into the cavity...because drilling into a live tooth is infinitely more painful. Again, when just jabbing a cavity was enough to make Babe scream...
  • Signature Scene: Szell torturing Levy with a dentist drill while repeating his mantra, "Is it safe?"