I really shouldn’t be upset. No one forced me to watch the current version of Marathon Man. I rather expected, more than forty years since creating the movie and thirty after my demise, that filmmakers and the industry would be even more barbaric than during my twilight period. Instead, they – the anonymous censors – have snipped away some delightful scenes of my drilling raw nerves in the teeth of Dustin Hoffman as he sits bound in my diabolical dental chair.
No actor wants to see his fine work swept up and tossed under the lid of an antiseptic metal wastebasket. And I must tell you, I cherish even pretending to send electrical agony through the mouth and brain of my fellow thespian. You may have heard an account, also heavily edited, of what we say to each other on the set. For three days Dustin has been arriving unbathed, hollow-eyed, and manic, and I ask him, “Whatever is the matter with you, dear boy?”
“I’ve been starving myself and staying up all night to get ready for these scenes.”
“Why don’t you simply try acting?”
That’s where most accounts stop. In fact, Dustin continues, “I make my scenes realistic, not like your dated and bombastic bullshit.”
“You’re a sniveling little boy far too much like the characters he plays.”
“In fifty years I’ll still be celebrated. You’ll be irrelevant.”
“Get in the highchair, method actor, and let history determine whom it prefers.”
I want to throttle the little bastard or at least storm off the set. Other than my wife, Vivien Leigh, no one but Marilyn Monroe has publicly spoken to me so disrespectfully. Alas, my electric drill isn’t plugged in – the motorized sound being elsewhere generated – but I clang Dustin’s upper incisors and say, “Oops, I’m so very sorry.”
He never does tell me where my diamonds are. That’s because he doesn’t know.
I won’t blame Dustin for my next concern. Director Franklin Schaffner, or whomever has final editorial control, simply gets swept away by dramatic ambition when I enter a Manhattan jewelry store to learn the approximate value of my blood diamonds. It seems destined when one of my Auschwitz victims notices me at the jewelry case. The old man, unsure at first, figures out who I am and follows outside as I hastily walk away. Credibility weakens when yet a second victim, an elderly woman, spies me and begins stalking and denouncing me from the other side of the street until she tries to cross and is hit by a car. The old man soon catches me but I slash his throat with the long knife lurking in my coat sleeve. One confrontation would be dramatic. Two almost prompt a chuckle.
In the ultimate scene Dustin, his teeth no doubt throbbing, enjoys pointing a gun and throwing my briefcase of diamonds at me, sending many gems into water below our subterranean service bridge. He insists that I also eat the diamonds. I resist but finally swallow one before moving toward Dustin who clumsily drops his gun. I’d stab the dear boy but he throws the diamonds into water and in a panic I fall down winding steel steps and immolate myself.
When viewing this climax I’m not quite as moved as expected because the lingering slash of the old man’s throat should be cut. The old woman and her sudden demise need to be altogether excised, leaving the old man to confront me. How shall I overcome him and thus proceed to my showdown with Dustin? Very well, with only one death camp victim, I suppose it’s all right to let me rip him.