A student (Dustin Hoffman) gets drawn into a web of intrigue involving his brother (Roy Scheider), a secret government agency, a stash of diamonds and a Nazi war criminal (Laurence Olivier). A hit in its day in spite of a flawed script, this thriller is still worth a look thanks to John Schlesinger’s taut direction, a number of exciting, bloody and wonderfully tasteless scenes (including the bizarre opening chase, Olivier’s famous dental torture of Hoffman and the one where the Nazi is spotted by Holocaust survivors) and memorable performances by the two leads, especially Olivier whose character is loosely based on Josef Mengele.
1976-U.S. 125 min. Color. Produced by Robert Evans, Sidney Beckerman. Directed by John Schlesinger. Screenplay, Novel: William Goldman. Cast: Dustin Hoffman (Thomas “Babe” Levy), Laurence Olivier (Christian Szell), Roy Scheider (Doc), William Devane, Marthe Keller, Fritz Weaver.
Trivia: Al Pacino and Julie Christie were allegedly considered for parts.
Golden Globe: Best Supporting Actor (Olivier).
Quote: “Is it safe?… Is it safe?” (Olivier’s repeated question to Hoffman)
Last word: “I think that Olivier didn’t want to improvise and Hoffman did. And it’s true, Olivier’s line ‘Why doesn’t he just act?’ that he said to me, not Hoffman, happened, because Hoffman was trying various acting techniques to appear out-of-it during the dental scenes. When I looked at the dailies I realized there was no reaction from Hoffman’s eyes, so I had to completely reshoot all the close-ups. That’s when Olivier said to me ‘Why doesn’t he just try acting?’ (laughs)” (Schlesinger, Cinephilia & Beyond)