Love thriller with a touch of comedy and have a lot of respect for Gregory Peck, Alan Badel, Sophia Loren, Stanley Donen and Henry Mancini. Plus the comparisons to 'Charade', a wonderful film and the very definition of the distinction "The Hitchcock film that Hitchcock never made". So 'Arabesque' had a lot going for it.
Getting the inevitable and often made comparisons to 'Charade', and any made out to Hitchcock (such as 'North By Northwest') quickly out of the way, 'Charade' is the much better film. Neither is 'Arabesque' in the same league with Hitchcock at his best, like 'North By Northwest' is. Donen has also done better, with 'Charade' being one of them. With that being said, 'Arabesque' to me was a good enjoyable film in its own right, with lots to admire but it is not hard to see why it won't be everybody's cup of tea.
'Arabesque' could have been better. As good an actor Peck was, amazing at his best (like his performance for the ages as Atticus Finch in 'To King a Mockingbird'), he is completely out of his depth in this film. 'Roman Holiday' showed that he could handle comedy and romance well, but here he looks continually puzzled and is at his most uncomfortable looking since 'The Parradine Case', lacking the suavity, smoothness and urbane charm needed, things that, as much as it is regrettable that it's being said, Cary Grant would have pulled off perfectly (being the king of that acting style).
Story-wise, 'Arabesque' is intriguing and entertaining, but it is also over-convoluted with parts not feeling explored enough. There are too a few nonsensical scenes (like the fainting guard) that seemed to be an indication of parts being written or re-written in a rush. Kieron Moore's dialogue jars a little bit somewhat.
However, 'Arabesque' looks a dream, late 60s Technicolor has rarely looked this incredible. Have not seen cinematography this inventive in a long time, while the colours dazzle and the settings and costumes define glamorous to a tee. Henry Mancini's music score is typically luscious and jaunty in Mancini's own unmistakable way. Donen directs at a good pace.
The script crackles in wit and sophistication while the story has enough entertainment value, tense suspense and intrigue to stick with it. Thanks to some memorable scenes, especially the incredibly clever opening titles sequence, the shower scene and the truly exciting climax.
Excepting Peck, the performances are very good. Sophia Loren has never looked more stunning or been this classy, while Alan Badel is oily menace incarnate. Moore is fun in his role despite some jarring dialogue.
Overall, good glamorous fun but with such amazing ingredients and assets it had the makings of a great film. 7/10 Bethany Cox
Professor David Pollock is an expert in ancient Arabic hieroglyphics. A Middle Eastern Prime Minister convinces Pollock to infiltrate the organization of a man named Beshraavi, who is involved in a plot against the Prime Minister. The nature of the plot is believed to be found in a hieroglyphic code. Beshraavi's mistress, Yasmin Azir is a mystery intertwined in the plot. Pollock needs her help, but when she repeatedly seems to double cross him in one escapade after another, he can't decide on whose side she is working. Ultimately working together, Pollock and Yasmin decipher the plot and set out to stop an assassination of the Prime Minister.
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February 22, 2015 at 01:31 AM