56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Part Hitchcock, Part James Bond, All Escapist Fun!
Another fab Universal romantic thriller in the grand CHARADE tradition, including some of the same personnel! If director Stanley Donen's classic 1963 comedy-thriller CHARADE is Hitchcock Lite, then ARABESQUE is Hitchcock Lite after taking a few classes in James Bond 101 (including an opening title sequence by Maurice Binder, who also did the honors for CHARADE as well as...
Published on January 6, 2004 by Dorian Tenore-Bartilucci
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth Owning
Fans of Maurice Binder's work will want to own this film on video. The opening sequence must have made the trip to the theatre worthwhile and I expect that many may be reminded of Binder's work on the James Bond Films when they see the opening titles of this film.
The other great aspect of this movie is its wonderful score, the work of the legendary John Barry...
Published on February 14, 2000 by Antonio Arch
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56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Part Hitchcock, Part James Bond, All Escapist Fun!,
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Another fab Universal romantic thriller in the grand CHARADE tradition, including some of the same personnel! If director Stanley Donen's classic 1963 comedy-thriller CHARADE is Hitchcock Lite, then ARABESQUE is Hitchcock Lite after taking a few classes in James Bond 101 (including an opening title sequence by Maurice Binder, who also did the honors for CHARADE as well as for most of the Bond movies). As the hieroglyphics expert embroiled in Middle Eastern intrigue while decoding the cipher everyone's after, Gregory Peck's usual woodenness is oddly effective as he tries to deliver Cary Grant-like witticisms (from co-scripter `Pierre Marton,' a.k.a. the late, great CHARADE alumnus Peter Stone). Peck may not be Mr. Glib, but he seems so delighted to get an opportunity to deliver bon mots after all his serious roles that he's downright endearing, like a child trying out new words for the first time. Co-star Sophia Loren, at her most alluring as an Arab femme fatale, can make any guy look suave and sexy! Christopher Challis's dazzling, inventive cinematography won the BAFTA (the British equivalent of the Oscars), and Christian Dior got a BAFTA nomination for Loren's elegant costumes. Suspenseful and sparkling as this twist-filled adventure is, ARABESQUE's biggest mystery is why it's still only available in VHS format. If this gem ever gets deluxe treatment as a DVD (including letterboxing, please!), I sure hope they get Donen to do the kind of entertaining, informative commentary he did with Stone for Criterion's CHARADE DVD -- perhaps they could even get Loren to put in her two cents!
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Entertainment!,
Director Stanley Donen tried valiantly to capture the magic of "Charade" with this first-rate pairing of Peck & Loren, and very nearly suceeded. Peck's in fine form and Sophia has never, for my money, looked so beautiful (she even does a semi-nude shower scene). Things move along swiftly and the film is chocked full of wonderful moments. There's a memorable Mancini score, too. However, the fine wide-screen cinematography is lost on this pan & scan version (the film was shot with zero regard for television viewing). Let's hope the folks at Universal realize the value of this gem and release it on DVD.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Gregory Peck's best..,
and yet, this SUPERB film isn't on DVD! ARGH!!!!
David Pollock (Gregory Peck) is an expert in ancient Arabic hieroglyphics. A Middle Eastern Prime Minister convinces Pollock to infiltrate the organization of a man named Beshraavi (Alan Badel), 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 (Sophia Loren) 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.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully shot, suspenseful, Peck and Sophia work so well,
By A Customer
It is a long time since I have seen this movie but I remember much of it from over 20 years ago. That in itself says a lot about how good some things are. Arabesque is wonderful. Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren work wonderfully well together - their chemistry of a couple caught up in intrigue beyond their initial imaginings is fascinating.
It is beautifully shot in rainy London streets, and out in the glorious summer countrywide. The vividness of the colours remains memorable - her red Mercedes, some of her clothes, the rich colours of the countryside.
I am reminded of the tension and anxiety of the driving scenes in Taxi Driver. Scorsese's photographer did an excellent job of creating a sense of madness and isolation for Robert de Niro.
In Arabesque, Sophia Loren is neither mad nor isolated, but she searches anxiously in her car through busy London streets in the rain trying to catch up with Gregory Peck.
The danger of the scenes in the fields with his pursuers in the air gives Peck and the photographers the chance to film some wonderfully suspenseful footage not dissimilar to chase scenes in North By Northwest.
The title itself is intrigueing and so is the movie. I long to see it again and others like it made in the 50's and 60's.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stylish and Entertaining, Even with Flaws,
Though not as strong as Stanley Donen's earlier Hitchcockian pastiche, "Charade," "Arabesque" has enough going for it to merit repeat viewings--and release some day on DVD! Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren prove that true movie stars can overcome sometimes plodding pacing and creaky scripts to make two imperfect cinematic hours enjoyable. Here, Peck endures threats, chases, doublecrosses, and blows to the head with Cary Grant-ish aplomb (no surprise, as the script was originally written with him in mind). He's matched ably by Sophia Loren, who in addition to looking absolutely gorgeous, seems genuinely to be having fun. The plot involves Peck, an Oxford professor and cipher expert, being pulled into spy goings-on between Middle Eastern factions in England. Like "Charade," it's unclear until the end who is really working for whom, but that really isn't important anyway, as the script is often needlessly murky and sometimes too dry for what is essentially a light comedy-thriller. Alan Badel, though, is terrific as the Cobra-like villain, and the production is sumptuous, from Maurice Binder's stunning opening and closing sequences to Henry Mancini's suitably menacing but energentic score. Special recognition is deserved for the cinematography and Donen's direction, which in addition to being sparklingly beautiful, often reflect inventive photographic choices. Though "Arabesque" generally flies under the radar of today's moviegoers, fans of "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" might want to watch this film's assassination sequence, which to me bears remarkable, um, similarity to the one in the sci-fi flick.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "What you need now is someone with a PhD in Roughhouse.",
Three years on the heels of Stanley Donen's delightful Charade comes his do-over effort Arabesque, a romantic spy thriller set in London. The leading man is Gregory Peck, who plays American David Pollock, a visiting professor of ancient languages who is persuaded by the Arab prime minister to infiltrate the household of a Middle Eastern oil tycoon, who is suspected of nefarious doings. This soon catapults him into the Hitchcockian world of deadly secret agents, spy intrigue, frantic chases and a mysterious cryptogram. He finds himself dubiously partnered with Yasmin Azir, the enigmatic mistress of the oil tycoon, as delectably played by exotic, statuesque beauty Sophia Loren. While questioning the ever shifting allegiance of Yasmin, Pollock must fend off international spies and foil an assassination attempt.
Peck valiantly steps into Cary Grant territory and does an adequate job, although one wonders how the supremely classy Cary Grant (who originally was intended to be the lead) might have fared in the David Pollock role. It's effortless for Peck when the role calls for him to be strong and silent. But here, the role of Pollock requires an actor with a light, urbane touch and a breezy, nonchalant way of conveying clever lines. Unfortunately, there's a level of discomfort present in Peck's measured delivery; Peck sometimes has a tendency to channel wood in his acting ventures. Still, Peck comes with enough gameness and enthusiasm for the part that, in the end, he somewhat pulls it off. Sophia Loren as the switch hitting femme fatale (which side is she really on?) is a definite plus. The shower scene, by the way, is a treat.
Director Stanley Donen felt immense pressure from the studio moguls to repeat the great success of Charade. Cary Grant turned down the role of Pollock because he had had enough of portraying the elderly romancer of women many decades his junior. Grant instead suggested his good buddy Greg Peck. The screenplay is questionable, having gone through numerous revisions. To quote Stanley Donen: "We have to make it so interesting visually that no one will think about it." Accordingly, Donen stylishly directs Arabesque (some very odd camera angles chosen here, and some of the hallucinatory sequences are just plain weird); the film is assisted by Henry Mancini's typically jazzy-cool score (another Charade tie-in).
So, more style than grace, more pop art fluff than substance - still, Donen and the two glamorous stars are more than enough to hold the film together. One of these days, Arabesque will be released in dvd format and, while it may not be Charade, it's still a pretty good sophisticated romantic thriller worthy of being added to anyone's personal collection.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THE MOST ENTERTAINING SPY MOVIE OF THE SIXTIES,
The star here is the director of photography CHRISTOPHER CHALLIS who did a great job trowing everything from a fantasy sequence with PECK having a nightmare and enjoying a most dangerous bike ride in the steets to the pursuit of our heroes who must run for their lives while enjoying a horse ride.The star here is also SOPHIA LOREN wearing the clothes designed by CHRISTIAN DIOR.She is gorgeous in this movie which seems a perfect tribute to her beauty.Add the music of HENRY MANCINI, the beautifully designed opening sequence that is of course reminiscent of JAMES BOND and you're in for good entertainment.The script which is the weakest aspect of the movie is fill with funny in jokes that makes up for the coherence of the whole.Originally, the film was 13 minutes longer.A message to the guys:would you have liked to be in GREGORY PECK's place during the shower scene ?
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie,
By A Customer
Arabesque is an extremeley entertaining and amusing movie. Peck and Loren are an excellent pair and their relationship kept me laughing throughout most of the movie. If you like spy movies and comedies, or if you just like Gregory Peck this is a movie for you. Anyway, I just liked it so much that I wanted to write a review for it, so I hope this helps.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Hitchcock-like Comedy/Thriller,
Sophia Loren, one of the world's wonders, is excellent in this tale of espionage and mistaken identity. What I would give to have her trapped in my shower as she finds herself behind the curtain in college prof Gregory Peck's. Oh, what a lucky man!
Peck possesses his usual classic "cool" as his character and Loren's are forced to elude capture by evil Arabs bent on derailing a peace process. Alan Badel is elegantly evil as the head honcho behind the conspiracy.
And, contrary to an earlier reviewer, the memorable score was composed by American legend Henry Mancini. I know because I own a copy! Mancini's trademark use of subtle horns is highly effective in creating a feeling of doom during the tense moments. His rollicking themes utilized during the various "chase" sequences shows why he was an Academy Award winner.
Stanley Donan, know for directing the much-similar "Charade" starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, does an outstanding job at the helm of "Arabesque."
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The secret of the cipher,
This review is from: Arabesque (DVD)
An arabesque is an artistic motif with repeating forms and patterns. It seems like the ideal title for the movie "Arabesque," a fun if repetitive little thriller about a professor thrown into international intrigue. The middle of this movie is light on plot, but there's plenty of action, romance, large machines, and a rather surprising twist at the end.
At the behest of an Arab prime minister, Prof. David Pollock (Gregory Peck) is sent to spy on a corrupt businessman named Beshraavi (Alan Badel). Beshraavi needs a mysterious cipher decoded, and he keeps David a prisoner while he works on it. What's more, he plans to kill the professor once he's done.
But David is able to escape with the help of Beshraavi's mistress, Yazmin (Sophia Loren) -- who turns out to have a secret agenda of her own. Now the professor must weave his way through enemies at every turn, along with the mystery woman he can't quite bring himself to trust. And if he doesn't decode the cipher in time, the entire world could be in jeopardy.
"Arabesque" is a movie that doesn't know what to do with its middle section -- it starts off strong, spends a long time spinning its wheels, only to rise up and blossom again in the last twenty minutes. But if "Arabesque" is not a strong political thriller, it's certainly an enjoyable popcorn movie.
The middle section of it isn't bad, just repetitive: scrabble for cipher, fight, follow, rinse, repeat. And they put in some... interesting padding to spice it up, such as a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment where a doped-up Peck meanders down a freeway, playing "matador" with the cars. That was a WEIRD scene.
So what does it have that's good? Director Stanley Donen packs the movie with some pretty strong action scenes (wrecking ball, aquariums, a THRESHER!), some mild comic relief, and a brilliant double-twist in the last twenty minutes. And since this came right after Donen's Charade, we have some mildly witty banter and dialogue ("Let us through! That man's about to be killed!" "I hardly think so, sir. This is ENGLAND!").
Peck and Loren have a fair amount of chemistry, and their characters are likable and pretty clever. Loren plays up her charming sex appeal to the absolute max, and Peck plays David with the right mixture of competence and naivete. And Badel is absolutely spine-chilling as a calm, cool killer who never gets ruffled by anything, even as he prepares to shoot you in the head.
The only problem is that I never entirely bought Peck and Loren's performances -- Peck is a bit too hard-edged for an academic nerd, and Loren's accent is this insane Italo-Anglo-Arab mutation that dies halfway through the movie.
"Arabesque" has some flaws, but it's a fun little thriller with plenty of action, romance and some killer plot twists. Have plenty of popcorn ready before watching it.
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Arabesque by Stanley Donen (DVD - 2011)