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original title: Arabesque
duration: 1h 45min
tags: From the Man Who Made "Charade"
keywords: arab, cipher, professor, spy, londonengland, zoo, mistress, doubleagent, hitchcockian, shippingmagnate, spyadventure, oxforduniversity, europeanadventure, primeminister, ascotracecourse, shower, falco
I highly respect Stanley Donen. This film, and Charade prior to this, shows that Donen was simply not just a Dancer turned Director who directed only Musicals. Donen has genuine talent, and just about every film he made has something about it that is done well. In his early films, it was the Dancing sequences and Musical Numbers. (Bless yo Byootiful hide...) Well, Donen is a man that just kept going and I am glad he did. This film was supposed to be a kind of sequel to Charade... and we can only imagine Grant and Hepburn doing it. But instead, we have (Bless yo Beautiful Hide) Sophia Loren and Gregory Peck.
Now, to me, Peck reminds me a lot of Gary Cooper in this film. Almost Looks like Cooper in a way. In other films, Peck is the very competent man. In this film, he is just a little clumsy, just a little mistaken, "just a little" shot at, Shoved into fish-tanks, drugged, mowed by a combine, and the various other ways the crooks try to get him in this. Just a little like Mr Deeds in some way. Maybe it is just because Peck and Coop were very tall men of the string-bean type. I respected both of them, in my mind there is always an association between Peck and Cooper.
The story is a good spy story. It is almost the same formula as Charade, with some of the roles changed around a bit. Peck is one of my favourite actors - In this film is he a Professor of Ancient Middle-Eastern and Egyptian Languages who is tricked, beguiled, and otherwise charmed into playing a spy and as such this sets the table for all kinds of misadventures. And this film has many misadventures, which are extremely amusing and humorous.
I was just diffidently reminded by Ben Mankiewicz of TCM (Not personally but on tcm just now) that Peter Stone, who did the adaptation of the book "The Cipher" to the script that was filmed as Arabesque, wrote the script as if Cary Grant was to play the part. So, if Peck seems a little wooden at times it is because of that fact. Grant wore humor like a glove and wallowed in it- Peck is much more serious.
At times we forget that this film is a spy thriller, due to the comedy elements. We have 1) A careless assassin who starts off in the film as a threatening character which degrades to a bandaged bumbling fool (Sloane) 2) A "Hip" Arab rebel who tries to talk Mod-Talk while torturing Peck. (Kasim, Daddy-o) 3) An Arabic Peter-Sellers clone with a pet meat/face-eating Peregrine Falcon who you think is about to trip, fall down, start speaking in another dialect or do any number of Sellers-type gags (Beshraavi) and 4) A Beautiful (Italian?) "Arabic" Woman who changes sides in this series of incidents as often as she changes her outfits (Which are incredibly sensual)- *Guess* who I am talking about.
This film is well directed as are all of Donen's films. At first I thought that this film did not work as well as Charade, but then I realized, it is not charade, it is a whole other film. Maybe it was not what the public expected out of Donen after Charade, but it does not matter: The film works on several levels. I like it lots. I like Charade lots. I like Donen lots. Donen was the man that made Hollywood Musicals more enjoyable, simply by trying new things and not going over the same old slung hash.
It is pretty amazing that the guy who brought us Fred Astaire dancing on the ceiling also brought us this film, and many other well-directed films... In all genres from Musicals to Science Fiction. This film may not be the best Donen film, but it is certainly worth watching. I'd love to be smoking whatever the other reviewers are smoking! I don't believe I've ever seen a worse movie with such top stars. There is a plot, but it's little used except to hang lots of shots of beautiful Sofia and the equally beautiful Gregory Peck. If that's all you're interested in, this is the movie for you. The acting is terrible. I can't think of one believable moment in the film. It's like horrible science fiction without the science.
If your girlfriend had been kidnapped at knife point, wouldn't you ask her about it when she wandered home the next day? Peck whispers something in the ear of a Buckingham Palace guard that causes him to faint. Does that really work? Fantasy is fun, stupidity rarely.
Having just watched it, I can hardly write this review because I'm still in shock at how bad it was. Beautifully shot, rich colors, fabulous set and clothes. But oh sweet mother of pearl what a rotten movie. What was Mr. Donen thinking? You may enjoy watching it to laugh how bad it is, but it's comforting to me that most of the cast are dead so they don't have to continue to be embarrassed. I can't say enough bad things about this waste of 105 minutes of good film. Ack!
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