Arabesque [VHS]
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Customer Reviews:

  • "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.
    ...more info
  • Amusing
    This film is very amusing. In fact it is one of my preferred ones.

    Frankly, I do not understand why it is not in DVD format!!

    The phtography is funny, with several non conventional angles (for example a bathroom seen from above).

    Stanley Donen has done an excellent work....more info
  • 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.

    [...]...more info
  • 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....more info
  • There was a European version of this film with some nudity..
    I was 6 or 7 years old in the late 60s when I saw this film for the first time. It was one of those rare occasions when my Dad allowed me to stay up late on a Saturday night to watch a movie on one of our 3 local TV stations.

    On this fateful evening, the film was (of course) Arabesque.

    Fairly on into the film, there is a scene where Greory Peck and Sophia Loren are in a hotel room the morning after (the morning after what I leave to the reader's imagination). G.P.'s character is in a bathroom to the left of the bed, and can be seen through the open door (with his back to the camera) shaving. The ever-lovely Sophia Loren is in the bed facing the camera, with sheets pulled up to her neck (G.P. was wearing pajama bottoms and no shirt). She and G.P. are arguing about something.

    Up this point, it was just a scene in the film. Suddenly, in the midst of the argument, Ms. Loren says something like:

    "Well what do you want me to do?"

    G.P. Turns around, walks toward the camera to come into the room with Sophia, grabs the sheet and pulls it down while saying "Go naked!", exposing Sophia's lovely boobs for all the world to see.

    Being just a kid, it kinda blew my mind! It probably surprised my Dad as well. And back then, to show nudity was (and still is) verboten over the open airwaves in the US.

    I said nothing. My Dad said nothing. And I have a pleasant memory of the first topless woman I had ever seen (that I remember) being Sophia Loren in this film.

    Years later I mentioned it to my Dad. He did not remember that evening, but he kinda chuckled and said "Well, you know they are a lot more liberal about such things in Europe, and they probably sent a European version of the film to the TV station by accident..".

    I still crack up just thinking about it, and I have a topless photo of Ms. Loren in a frame in my bedroom at home to remind me of that night.

    I would certainly love to see a FULL and unedited version of the film just to relive that moment of childhood glory....
    ;-)
    ...more info
  • 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 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!...more info
  • Son of Charade!
    This movie is ALMOST as good as its immediate predecessor with Grant and Hepburn. It's without a doubt Gregory Peck's best comedy, Roman Holiday or no. Stanley Donen again pairs two mega-stars who normally don't make movies together, (though in the case of Grant and Hepburn, they SHOULD have!) and produces good chemistry. Peck has great, clever lines and so does Loren in spots. However, there are a couple of scenes in the movie that keep me from giving it the full five or four star treatment.

    This is a Peck, may he rest in peace, that you haven't seen before. His flippant, tossed-off lines suit the situations the writers have put his character in to a tee. He plays a professor reluctantly helping a slimy character, who KIDNAPS him to acquire his services, to decipher a piece of paper with a hieroglyphic inscription on it that a lot of people seem to be after. That hieroglyphic ISN'T exactly what concerns them, though!

    Loren and the general intrigue, drag the poor man through being drugged out of his mind on a well-used freeway riding a bicycle, being abducted by yet more shady types, (a short-haired hipster and his gang), and evading armed arabs in a helicopter on horseback. Peck's character, however, dilutes any sympathy he'd get for all this by holding a knife to the exquisite Ms. Loren's throat early in the film! What's even weirder is that Loren SMILES at him after he does it since they were both trying to escape the mansion Loren was being held in. The whole thing was HER idea!

    All the while, Peck throws out bon mots like there's no tomorrow, making you wonder why he didn't make more comedies, (Peter O'Toole, George Hamilton and Candice Bergen would make you think the same thing in breakout comedies THEY'VE made!) Loren is absolutely GORGEOUS with those almond eyes, incredible figure, sculpted upper lip, magnificent tan and body by Fisher! She has a couple of great scenes in the movie, one where she tries to distract a Palace Guard in England and another where she's stuck in a shower, nude, where Peck has hidden to avoid being nabbed by her extremely possessive and decadent "keeper" in the beginning of the film.

    Though people might argue to the contrary, this film really doesn't resemble "Charade" all that much, except for the fact that two stellar actors are doing a glamorous mystery trifle. The theme involves international intrigue, rather than a murder mystery and you know who Peck is from the beginning. It's actually LOREN who's the iffy one of the two....in the back of the van in the middle of the film, just before Peck goes on the comical bicycle ride on the freeway, it really looks like she's one of the bad guys as she cuddles with the character that first batters then drugs Peck.

    Like Charade, however, the O. Henry machine is in overdrive as you never know who's who or what's what, except for Peck. One British government agent even surprises you!

    There's a teaser scene, just before the credits run, that has one of the employees of Beshravi, the man keeping Loren, actually dropping ACID in some poor, unsuspecting soul's eyes. This, along with the knife scene with Loren and Peck, are the two scenes that keep me from giving this film a full family recommendation....However, if you have a strong stomach, it's one of the more entertaining 60s spy spoofs and definitely one of the better comedies for both Peck and Loren....more info

  • Great Movie
    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....more info
  • RACIST YET DECADENT FLICK
    Even though I am not Arab (just an advocate of human rights), this sumptous movie would have gotten 5 Stars if it weren't for the offensive and mistaken portrayal of Arabs and Muslims. Especially the name, "Arabesque" must be truly offensive to them ....

    OTHER THAN THAT, if you can take this movie lightheartedly, non-judgementally and tongue-in-cheek (although we can't expect Arabs to!) than it is great entertainment with tonz of wit, TONZ of DRAMA!!!, decedant fashion scenes (of Sophia Loren trying on shoes!), and the chemistry between the two is pure romance. Although you wonder how they can ever top what they've been through - adventure-wise!

    All in all, WORTH the money. Decadent close-ups of Sophia's make-up and a nice amount of outfit changes. An inspiration to women with inner glamour....more info

  • 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....more info
  • 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 titlesthat are 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 ?...more info
  • 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 ?...more info
  • 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."...more info

  • 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. For years I was unable to find a recording of the soundtrack and am happy to hear that it has recently become available again.

    The film itself is adequate, a fun romp through England with Peck and Loren and the two do actually manage a sort of polite chemistry, Perhaps not unforgettable, but still playful enough that you might enjoy the film. The film is typical of Donen and that period and perhaps tries to capitalise on Donen's past works and their success. He makes full use of Loren's sex-appeal, style and when not being perfectly set and photographed, she is allowed quite a sense of humour with the role. I was impressed by the whole package (the video package, not the Loren one, although both are impressive)....more info

  • Pas de deux with Sophia & Gregory.
    I enjoyed this espionage thriller just for Sophia Loren alone. The woman does have star quality.Shes probably played every ethnic group escept celtic. I also liked the chemistry between the two co-stars.Both sadly retired from full time acting.What a shame they dont make movies any more. Everytime I hear that nursery rhyme 'goosey goosey gandar' I think of this film.I thought the plot was original and even I was stymied until the end.Its one of those 'you dont know who to trust movies' and worth watching....more info