|Orson Welles and Robert Arden|
"You imagine it's pleasant to be ashamed of something you can't remember?" -- Arkadin.
A dying murdered man named Bracco (Gregoire Aslan) tells Guy Van Stratten (Robert Arden) and his girlfriend, Mily (Patricia Medina), that he can make a lot of money by looking into a mysterious millionaire named Gregory Arkadin (Orson Welles). As Mily tries to ingratiate herself into Arkadin's social set so that she can get to know him, Guy makes the acquaintance of -- and falls for -- Arkadin's daughter, Raina (Paola Mori). Just when he's expecting Arkadin -- " a cipher of an age of dissolution and crises," as one man puts it -- to buy him off to keep him away from his daughter, Guy is surprised to discover that Arkadin wants to pay him to investigate his past origins, which he says have been lost due to amnesia. But as Guy runs around Europe interviewing people who once knew or were somehow involved with Arkadin, these same individuals start dying ... Mr Arkadin was never properly finished by Welles, so it's impossible to tell what might have emerged had he not been locked out of the editing room. What finally came out is not a great movie, but it is an interesting one featuring some excellent performances. As the Machiavellian Arkadin, Welles is effective and sinister, although he doesn't quite exude a strong sense of menace, this despite the fact that the photography (Jean Bourgoin) often makes him appear to be a giant. Robert Arden's work in the film was criticized at the time of the film's release, but I think he gives a very good and convincing performance as an essentially decent man who is horrified by what is happening around him and fears for his own life as well. Paola Mori, who married Welles the same year the film came out, is fine, although her voice was entirely dubbed by British actress Billie Whitelaw. Small roles are essayed by everyone from Peter van Eyck to Mischa Auer (who runs a flea circus and is dubbed by Welles), but the stand-out character roles are played by Katina Paxinou [Uncle Silas] as Arkadin's shady ex-lover, Sophie; Suzanne Flon as the equally shady Baroness Nagel; Michael Redgrave [The Browning Version] in a bizarre, nearly unrecognizable turn as shop owner Burgomil Trebitsch; and especially Akim Tamiroff [After the Fox] as Jakob Zouk, who has been marked for death but only wants Guy to bring him a goose liver dinner as if it were his last meal. The film has more than its share of humor, both in the character of Zouk, and an odd scene between Arkadin and Mily on the former's boat as the latter gets increasingly drunk, the see-sawing photography mirroring both the motion of the water as well as the unsteadiness of her inebriation. The under-rated Patricia Medina also scores (in an under-written role) as the ill-fated Mily. There is a lot of obvious over-dubbing in the film because Welles rewrote the script even after some scenes had been shot, and one scene when Guy and Raina are talking about her father is abruptly cut off in mid-sentence.
Verdict: Unconventionally handsome Arden makes a compelling lead and there are some other excellent performances in this unusual if imperfect film of intrigue. ***.