|Sophia Loren and Gregory Peck|
"I'm sorry to have to tell you this, my dear, but Mr. Pollock is as poor as a church mouse." -- Beshraavi
"He was rather strange, even for an American."
Professor David Pollock (Gregory Peck) is drafted by an Arab Prime Minister, Hasson Jena (Carl Duering) to enter the home of the sinister Beshraavi (Alan Badel of Salome) and decode a cipher on a piece of paper with a Hittite inscription that my reveal the man's plans. The house is apparently owned by Yasmin Azir (Sophia Loren), Beshraavi's mistress, and to Pollock's befuddlement her role keeps changing even as she seems to switch sides with the drop of a hat. Before long he and Yasmin are on the run, dodging bullets and trying to get back the cipher so they can figure out what is happening. But David is never sure if he can fully trust Yasmin. Arabesque was Stanley Donen's follow-up to the more successful Charade, but the film's first big problem is the miscasting of the two leads. Peck tries to approximate but fails to deliver the light touch of a Cary Grant, and Loren is also a bit too heavy-handed, although she tries. Arabesque has a solid plot but the script has too many silly, indeed stupid, detours, and some of the action scenes are completely muffed by Donen, who is no Hitchcock. On the other hand, there is some exciting business near the end, including an attack on the principals at a construction site, an attempt to stop an assassination, and a race across a bridge while a helicopter is firing live ammunition at the couple. Another problem is that Alan Badel looks too much like Peter Sellers impersonating an Indian (which he did more than once in his career, such as in The Millionairess, which he did with Loren) and you keep expecting -- or hoping -- he will suddenly indulge in some hilarious shtick. No such luck. Henry Mancini's score does little to help. A much better thriller for Peck was Mirage.
Verdict: So so comedy-thriller with a few good sequences, but not nearly enough. **1/2.