Directed by Stanley Donen
Written by Julien Mitchell & Stanley Price & Peter Stone, from a novel by Gordon Cotler.
Starring Gregory Peck, Sophia Loren, Alan Badel
After the success of Charade, Stanley Donen decided to do something that is all-too-familiar these days: film a sequel. But it wasn’t that easy back in the 60s and after a script was written for him, he declined. Donen was going to give up on the project when he learned that both Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren had gotten a script and wanted to film it. The result was Arabesque.
Professor David Pollock (Gregory Peck), an expert in hieroglyphics, is asked to translate a message that has been rendered into that ancient script as a cypher. Pollock reluctantly takes the job at the behest of shipping magnate Nejim Beshraavi (Alan Badel) and soon discovers that quite a few people are interested in the contents of that message. He also runs into Yasmin Azir (Sophia Loren), who, of course, he is attracted to. But they start to get into trouble as Pollock deciphers the message and finds himself caught in a web of intrigue.
Peck is no Cary Grant,* but handles himself well enough, and .Loren is a fine femme fatale.
Donen didn’t really care for the script, so he tried to shoot it in interesting ways. The result is visually inventive, though perhaps a little too much so. And I think that’s the big flaw of the film: everyone was trying to hard to be Charade (and Alfred Hitchcock).
Still the result is an entertaining spy spoof with plenty to recommend it.
*Something he admitted to many a time while filming. If you imagine Cary Grant saying his lines, you’ll find they are much better.