Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gregory Peck & Sophia Loren in Arabesque (1966)

Obscurity factor: -3

David Pollock (Peck) is a professor at Oxford, specializing in Egyptology, specifically, hieroglyphics. He's approached by the prime minister of a middle eastern country and asked to accept a forthcoming invitation from a shady businessman to study a hieroglyph. Little does he know the intrigue that awaits him when that simple job leads to threats on his life, all sorts of unsavory characters and a beguiling, but treacherous spy, Yasmine Azir (Loren). Will he be able to decipher the hieroglyph, and if he does, will he be able to stay alive?

This film is a tour de force for director Stanley Donen. The visuals are unparalleled, if a trifle gimicky. Look for sensational camera angles, creative use of mirrors, chandeliers, camera lenses and fish tanks. Also look for gorgeous costumes for Loren by Dior and an incredible scene where the villain delivers veiled threats while plying Yasmine with beautiful shoes. The music is just right and by Henry Mancini.

This film is a dubious fit for this blog. It's well known by film buffs and was singled out as an example of Loren's work by the AFI. It's not as well known as Donen's other 60's thriller Charade, however, and there is a large swath of the population that has yet to discover it, so I decided it was worthy of inclusion. It's been released on DVD, but is out of print, and a bit hard to find - there are only 3 copies available on Amazon right now.

Obscurity factor: -3 (on DVD, though hard to find, known to film buffs, critically acclaimed)


  1. As much as I enjoy this film, all the dizzying angles gave me a headache. I remember that it played Radio City on its first release and that the critics didn't take to it on its own terms , it was completely in the shadow of Charade.

  2. Yes, it's a bit gimicky, but I find that kinda glamorous. I've never seen it on a big screen. I can imagine it being a little dizzying.