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Arabesque (1966)

tomatometer

40

Average Rating: 7/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 3

No consensus yet.

audience

59

liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 642

My Rating

Movie Info

An expert in ancient hieroglyphics unexpectedly finds himself involved in a web of international intrigue in this chic, enjoyably tongue-in-cheek espionage adventure. Gregory Peck stars as David Pollock, an American professor whose predictable academic routine is overturned when he is hired to help translate a mysterious message written in an obscure ancient text. The real trouble begins, however, when everyone from a wealthy oil magnate to a foreign government to brutal criminals starts to

Nov 4, 2008

MCA Universal Home Video

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All Critics (14) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (9) | Rotten (5) | DVD (2)

The cinematic busywork offers sporadic fun, but also suggests the unsteady posture of a show that always seems about to fall flat on its pretty face.

April 8, 2011 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Arabesque packs the names of Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren and a foreign intrigue theme, but doesn't always progress on a true entertainment course.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Much flashier than Donen's earlier Charade (also scripted by Peter Stone, alias Pierre Marton) and very sub-Hitchcock.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

About 10 minutes after Arabesque gets under way, you'll lose track of its plot completely, and that's as it should be.

May 21, 2005 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a slick and satisfying entertainment.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's all mindless, absurdly complex and hopelessly hip in that 1960s sort of way, but an agreeable way to pass the time with gorgeous Sophia.

April 8, 2011 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Dated espionage farce sabotaged by elderly stars and witless jokes

May 31, 2005 | Comment (1)
Film Journal International

If you don't mind that the plot not only doesn't matter but doesn't make much sense, you will be rewarded with a very entertaining film.

January 7, 2005 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

upscale Bondian thriller without the silly special effects

September 21, 2004
Tolucan Times

Slick pseodu-Hitchcock thriller.

August 13, 2003
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Stylish thriller.

June 12, 2003
Movie Mom at Yahoo! Movies

A convoluted and often ridiculous, if also enjoyable, thriller.

May 24, 2003 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Audience Reviews for Arabesque

'Arabesque' has the unfortunate handicap of being Stanley Donen's follow-up to the rather more revered and more polished 'Charade'. It's unfairly dismissed as a poor imitation of it's predecessor. That Gregory Peck is a poor man's Cary Grant and that the film is, at best, camp hokum and at worst lazy and boring. Even a Bond rip-off?! Well I say "lay off!"
I will say I have never been a huge fan of Peck. I have always thought him cold and wooden. His granite fašade remains impenetrable in nearly every film he is in. There is one or two exceptions (the campy but under-rated 'Duel in the Sun'). The label of poor man's Cary Grant is maybe a little harsh but sometimes rather fitting. But here, the character of Prof. David Pollock is a rather boring and very naive character. A 'wet fish'. The first time we see him he has driven his pupils to sleep with his dry lecture. He is a quintessential stereotype and Peck fits the part like a glove. Cary Grant, at this point in his career, was the very model of cool suave and knowing sophistication. He just wouldn't have been right for the part. He wouldn't have sent anyone to sleep and he certainly would have seen through Yasmin (Sophia Loren) from the outset.

'Arabesque' is not a pale imitation of 'Charade'. It's just a less subtle pastiche of Hitchcock than 'Charade' is. The line between pastiche and rip-off has always been a thin one. But even more so with Hitchcock because he invented a lot of the rules and techniques of the spy/suspense genre we now take for granted. 'Arabesque' and much of the spy/suspense genre films from the 60s, including the Bond films, are remakes or variations on the 'formula' perfected by Ernie Lehman and Hitchcock in 'North By Northwest' - the sophisticated hero, armed with witticisms if not a gun, the cool and beautiful heroine who is not what she seems and who beds the villain as well as the hero, the famous landmark set pieces and breakneck chase sequences, the charming villain surrounded by loyal & lethal henchmen and so on (Incidentally two Hitchcock regulars were considered when making the Bond films: Cary Grant was considered for playing Bond and Bernard Herrmann was considered for the score. Imagine how much more Hitchcockian Bond would have felt with those two elements in place!)
And so 'Arabesque' feels more of a Hitchcockian pastiche than 'Charade' and is NOT the Bond rip-off it is dismissed as.
The sequence at the racetrack is most definitely a send up of the racetrack scene in 'Notorious'. In 'Notorious' it's a scene about restraint and is played for tears. A heartbreaking Bergman is reduced to tears as she is rebuffed by a seemingly uncaring Grant. In 'Arabesque', Donen keeps it light and frothy; plays it camp - Peck and Loren overplaying the cloak and dagger routine by speaking in 'la-di-dah' clipped tones and Loren in an improbably large hat. Just as this is a tongue-in-cheek wink to 'Notorious', during the finale, where our heroes are chased into a field of green crops and are attacked by the villains with farming machinery, we get a joke on the crop-duster sequence in 'North by North west'. But these are only a couple of very obvious references. 'Arabesque' is so chock full of them, some more subtle than others, and that's why it's such fun.
That and Sophia Loren looking utterly gorgeous - she is given a different Dior outfit for EVERY scene and when Peck meets her for the first time and utters "Hello... helloo, hello, hello helloooo!" you are with him with every coo! She is exquisite.
The villains are thoroughly camp if slightly inconsequential. Alan Badel as Beshraavi (like Blofeld with his cat) is never without his falcon on his arm and never takes his dark glasses off. Which is meant to be intimidating. It's not - you just keep expecting him to walk into the furniture. He also seems a little too interested in dressing Yasmin in new shoes rather than threatening her with anything more physical! And all the Arab characters are just Brits with painted faces - mostly not even bothering with an accent. Which of course only adds to the camp value.
Mix in Henry Mancini's fantastic score and Christopher Challis' distinctively psychedelic and very sparkly camera-work (lights, mirrors and reflections everywhere) and 'Arabesque' feels totally of its time and genre - glamorous, sophisticated, huge fun and completely superficial. What's not to enjoy?

March 25, 2011
McKittrick

Super Reviewer

Do we ever figure out why the "bad guys" want to know what the hieroglyphics mean? I can't recall, and I don't think I understood this movie when I saw it. Maybe I need to watch it again, but this movie is really confusing, and boring at times. You'd think that Peck and Loren would bring some life to it, and I think they try, but the movie just isn't that good.
December 9, 2010
ajv2688

Super Reviewer

Fun mystery thriller. Sophia looks incredible as are her clothes. She and Gregory Peck have a good chemistry. Most enjoyable.
May 20, 2009
jjnxn
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

What a screen gem from the 1960's with Sophia Loren and Gregory Peck.

Both of these actors play in this mystery taking place in the UK. Fortune and information is what all people are vying for from an ancient script that one professor (Peck) can translate. No one can be trusted. Sophia is a spy that has a brutal killer in her home and keeps her on her toes....she always manages to look fantastic!!!
March 8, 2008
mwilliams078
Mason Williams

Super Reviewer

    1. David Pollock: Maybe later, alligator.
    – Submitted by Zach W (2 years ago)
View all quotes (1)

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