- Gregory Peck as David Pollock
- Sophia Loren as Yasmin Azir
- Alan Badel as Beshraavi
- Kieron Moore as Yussef Kasim
- Carl Duering as Hassan Jena
- John Merivale as Sloane
Arabesque may not quite meet the heights of its predecessor Charade, but it is still an enjoyable, stylish spy yarn with a great cast. Backed by an ever reliable Henry Mancini score and some stunning camerawork, Arabesque is exciting and thrilling to watch.
Professor David Pollock is a an expert lecturer in hieroglyphics and is teaching in London. Out of nowhere he is contacted by Hassan Jena, a Middle Eastern Prime Minister who believes his life is in danger. Initially unsure and very reluctant, David Pollock accepts as the key to the mystery seems to lie in a hieroglyphic code. He infiltrates the organisation of Beshraavi, a wealthy man believed to be the ringleader of the plot against the Prime Minister. The mystery continues to enthrall as David tries to crack the code whilst under the villainous eye of Beshraavi, who has a pet hawk that is prone to attacking when someone disobeys the master. The plot becomes even more complicated because of Yasmin Azir, Beshraavi’s lover whose motives are enigmatic to say the least. So kick back and enjoy as the stylish, tongue-in-cheek espionage tale as it twists and turns like a serpent and sends the ordinary hero into an extraordinary web of international intrigue.
From the opening credits of geometric shapes and patterns designed by Maurice Binder, you know you’re going to get a very visually arresting film. And that’s just right as Stanley Donen employs his camera in inventive angles and makes incredible use of reflection and distortion. Nowhere is this more apparent than in David and Yasmin’s thrilling escape and subsequent chase through London Zoo, whilst being pursued by killers. The usage of reflection, cages and varying surfaces adds to the tense atmosphere as the two characters try to evade being found, whilst the reflections play havoc with the killer’s eyes. Only in one scene in which David is drugged and ends up in a psychedelic stupor does the film show it’s age, but for the most part the visual look is immensely spellbinding. Although comic in many aspects of the film, Donen still manages to crank up the suspense as mentioned prior and in later scenes. A tense Ascot sequence in which David attempts to regain the inscription whilst other men aim for it is reminiscent of Hitchcock. And a pursuit through a viaduct is also perfectly executed. Although it may become a little too complicated at times, Arabesque still retains a fun and enthralling edge as David finds himself in increasingly bizarre situations.
The other main asset to the film is the cast, led by Gregory Peck who excellently embodies the unlikely hero thrust into intriguing circumstances as a result of his gift for cracking codes. He has a sparkling chemistry with Sophia Loren, as we watch them suss whether the other is lying in the tangled web of intrigue. A particular highlight of this is when David is forced to hide in her shower and Yasmin playfully and seductively tries to get the code whilst Beshraavi prowls in search of her. Sophia Loren exudes exotic glamour and enigmatic splendor as Yasmin, looking ravishing in Christian Dior gowns while constantly testing David with her dubious methods. Fleshing out the supporting cast is Alan Badel as the sunglasses sporting, hawk loving slime ball Beshraavi, he cleverly emits oily charm as he puts his nefarious plot into motion. Keiron Moore is another enigmatic presence in the tangled web of lies and deception. John Merivale emerges as the most memorable of the many henchman in the film, enduring the put upon deeds and suffering when he doesn’t do the job properly.
If its international espionage with glamour, exotic characters and red herrings a plenty, Arabesque is a must watch for you.