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Professor David Pollock is an expert in ancient Arabic hieroglyphics. A Middle Eastern Prime Minister convinces Pollock to infiltrate the organization of a man named Beshraavi, who is involved in a plot against the Prime Minister. The nature of the plot is believed to be found in a hieroglyphic code. Beshraavi's mistress, Yasmin Azir is a mystery intertwined in the plot. Pollock needs her help, but when she repeatedly seems to double cross him in one escapade after another, he can't decide on whose side she is working. Ultimately working together, Pollock and Yasmin decipher the plot and set out to stop an assassination of the Prime Minister. Written by
E.W. DesMarais <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"If I were standing stark naked in front of Mr. Pollack, he'd probably yawn!"
As has been duly noted before, "Arabesque" is essentially an update of Stanley Donen's own "Charade." This time, however, the plot twists are more convoluted, the camerwork is decidedly more "mod" (shooting through chandeliers, reflections in sunglass lenses, etc.) and there is an even greater emphasis on the female star's wardrobe. If the story is more confusing and less compelling than "Charade," it certainly isn't at the expense of entertainment. Its derivative nature (it not only incorporates parts of "Charade," but also the drunk and cropdusting scenes from "North by Northwest") prevents "Arabesque" from entering the elevated realm of its predecessor, but it's a delight, nevertheless. Its strongest selling point, really, is the utterly delectable Sophia Loren as Yasmin, the side-switching enigma. It is a strong statement to declare that the glorious Miss Loren has never appeared more beautiful, before or since, than in this film--but I'm willing to take the risk. Her huge, almond, almost Egyptian eyes; tawny, caramel-colored skin; lustrous hair; and world-famous curves have never been seen to better advantage. (Her stunning Christian Dior costumes certainly add to her already formidable allure.) She also displays a very nice light comedic touch; it wouldn't be difficult to dislike someone so supernaturally gorgeous, but instead, Loren's natural warmth and humor shine through. Gregory Peck, on the other hand, looks more than a little ragged around the edges; Cary Grant obviously didn't lend Peck any of his age-defying secrets. His performance isn't nearly as bad or hammy as some other reviews have indicated, but where Loren's charisma and beauty aid her in creating a completely different character than Audrey Hepburn's in "Charade," Peck comes off as an unfortunately blurred carbon coby of Grant in that earlier film. Having said that, "Arabesque" still stands on its own merits as a cracking good comedy-thriller; the final few scenes are terrifically suspenseful. Alan Badel makes a wonderfully oily villain (love the shades!), and Kieron Moore adds a healthy shot of dated humor as a jive-talking Arabian (!). Although the twists and turns might be confusing for some, just sit back and bask in the glory that is Sophia Loren. You know the good guys will win in the end, anyway.
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