Sunday, January 02, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Arabesque (1966) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

ARABESQUE (1966), a suspense thriller directed by Stanley Donen (CHARADE), is available from Kino Lorber on a Special Edition Blu-ray.

Gregory Peck stars as David Pollock, an American professor in England caught up in espionage, with multiple people, including a Middle Eastern prime minister and a nasty businessman, wanting him to decipher a scrap of paper with some ancient hieroglyphics.

Soon David is also mixed up with Yasmin (Sophia Loren), the businessman's mistress, and David's experience quickly goes from mildly crazy to downright nuts.

I have a funny ARABESQUE memory: Many years ago I started to watch it late at night with our oldest daughter, and we were so unsettled by the opening sequence with an optometrist that we decided to take the movie out and watch something a little less tense! I got past that sequence this time and found the movie becomes more lighthearted from that point, and I enjoyed it quite well.

It's a visually striking film beginning with the opening titles by Maurice Binder. Loren wears a wardrobe by Christian Dior and the music is by Henry Mancini, so the movie has tons of great '60s style, filmed by Christopher Challis. Some of Challis's shots are quite creative.

I've come to realize in recent years that I often find Peck on the bland side; he's reasonably animated here but is not the reason to watch the film. That honor goes to Loren, who is clearly having a blast playing a woman who lies about as much as Cary Grant's character does in Donen's CHARADE (1963). She's lively, gorgeous, tons of fun to watch, and thankfully onscreen at least as much as Peck. A scene where he hides in Loren's shower is particularly amusing.

I saw one twist coming from the opening scenes but that didn't diminish my enjoyment. There's little character depth in this one, but it's a fun 105-minute romp which joins other mid '60s spy thrillers also available from Kino Lorber, including Peck's MIRAGE (1965), and BLINDFOLD (1966) starring Rock Hudson and Claudia Cardinale.

Kino Lorber's widescreen Blu-ray print is a nice, crisp print with a solid soundtrack.

This Special Edition release of ARABESQUE includes reversible case cover art and a cardboard slipcase. (The slipcase may only be available until supplies run out, given that it is no longer guaranteed with Kino's Special Edition of DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID.) Blu-ray extras include several trailers and TV spots; a poster gallery; a commentary track by Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell, and Nathaniel Thompson; an archival featurette with Henry Mancini and Leonard Feather; and four additional trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Margot Shelby said...

Arabesque is a nice movie that doesn't come even close to Charade, though it tries. Sophia is great, but I agree with you completely about Peck.

I always loved him when he plays the bad, or at least ambiguous, guy, as in Duel in the Sun, The Bravados or Yellow Sky. So often he was required to be depressingly nobel which always makes me gnash my teeth. I really don't understand why Hollywood didn't tap more often into his ability to play bad.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Walter S. said...

Laura, good write-up of the spy thriller comedy ARABESQUE(filmed 1965, released 1966). It is a strikingly filmed movie and has a lot going for it. I first viewed the movie on the NBC SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES in 1969. I got a kick out of the subtle approach that visiting American professor David Pollock(Gregory Peck) uses in waking sleeping students in his Oxford University class. A simple three letter word that most everyone is interested in.

Yes, I think Sophia Loren, as Yasmin Azir, is wonderful in the movie, but I also think Gregory Peck was good as the mild mannered American Professor caught up in diplomatic espionage intrigue. I think Loren/Peck make for a good contrasting duo. Also, Alan Badel as the sunglasses wearing villain is creepingly charming in a menacing way. A good spy thriller has to have a good villain and I think Badel as Nejim Beshraavi is a winner.

1960's spy movies, of all kinds, were all over the place, because producers wanted to jump on the bandwagon and make a lot of money and that is just fine with me, if they make a good fun entertaining movie, which I think Stanley Donen and company did.

Is ARABESQUE as good as CHARADE(filmed 1962-63, released 1963)? Of course not, but I think it is well worth viewing.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Margot, I'm interested you feel the same way about Peck. The films you mention liking him best in are interesting, as I like him best in YELLOW SKY.

The last time I watched THE BIG COUNTRY I realized that although I love the movie, Peck's character was absolutely grating on me. He was supposed to be the "good guy" yet was incredibly arrogant, something I hadn't really noticed the first time or two when I was transfixed by the movie as a whole. As I've paid more attention to his work I've come to feel there's just not a lot of nuance in some of his performances, they're too "one-note."

Walter, I think you make a good point about the contrast between Peck and Loren -- with her character so lively his more button-down yet game professor works well opposite her. As always, I love you remember precisely where you first saw the movie!

Best wishes,

11:11 PM  
Blogger Margot Shelby said...

Laura, I believe we've had a good discussion about The Big Country a while ago. I agree, everyone seems to love Peck's character in the movie, I didn't. Chuck wins hands down every time. Also agree about Yellow Sky.

4:55 PM  
Blogger Walter S. said...

Laura and Margot, any thoughts on Gregory Peck's playing an outright villain, the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele in THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL(filmed 1977-78, released 1978)?

3:25 AM  
Blogger Margot Shelby said...

Walter, I actually haven't seen this movie. My bad. What did you think of him?

8:26 AM  
Blogger Walter S. said...

Margot, I think Gregory Peck did a rather good job portraying the outright nasty villain Dr. Josef Mengele, the "Angel of Death." His hair is dyed a hideous black and he wears a short-cropped mustache in trying not to look like Gregory Peck. He demonstrates a flair for sinister evil never before seen in any of his screen appearances. To see Peck reach out for this new challenge in his long admirable career is really admirable. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama and he deserved it.

9:59 PM  

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