Peck, Grant, Hitchcock, Bond
Expert in deciphering ancient Arabic hieroglyphics Professor David Pollock (Gregory Peck) suddenly finds his expertise called upon when an Arabic Prime Minister wishes him to take a job offer from a man called Beshraavi (Alan Badel) so that he can find out what his plot is against the government. What Beshraavi wants is a small hieroglyphic code deciphered and is very persuasive when it comes to getting his way. But Pollock finds things are even more complicated that he first thought after he becomes involved with Beshraavi's mysterious mistress, Yasmin Azir (Sophia Loren) who seems to be after the code herself.
If Cary Grant played James Bond I would imagine the end result would have ended up something like "Arabesque" which could be described as Stanley Donen does Hitchcock whilst Gregory Peck does Cary Grant. Sounds a jumble, some might even say a mess so let me decipher the code which is "Arabesque".
So let's start with Gregory Peck who turns on the comedy charm of a man who always has a quip but is a charmer and who double takes when he sees an attractive woman. It makes the character of David Pollock come across as gentlemanly as Cary Grant but with the wit of Connery's Bond and in a strange brew sort of way it works. But it works because you then have Sophia Loren as this sexy, playful, slight comical femme fatale of sorts. It makes for a lot of fun thanks to that playfulness between characters and for the fact that Loren looks intoxicatingly gorgeous in this.
But then you have Stanley Donen who right from the word go brings some Hitchcock styling to proceedings with an almost hypnotic opening sequence followed by use of mirrors, obscured images and plenty more. Toss in the fact the storyline has that espionage style storyline where we have Pollock drawn in to a situation where he is in danger and has to save the day due to a little piece of paper and you can easily imagine Hitchcock having helmed this.
What this all boils down to is that "Arabesque" is certainly entertaining with a good looking cast, delivering entertaining performances whilst the styling seems to take in various influences. But for me whilst a lot of fun the end result never quite becomes a classic.