Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cinema Tuesdays {Arabesque}

Arabesque is Stanley Donen's second Hitchcock style comedic thriller and the semi-sequel to Charade.
Gregory Peck is playing the Audrey Hepburn role. He's an American professor at Oxford, specializing in hieroglyphics.
He is hired by Beshraavi, a shipping magnate from an unnamed Arabic country with too much oil. None of the actors in the film are Arabic, so there is a lot of dark pancake makeup used.
Gregory Peck has to translate a cypher that contains an unknown, but very important message or else face certain death.
Beshraavi loves three things: having control, his flesh eating falcon and women's shoes.
How can you tell he's the villain, aside from that he likes hitting the servants? Well, he wears dark glasses all the time. And just look at his dinner jacket. Now, a dark green or midnight blue velvet jacket would be acceptable. But a brown one? Clearly he is evil and not to be trusted.
Then there's Beshraavi's girlfriend, who owns the London townhouse where he is staying. Sophia Loren, in her painted on eyebrow period, is playing the Cary Grant role, but istead of changing her name all the time, she changes which side she is on and the reasons why. Of course, she does have a good reason for doing so but that can't be revealed to Gregory Peck yet.
Now that is a hood!
She slips note to Gregory Peck that tells him what happened to the last guy who failed to translate the cypher.
And invites him up to her toile bathroom to tell him that he will never leave the house alive.
But before they can come up with an escape plan, the bird man arrives to ask if she's seen Gregory Peck.
The shower scene shows that Cary Grant was planned for the role, but he was getting ready to retire by that time.
The best place to hide something is in plain sight, like inside a chocolate wrapper.
Cary Grant would have just looked amused in this situation, but Gregory Peck looks like he keeps wanting to laugh out loud due to the fantastical turn that his day has taken.
Taking a hostage is still the best way to leave any building.
Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren take Beshraavi's men on a chase through the nearby zoo and aquarium.
Just when they've gotten away, a man in a trench coat appears and knocks Gregory Peck out.
He wakes up in a van with the leader of the rebels of the Arabic country, who is also Sophia Loren's boyfriend. Or is he? When they can't find the cypher, they drug Gregory Peck and throw him out.
We don't know what the drugs are, but they are powerful enough so that he has to use a pillow in order to answer the phone.
Then Sophia Loren shows up and tells him another lie about her loyalties.
They go hunting for the cypher and find out where it will be handed off in the afternoon. The suit's interesting, but those with an hourglass figure just can't pull off wearing anything double breasted.
The hand off will be made at Ascot, which is naturally an excuse for showing off the latest in 1966 hat styles.
Gregory Peck finds the cypher and mails it to himself (always a smart move) only he is now wanted for murder due to a scene at Ascot that looks like it was inspired by North by Northwest.
So now he has to wander around at night in dark glasses while listening to Sophia Loren change her story again.
Only Sophia Loren could pull off wearing a satin coat and matching shoes while wandering around an abandoned construction site.
Her new story is corroborated when the rebel leader attacks them with a wreaking ball.
There's nothing like a near-death experience to speed up a relationship.
Gregory Peck figures out that the cypher is a fake. It was just made to hide a microdot that gives details of an assassination planed for that day against the Arabic prime minister. Why don't movies and television shows build a plot around microdots anymore? They were a very popular plot device in the Sixties, almost half of the episodes of Danger Man were built around recovering microdots, because they are so small and clever and require no special effects.
Arabesque is filled to bursting with these really clever shots of characters.
With seconds to spare, our heroes managed to stop the assassination. Or do they?
No, because they find the real prime minister in a trunk. Or do they?
Besides, we haven't had the chase scene yet. This time it's through a corn field and then on horseback.

1 comment:

Millie Motts said...

I can tell I need to add this to my "must see" list!