Arabesque Rips off Dr. No
Arabesque (1966), starring Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren, practically copies from Dr. No (1962), and throws in the exact same ending too. Unfortunately, they do a poor job of copying, thinking that the only most superficial elements of Dr. No will do. Nope, sorry, you’ll need more than that to be a good movie. The plot of Arabesque uses a series of plot twists that will confuse you, and Gregory Peck never once looks like he knows what he’s doing. That’s because Peck is never really supposed to know what he’s doing. He doesn’t play a super spy or a gun-toting police officer—No his character is a stuffy College professor in some sort of fish-out-of-water situation.
I will admit that Arabesque has better looking locations than Dr. No, but many of the scenes fail to replicate the character drama caught by Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, and the rest. Whereas Connery goes bare-chested on the beach, Peck is fully clad in the shower with Ursula Andress. Yeah, stupid.
The plots twists of Arabesque will have you scratching your head. Is Andress playing a good guy or bad guy? You won’t know until the very last scene. Peck plays the only guy with the intelligence to decipher a criminal cipher, because only he knows how to read hieroglyphics I guess. He scribbles the cipher onto this little piece of paper and loses it, then he recovers it, then he loses it again. Then it doesn’t matter, because the cipher isn’t in the hieroglyphics anyway. Yeah, kinda pointless.
An Arab oil emirate named Hasaan Jena hires Peck to unscramble the cipher and find out who’s out to kill him. Peck doesn’t do a very good job, because Jena is shot through the head. It is revealed a few minutes later that the dead guy wasn’t the real Jena to begin with, but a double hired by an evil ganglord sent to impersonate him and get the cipher’s meaning. If you’re confused by my summary so far, you know how I feel. And it doesn’t stop there, because the movies goes on and on with it’s stupid plot, twisting and turning it whenever convenient.
This movie wishes it were Dr. No. It has a Rolls Royce instead of Bond’s convertible, or any sign of an Aston Martin. Frankly, using a black Rolls Royce Phantom seems stuffy to me, but I guess that fits Peck’s character. There’s a foot chase, a gun shootout, and a scene in the water as in Dr. No and the ending is the same, where Peck and Loren end up in a boat smooching.
Overall, Dr. No is much better movie, using only a quarter of the money lavishly poured into Arabesque. I disagree with critics who say Arabesque has no pace, because I thought that element was fine. Loren was fine in her role, and the supporting cast was good. Everything else was meh. The dialogue and the plot was especially meh. I thought Peter Sellers was in this movie, but Alan Badel was just doing his best Sellers lookalike impersonation as the bad guy. Gregory Peck himself was fine, but terribly miscast as some sort of charming, offbeat everyman. Anyway, I was disappointed with this one, but at least it’s interesting to see the influence of a James Bond movie made on a dime, only four years later.