Arabesque packs the names of Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren and a foreign intrigue theme, but doesn’t always progress on a true entertainment course. Fault lies in a shadowy plotline and confusing characters, particularly in the miscasting of Peck in a cute role.
Based on the Gordon Cotler novel, The Cipher, script projects Peck as an American exchange professor of ancient languages at Oxford drawn into a vortex of hazardous endeavor. He is called upon to decipher a secret message written in hieroglyphics, a document and its translation sought by several different factions from the Middle East. He is assisted by the paradoxical character played by Loren, as an Arab sexpot who seems to be on everyone’s side. There are chases, murders and attempted assassinations to whet the appetite, as well as misuses of comedy.
Peck tries valiantly with a role unsuited to him and Loren displayes her usual lush and plush presence. If her part is an enigma to Peck, it is to the spectator, too.
Menace is provided by Alan Badel and Kieron Moore, both trying to latch onto contents of the cipher and out to dispose of Peck.