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Arabesque

After the immaculate original Charade (OK, ‘original’ isn’t an entirely apposite word, but that non-stop mish-mash of the campier elements of North by Northwest-period Hitchcock did kick-start a sub-genre all its own) Stanley ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ Donen trooped across to London, by way of the Welsh hills and Ascot, for an unrepentantly galumphing tale of hieroglyphic professor Gregory Peck getting roped into some middle eastern political assassination intrigue courtesy Alan ‘Parachute’ Badel, and getting mixed up with dubious minx Sophia Loren along the way. Peck gets beaten up and stumbles on clues in much the manner Cary Grant did in NbNW (indeed, Done wanted Grant in the role initially: ‘Stanley,’ Peck would winningly confide on set whever the maestro lamented the paucity of comic timing, ‘I’m no Cary Grant.’) Loren drops the soap and almost gets combine harvested. Both visit the races and the zoo, and get pursued by a chopper and wrecking ball for their trouble. Badel is suitably shades-‘n’-smirks sinister. Windsor Davies turns up as a blinky-missy policeman. Shots through fishtanks, wobbly mirrors, op-art wall hangings and psychedelic lightshows datestamp the whole thing as surely as the copyright notice they made sure to put in this time after fatally leaving it off the print of Charade, which is of course all fantastic. (Sixties Stan doesn’t half love his shimmering shards of prismatically scattered light – see the title sequence for the following year’s Bedazzled for details.)

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