Arabesque (1966)

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A professor who is expert in hieroglypics is hired to go undercover to assist an Arab prime minister whose life is in danger from a mysterious organisation led by Alan Badel. David Pollock was a role conceived for Cary Grant after Charade, but he was retiring and it went to Gregory Peck instead and a huge amount was spent on rewrites – utilising the talents of Pierre Marton aka Peter Stone (and Julian Mitchell and Stanley Price) once again but even he can’t make Peck deliver humour like Grant. The beautiful woman this time is the awesome Sophia Loren who is the mistress of Badel. Since it’s Peter Stone there is cross and double cross and code and it’s espionage therefore there’s tension to burn … if you can figure out the plot. It really is quite a lot of hieroglyphics but it’s also one of the most incredible films ever shot, with the glory going to cinematographer Christopher Challis who gives great colour and there are lots of wacky angles a la mod style of the era, supposedly to camouflage the production issues. If you hate going to the optician best avoid the first ten minutes. It’s the last film of John Merivale, Vivien Leigh’s last companion, and the debut of legendary stuntman Vic Armstrong. There’s another fabulous titles sequence by Maurice Binder and it’s scored by Henry Mancini with some interesting sax and trombone work. Gorgeous entertainment.


Accident (1967)

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Oh! For the days when intelligent films were made in the English language. This masterpiece from director Joseph Losey and screenwriter Harold Pinter (adapting a novel by Nicholas Moseley) reminds us of those halcyon times. The groves of academe are replete with longing, lust and most of all, alcohol. The great Dirk Bogarde is Stephen, whose students Jacqueline Sassard and Michael York fall for each other, while he looks at the success of Stanley Baker, another professor with a TV show. Brilliant characterisation, writing and photography – and what an ending! Pinter was a brilliant screenwriter and one of the thrills of the late, lamented Museum of the Moving Image, bizarrely enough, was seeing his original scripts for this and other films directed by Losey – remember The Servant! Wow. It’s the little things.