Saturday, June 10, 2017

Tonight's Movie: The Son of the Sheik (1926) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Rudolph Valentino stars in the silent classic THE SON OF THE SHEIK (1926), recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

I reviewed the Kino release of Valentino's THE SHEIK (1921) last weekend. If THE SHEIK was a good movie, I found THE SON OF THE SHEIK to be a great one.

Like THE SHEIK, THE SON OF THE SHEIK is loosely based on a novel by E.M. Hull. (The original, which I read years ago, was called THE SONS OF THE SHEIK, and the movie plot was greatly pared down and changed.) Valentino stars in a dual role, playing both the Sheik of the original film and the Sheik's son Ahmed, the title character.

Ahmed falls in love with Yasmin (Vilma Banky), a beautiful dancing girl. (As with the Sheik in the original film, it's revealed she's actually of European heritage.) He's led to believe that she's responsible for luring him into a thieves' trap, where he's tortured and threatened with death; after he escapes, he later kidnaps her to exact revenge.

Yasmin is ultimately freed at the urging of Ahmed's father, but then he learns the truth, that she was completely innocent, and he sets out to woo her back; in an exciting climax, he races across the desert to rescue her from the gang of thieves.

Like the original film, the movie is not exactly politically correct, and some will be troubled by the direction the story goes at one point. But for viewers willing to set aside modern sensibilities and embrace the film for what it is, escapist fantasy, it's vastly entertaining. The piece is played with gusto by the cast against visually impressive settings.

The goofy eye-flaring Valentino did constantly throughout THE SHEIK is gone here; instead he's terrific, by turns smoldering and athletic as the impetuous Ahmed.

He's also marvelous as his father, almost unrecognizable at first, but with a closer look, yes, it's the Sheik. He's outstanding in both roles, and the trick photography in a few scenes is superb. I marveled at a moment where the Sheik puts his arm around his son's shoulder.

Given the talent Valentino shows here, it's all the more tragic that this was his last film. The movie was released in early September 1926, just days after Valentino's August 23rd death. The Blu-ray includes newspaper headlines announcing his illness and passing.

Valentino is well-matched with Vilma Banky; I think they have more chemistry here than he and Agnes Ayres did in the original film. (Ayres returns here for several scenes in her role as Diana, Ahmed's mother.) Banky is moving but also has plenty of spunk as the heroine.

The look of this film is absolutely captivating. The sets, including the Sheik's beautiful villa and Ahmed's encampment, were designed by the great William Cameron Menzies. Like the original movie, much of the filming also took place at California sand dunes. Sandstorms and shots of horses racing across the sand are quite thrilling.

The beautiful photography by George Barnes utilizes color tints, including blue nighttime scenes. The movie was directed by George Fitzmaurice. It runs 80 minutes.

The Alloy Orchestra provides an evocative score. The music for the lengthy sequence between the Sheik and Yasmin when they arrive at his camp is downright hypnotic. I was fortunate to see the Alloy Orchestra in person a few weeks ago accompanying Harold Lloyd in SPEEDY (1928) at the TCM Classic Film Festival.

Extras on the Blu-ray include a brief featurette with Orson Welles, vintage shorts, and a trailer for Valentino's THE YOUNG RAJAH (1922).

Kino Lorber has also released THE SON OF THE SHEIK on DVD.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Brittaney said...

I really enjoyed both this film and The Sheik. Despite some flaws it kept me engrossed and Valentino really had charisma.

7:30 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm glad to know you enjoyed them too! I hope more people will give them a try. :)

Best wishes,

10:39 AM  
Blogger Hamlette said...

Although I like The Sheik better, I agree that The Son of the Sheik is the better movie. And I absolutely love Valentino in the dual roles -- I wish he'd had the chance to make more comedies, as he's wonderfully dry and funny as the elder Ahmed.

6:58 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

He was so good in THE SON OF THE SHEIK, it really gave me new insight into Valentino's talents. :)

Thanks for stopping by and commenting on the SHEIK movies!

Best wishes,

11:55 AM  

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