I think young film fans would be shocked to find out that there was such a thing as silent pictures. Stories were told without the benefit of dialogue or sound. Only music/a score was available to early filmmakers to help them set up and convey their stories. During this time movie stars included Charlie Chaplin, Clara Bow, Buster Keaton, Gloria Swanson, and Rudolph Valentino. Valentino was considered the male heartthrob of the early film era. Now, we get to rewatch or be introduced to his body of work in the highest quality of picture courtesy of blu-rays like this one courtesy of the cool Paramount Presents series of films.
The Sheik originally came out in 1921and was directed by American, though interestingly he graduated from McGill University in Montreal, George Melford, who helmed other films like the Spanish-language version of Dracula and 1929’s Love in the Desert. He was a blacksmith before turning to film and once he started he rarely slowed down. Despite the fact that in those days films were churned out at a breakneck clip, his over 200 directing credits is very impressive. After he stopped directing, he continued with film as an actor.
The Sheik features big star Rudolph Valentino – known as the Latin Lover, who had made his mark in films such as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) and Once to Every Woman (1920) – along with Agnes Ayres, Charles Brinley, Ruth Miller, and Adolphe Menjou. It features the long honoured romantic story of opposites falling for each other. Really is a star machine for Valentino, who tragically died at the young age of 31 in 1926, not long after completing the filming of the sequel of this film entitled The Son of the Sheik.
This was the film that cemented Rudolph Valentino’s reputation as the smouldering male romantic lead of the era. He became the first true male sex symbol in the film world. Some will toss aside his acting saying that it is hammy, but you must remember that is how everyone acted in the day. Because of the lack of dialogue, they really played to the cheap seats in that everything was exaggerated. Just a sign of the times. There is a time and a place for campiness though.
Watch this 100 year old film through today’s eyes you will probably be insulted by its racism and sexism. It certainly was a different time. If you can manage to get past that then it is an interesting watch to shed light on how the action-romance genre has evolved over the subsequent ten decades.
-Collectible packaging featuring a foldout image of the film’s theatrical poster and an interior spread with key movie moments
-Desert Heat: 100 Years with The Sheik
-Musical Score by Roger Bellon