Friday, April 17, 2015

Ebert Thoughts ’15—The Son of the Sheik (1926) ***

UR, 68 min.
Director: Geo. Fitzmaurice
Writers: Frances Marion, Fred de Gresac, George Marion Jr., Edith Maude Hull (novel)
Starring: Rudolph Valentino, Vilma Banky, George Fawcett, Montague Love, Karl Dane, Bull Montana, Binunsky Hyman, Agnes Ayers

The biggest disappointment of missing Ebertfest each and every year is missing the Alloy Orchestra’s live accompaniment of the year’s silent feature. This year’s film is Rudolph Valentino’s “The Son of the Sheik”, a sequel to his film “The Sheik”, not that you have to see the first film to follow the second.

I love seeing the silent films. I don’t watch a lot of silent films, but Ebertfest ensures that I will watch at least one every year. I think that’s a good rule for any cineaste. You should watch at least one silent film a year. More would be better. It was such an innovative time in cinema. At Eberfest I’ve seen some of the best. More importantly, I’ve seen something from just about every silent legend.

This year is my first Valentino, and I’m glad I got around to it. Valentino is quite a presence on screen. He has the physique of any of today’s major action heroes. He’s not quite as big as Dwayne Johnson, but he’s got some guns on him. I’m sure both “Sheik” movies are purely vehicles for Valentino’s presence. The two films have different stories and different main characters. In this film, Valentino plays the son of his character from the former film and he also plays the Sheik as an older man. Here his son of the Sheik meets a dancer and falls instantly in love. The dancer is part of a clan of bandits who lure rich men to an oasis with her wiles so the bandits can rob them. Of course, the dancer really falls for the son of the Sheik.

After he’s captured this son escapes and thinks his love has betrayed him. After returning home he sees the band of thieves parading into town as entertainers, and he hatches a plan for revenge. Eventually the Sheik, who has arranged a marriage for his son, gets in on the action as the two take on the band of criminals side by side.

“The Son of the Sheik” may have been the least impressive silent I’ve seen because of Ebertfest, but it is still an enjoyable experience. Valentino is every bit the star he’s made out to be. Maybe he’s bigger! He’s like Vin Diesel with an actual personality. Eh, I really shouldn’t take pot shots like that. I got nothing against Diesel, but Valentino brings a little more to the screen.

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