"Not east of Suez but south of Algiers" ... with these intertitles abounds one of the greatest legends of the Hollywood that is no more. When one thinks of those times one remembers The Wizard Of Oz, Casablanca ... and those
scenes between Rudolph Valentino and Vilma Banky in a tent under
the desert sun.
Made in 1926 for United Artists, directed by master director
George Fitzmaurice and destined to even beat the 1921 original
"The Sheik" at the box office, this sequel to the former Valentino classic is in many ways the better of the two films.
Rudolph Valentino has never looked better than in this film, which would ultimately be his last, and Hungarian born Vilma
Banky outshines the original heroine Agnes Ayres from the "The Sheik" as well, together making these film the ultimate love story of the silent film age. Agnes Ayres however also appears in this film as the Sheik`s mother as a tribute to Valentino (his father is played by Rudy as well in a double role). But the movie has more assets to it. It is also more handsomely produced than "The Sheik", it has a far more glossy look with its` bigger budget and excellent art direction (by William Cameron Menzies of "Gone With The Wind"-fame), a slightly better script and it exposes far better the enormous acting range of Rudolph Valentino, who is still seen today only as the great Latin Lover (despite for example also being a great drama actor or comedian). The big difference might also líe in the fact that "The Sheik" was a typical product of the studio system and "The Son Of The Sheik" was made far more independently. The other interesting fact is that when this movie was made the silent film style had changed greatly since 1921, making the former film look far more primitive. And it is no wonder that all the famous scenes by which Rudolph Valentino is still judged today emerge from this movie, while the other Valentino films (even "The Sheik") are mostly forgotten today - this movie has its place as a sort of silent screen pop icon (and probably the only silent film most people have heard of in their lifetime today - I remember that as a child I only knew one silent film actor - Rudy, courtesy of this film). This
is also probably the curse of this film. It overshadowed all of his work so much and even made the critical judgment of "The Son Of The Sheik" nearly impossible. In fact it is an entertaining piece of Hollywood fairytale, packed with action and romance, exotic escapism and a great climax when Rudolph Valentino frees his love interest Banky from a band of robbers and rides with her into the endless desert ... and right into movie eternity. Truly a film of these ages, even not hampered by its dated plotline and some outrageous "silent film acting".
A note about the video quality: after being available for two decades only on bad quality tapes, KINO on Video now has released the first really good print of this film. Though not as beautiful as some of their other films or a Kevin Brownlow restoration, this version is multi-tinted and has an appropiate organ score that enhances many of the scenes. Only some of the reels seem a bit washed out, but at least you have now the chance to get a good quality video tape from Rudy`s most famous film.