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The Son of
the Sheik

(1926)
 

Rudolph Valentino is one of a half-dozen names from the silent era that nearly everyone recognizes. The image of Valentino as a bullfighter or a desert sheik is one that readily comes to mind when the general public thinks of silent film. But why is this matinee idol, all flashing eyes and pearl-white teeth, one of the silent era’s most enduring stars? A viewing of his final film, The Son of the Sheik, will readily reveal the charisma of Rudolph Valentino, that held women captive and made men jealous.

The Son of the Sheik features a better-structured and more-pleasing story than the original 1921 film. It is more romantic and features several good action sequences. However, it is, ultimately, what it is: a Rudolph Valentino romance vehicle. The film is probably not that important, beyond the presence of Valentino, in the grand scale of the silent era, but it remains a pleasing film and rises above the usual fare of the time. Hungarian-born actress Vilma Banky does a good job as Valentino’s love interest, the street dancer Yasmin. Agnes Ayres here reprises her 1921 role. Interestingly, character actor Karl Dane has nearly as many close-ups as Valentino. Even technically, the film stands out. The split-frame cinematography that allows Rudolph Valentino to play both the sheik and his son is excellent and shows no sign of frame jitters between the two exposures. — Carl Bennett

2002 Image Entertainment DVD edition

The Son of the Sheik (1926), black & white, 69 minutes, not rated,
with The Sheik (1921), color-toned black & white, 86 minutes, not rated.

Film Preservation Associates, distributed by Image Entertainment, ID1371DSDVD, UPC 0-14381-13712-5.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 1, 5.5 Mbps average video bit rate, 224 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 12 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $24.99.
DVD release date: 25 June 2002.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 8 / audio: 7 / additional content: 7 / overall: 7.

Unfortunately, we were unable to make an A-B comparison of this 2002 Image DVD edition to the 2000 Kino DVD edition (see below). However, this Image edition has utilized a very-good black & white 35mm print of the 1937 sound reissue version. (The disc’s booklet notes that a few shots from other prints have been inserted.) It is difficult to determine whether the print has been reedited and retitled, and it appears to be identical in continuity to the Paul Killiam print utilized for the Kino edition, but the transfer has been made at sound speed to accomodate its synchronization to the 1930s soundtrack. The faster transfer is not a great problem since the original footage may have been shot at a 20 FPS or higher frame rate, thus much of the movement (with a few exceptions) is close to a natural speed. The print features a broad range of graytones and very good image detail, but the print is moderately speckled, scratched and scuffed. The full-frame transfer is generously cropped, so intertitles and the tops of heads are not a problem. Our memories of the Kino edition lead us to slightly favor the qualities of this new edition.

Featured with The Son of the Sheik is the film that started it all for Valentino, The Sheik (1921). The Sheik DVD review.

Among the supplementary material is Rudolph Valentino and His 88 American Beauties (1923) is documentary produced by the young David O. Selznick during Valentino’s contract dispute with Famous Players-Lasky, and served the purpose of keeping Valentino before the moving-going public during his vaudeville tour. Valentino was a judge in a beauty contest held in New York, with 88 contestants, including future film star Eugenia Gilbert. The film is padded with a hodge podge of footage taken during the event and of the contestants afterwards, but the film served its purpose for Valentino and made Selznick a goodly sum of money at the beginning of his career as a film producer. The transfer has been made from an excellent 35mm print, with mild speckling and moderate frame jitters. The film was previously available as a supplement on laserdisc.

The Sheik’s Physique (192?) is an odd little fiction film of Valentino (complete with long, pointed sideburns) driving to the beach and, to wow female viewers, changing into a swimming suit to spend a leisurely afternoon relaxing. Having fallen asleep, Rudy awakens to discover that he is late for an undefined appointment, realizes that his car is gone, and he must hitch a ride back into town. The film, which is likely exerpted from a longer compilation reel, has little purpose other than to keep new Valentino footage on the world’s cinema screens until he formally returned to film acting. Transferred from, what appears to be, an excellent 35mm print.

[Pathe News: Rudolph Valentino Dead!] (1926) is a portion of newsreel footage of the funeral of Valentino. Includes footage from The Son of the Sheik and an incidental glimpse of Pola Negri. Transferred from an excellent 35mm print that is lightly speckled, moderately jittery and slightly damaged.

All of the films on this Image DVD feature music scores performed on synthesizers by Eric Beheim, who has written extensive notes on the scoring for the insert booklet. The disc also features an alternate music track of the 1937 reissue music and sound effects track for The Son of the Sheik.

This DVD edition of Valentino’s sheik films, produced for home video by David Shepard, encompasses a five-year span during which Rudolph Valentino rose to fame, fought studio control (almost disasterously), successfully returned to films, and ultimately died a premature death at age 31. With it’s wealth of Valentino films in great prints, this DVD is a great buy for both value and quality.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
2000 Kino on Video DVD edition

The Son of the Sheik (1926), color-toned black & white, 68 minutes, not rated.

Kino International, K152, UPC 7-38329-01522-0.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD disc, Region 1, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $29.95.
DVD release date: 21 March 2000.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 7 / audio: 5 / additional content: 0 / overall: 7.
A comparison with the previous best home video edition, that from Republic Pictures Home Video, shows improvement in this new edition. The source material, from the Paul Killiam collection, was the same for both editions, right down the the same Jack Ward theater-organ music performance recorded in 1969.

As was the case with all home video from Republic Pictures, the transfer’s color tints were oversaturated and required the viewer to turn down color values on their television monitor to achieve a watchable color balance. The Republic edition’s soundtrack was full of audio crackles. These presentation defects largely have been corrected and improved in the Kino edition. The saturation of the color toning in the Kino edition is appropriately subdued and features different toning choices than the Republic edition. Picture image highlights are not blasted out, and the image framing is cropped higher and more open — although it leaves the impression that it could have been even more generously cropped. For example, the cropping does cut off a character’s head at 41:37.

The music soundtrack does reveal the age of the original recording. Occasional audio distortion as the organ overloads either the original recording system or (more likely) the rerecording to the film print’s optical soundtrack, but it is far cleaner and does not leak and randomly crackle in active surround channels like the Republic edition. In addition, the soundtrack on the DVD drops out a couple of times and is flawed by an audio thump at 40:47.

The 35mm source material shows minor print damage, with minor scuffing and some speckling that does distract the viewer from time to time. The print’s main titles are from a sound rerelease of the film (probably indicating the original print source). Overall, however, the print is in good to very-good condition.

While this edition was an improvement over previous home video editions of The Son of the Sheik, we slightly favor the newer Image edition (see above) for its open framing and cleaner stereo music score.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
This Region 1 NTSC DVD edition is also available directly from KINO LORBER.
2010 Nostalgia Family Video DVD edition

The Son of the Sheik (1926), color-toned black & white, 68 minutes, not rated.

Nostalgia Family Video, 1847D, unknown UPC number.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD-R disc, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $19.99.
DVD release date: 2010.
Country of origin: USA
This edition was likely mastered from a 16mm reduction print.

The film is likely accompanied by a soundtrack of preexisting recordings.

 
NOSTALGIA FAMILY VIDEO has discontinued business and this edition is no longer available.
Other RUDOLPH VALENTINO films available on home video.
 
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