Imagine if “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” combined with the creepy factor of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and you’d probably be left with something like these two films “The Sheik” and “Son of the Sheik.” Both of these films propelled its star Rudolph Valentino into the realm of living legends at the time, having previously been known for the tango scene in “Four Horseman.” But what Valentino had was a very strange aura of sex appeal – he wasn’t macho or damaged, but he was brave and vibrant, almost brooding, like James Dean.
Both of these films follow Valentino’s titular Sheik, an Arab leader that roams the deserts of North Africa along with his faithful soldiers, taking what they want along the way. In the first film, the Sheik kidnaps a young, independent woman from London and attempts to woo her so that he may win her heart. The second film follows the Sheik’s son (also played by Valentino, who also reprises his role as the Sheik), as he attempts to do basically the same thing his father did, only this time he tries to win the heart of a woman that wronged him.
In other words, like “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” these films’ version of romance is to have men kidnap women that they find attractive, hold them against their will, and just wait until they ultimately fall in love with their captors. Because Stockholm Syndrome is the greatest form of love!
Ultimately, I couldn’t get into either of these films, mostly because of how these romances are formed on such terrible barbaric acts, yet they try to play it off like the Sheik was acting purely out of love and that he was doing the right thing, when he most certainly was not. Valentino’s performances only make this even creepier when he has this face that looks like he’s one bad day away from becoming the Joker.
I would say that “The Sheik” is slightly better than “Son of the Sheik,” if only because of how the title cards make the desert feel far more alive than it should, with very detailed descriptions to give this pile of sand its own character. It also uses tints of different color to effectively describe the mood and tone of a scene, while “Son of the Sheik” is entirely black-and-white. While that film has double the Valentino and some better comedy, all charm and charisma he had at that point was thrown out the window when he fell in love with the woman that ruined his life for good reason.
I’m not sure if I would recommend these films to anyone outside of film buffs who want to see how Rudolph Valentino became a big star in the 1920s. They’re not bad movies, but they are uninteresting and dull movies. While the Stockholm Syndrome romances made these ones feel icky, they just feel like uninspired action set pieces of the silent era.
“The Sheik” – C
“Son of the Sheik” – C-