Silent Film Review: "The Sheik"

"The Sheik", by Rudolph Valentino. One of the opening lines in this film was, "Peace and flame." which I though was rather poetic. Clearly whoever is the Sheik was clearly in charge, and we also meet his romantic interest, Diana Mayo, who is the rambunctious orphan girl who thinks, "Marriage is captivity." How delightfully idealistic that one! This paralleled the "Wife Market" that was seen earlier. There is quite a bit of dialogue, but it is kept simple and concise enough to still give the characters their own voice. The scene changes got a slide to tell you where and when it was, and whenever a new character was introduced they would get a slide with the characters name, and below must have been the names of the actor playing them. "Like a page from Arabian Nights" is clearly a reference to the Middle Eastern fable, and probably a better known story back when this film premiered.

It is at this point that I must bring something to the public’s attention, a detail which I'm sure you noticed upon your viewing of this film, and that is that the Sheik has a very serious case of, "the Psycho Peepers". If you saw someone staring with eyes that wide, you would think they were on too many drugs, or dental crème. That aside, I can proceed. Plot develops, and there are an impressive number of fully costumed extras. There is a significant passage of time that is well portrayed. Also well portrayed is the classical "men subjugating women through physical dominance", and is an ever present plot device in this movie, as well as our society today. I found it odd that the Sheik was almost always smoking a cigarette, as if to glamourize it, and not smoking a Hookah. The rival bandit, and villain has a Hookah. I have a Hookah. Why doesn't the Sheik?

Later, the Sheik's English friend and writer visits,
and he too falls in love with the captured girl, until the bandit Omair kidnaps her, and a massive fight ensues to get her back. There is a repeated theme, that if you want to subdue a woman who has the nerve enough to kill you, you have but to give her wrist a tight squeeze, and in seconds she will fall helplessly to the ground. There are segments that take place at night, and the film has been tinted blue to give the appearance of a night time skyline. During the rescue, the Sheik is wounded, but is nursed back to health. Upon his waking, he finds the girl eagerly sitting by his side, relieved that he lives still, and just like that, his "Psycho Peepers" return as well. The two are finally in love, and the movie ends. It only took her threatening to kill him, him kidnapping her, her threatening to kill him again, making someone else to fall in love with her, getting kidnapped by someone else, dozens of men to die, and her eventual re-kidnapping, in order for her to finally admit her true feelings that, I'm sure, were there all along. The End.

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