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  Sheik, The Sheik Rattle and Roll
Year: 1921
Director: George Melford
Stars: Rudolph Valentino, Agnes Ayres, Ruth Miller, George Waggner, Frank Butler, Charles Brinley, Lucien Littlefield, Adolphe Menjou, Walter Long
Genre: Romance, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Out in the sands of the Sahara Desert lives Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan (Rudolph Valentino), who rules his tribe with a firm but fair hand. When he is offered the hand of a young woman in marriage, he turns her down when he sees that she is in love with someone else, but he will not be afraid to take a woman for his own if he so desires her. Meanwhile, Lady Diana Mayo (Agnes Ayres) has arrived in the area, turning down an offer of marriage herself because she does not wish to lose her independence. Instead, she plans a trek into the desert, but first encounters the Sheik the night before she sets out, at once fascinated and repelled by his attitude to women as he bans all females but the dancers from the casino. Diana dresses up as one of the dancers to investigate, leading to a fateful development...

Along with The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, this was the film that cemented the reputation of superstar Valentino as one of the silver screen's great lovers. Playing such an exotic character enabled women across the globe (and some men, too) to fantasise about being carried off by him and indulging in mad, passionate love. Watching him now, you can see he was a handsome chap, but his style looks decidedly odd, particularly the manner in which he widens his eyes, looks down his nose and grins salaciously - apparently this would drive the ladies wild in his day, and if he had lived past the age of thirty he might have made for a powerful Lear. Or perhaps a powerful leer? Whatever, his appeal might also lie in his ironically gentlemanly approach, as yes, he abducts a woman to get her to fall in love with him, but never forces himself upon her.

If Valentino wasn't rolling his eyes in all his films, in The Sheik, his signature role, he hams it up for all he's worth, and also chain smokes throughout for some reason - not from a hookah, for example, but a series of humdrum cigarettes which don't exactly enhance his romantic appearance. Nevertheless, he cuts a dash as the lovelorn Arab, even if Diana isn't won over by him right away and has to be kidnapped by him when he takes a fancy to her. She makes an escape attempt or two, but always ends up back in his arms, and what do you know? Our heroine begins to be seduced by the lothario's charms. However, the path to true love does not run smooth, and Diana, when out in the sand with the Sheik's buddy (Adolphe Menjou) from his days in Paris, has her party attacked by bandits and she is kidnapped once more - Rudy to the rescue! Apparently taking the view that women who claim to be independent actually want, no, need to be swept off their feet to put them in their place, the film survives today as a a curio, a campy relic of one of the most famous men who ever lived. It was followed by a sequel five years later, which sadly was Valentino's last film.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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