So, got to see this film as part of the silent movie program at my local arthouse. It’s the film that made Rudolph Valentino a huge star and, having never seen a single Valentino film, I was really looking forward to it. Well, number one, I don’t know why Valentino was a huge star based on this. He’s handsome enough, but he’s not a good actor at all. He has a certain easy manner when he’s being called on to be light; he has a quick & genuine smile. But anything outside that and it’s really silent movie acting at its very worst. And he has no real charisma. But this film is awful for so many other reasons as well. Valentino plays a sheik who kidnaps a young English girl who’s out in the desert by herself and I’ll just say that Agnes Ayres is every bit as bad as Valentino, if not a good bit worse. Anyway, the film is about how the two of them fall in love, of course, despite the fact that, you know, he’s a rapist and she’s his prisoner. The film is incredibly repetitive, if we’re going past the deeply misogynistic elements here. The film seems to consist of the woman escaping and being recaptured over and over and over again. As to why and how the two fall in love, the film has nothing to say. It’s, you know, just really, really boring and dull; the only thing that kept me awake was the occasional moment of being offended. And the film really unloads at the end when all is revealed; Valentino’s character isn’t actually Arabic, having been taken in by the tribe when his European parents died in the desert. So, of course, it’s okay for an Englishwoman to be in love with him now. You’ll never guess how the woman figures out that he’s actually European. He’s been wounded in the climactic battle sequence and so she’s sitting beside his bed, holding one of his hands, when she muses, “He has awfully large hands for an Arab.” Yeah. This movie is horribly stupid and filled with moments like that. I won’t tell you the whole plot point that revolves around someone scratching a message in the sand and it somehow remaining pristine and easily visible despite an actual battle with horses taking place right on top of it. This movie is just super annoying. Movies get a pass from me on certain elements from time to time. You know, if an old film is otherwise excellent, I’ll give it a “different times” pass on things like casual racism or misogyny. Or if a film isn’t particularly exciting, but it has a powerful message of tolerance, that helps. But this film is really the trifecta: it’s racist, misogynistic and incredibly stupid. ½ star.
tl;dr – silent film reveals Valentino’s painful shortcomings as an actor, is horribly written and features heaping amounts of misogyny and racism; a very nearly worthless film. ½ star.