August 2, 2021
The epic 1921 silent film The Sheik, starring Rudolph Valentino, will join the “Paramount Presents” Blu-ray line Oct. 19 for its 100th anniversary from Paramount Home Entertainment.
Originally released at the height of the nation’s appetite for motion pictures, the romantic drama The Sheik became a massive sensation, breaking box office records and earning more than $1 million during its first year of release.
Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, the film was directed by George Melford and stars the legendary Valentino as the title character. The role helped propel Valentino into stardom and sealed his status as a Hollywood heartthrob — and the original “Latin Lover” — at the age of 26. Valentino is Ahmed Ben Hassan, a charming Arabian sheik who becomes infatuated with the adventurous, modern-thinking Englishwoman Lady Diana Mayo (Agnes Ayres). When the sheik abducts Lady Diana, the two clash, but ultimately profess their love for one another.
Since original negatives for silent films rarely exist, Paramount searched the world for the best elements for the restoration and used a print and an intermediate element called a fine grain. One source of the film yielded better results for image quality, another for intertitles. One of the elements was “stretch-printed” and had to be adjusted digitally during the restoration process. In the silent era there was no standard frame rate, so stretch printing was done to show silent films at 24 frames per second. In addition, tints and tones were digitally applied, guided by an original continuity script from the Paramount archive.
While The Sheik was wildly successful, it did provoke controversy, much as the source material had upon its original publication in 1919. Many of the themes and controversial elements of the film are still being grappled with and are explored in a new featurette on the Blu-ray with film historian and professor Leslie Midkiff DeBauche, “Desert Heat: 100 Years with The Sheik.” The disc also includes a music score by Roger Bellon and access to a digital copy of the film.
As with all films released in the “Paramount Presents” line, The Sheik is presented with collectible packaging featuring a foldout image of the film’s theatrical poster and an interior spread with key movie moments.