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The Son of the Sheik, Rudolph Valentino's last film, may well be his best. A sequel to (and vast improvement upon) Valentino's 1922 blockbuster The Sheik, the 1926 film casts the legendary Latin Lover in the dual role of the now-older Sheik and his son Ahmed.
The latter falls in love with bejeweled dancing girl Yasmin (Vilma Banky), the daughter of a scurrilous thief, who in turn is in cahoots with Ghabah (Montagu Love), whose crimes outnumber the desert sands. Captured, held for ransom and tortured by Ghabah, Ahmed escapes, seething with revenge.
Believing that Yasmin has betrayed him, he kidnaps the girl, spirits her away to his desert tent, and rapes her (not shown, of course, but brilliantly suggested by a series of wide-eyed, soft-focus close ups).
Bitterly chastised by his father, Ahmed begins feeling pangs of remorse for his treatment of Yasmin, even more so when he learns that she is innocent of all wrongdoing. He follows Yasmin to her father's den of thieves, where he vanquishes all the bad guys, saving the unspeakable Ghabah for last.
Son of the Sheik was partially filmed on location in the deserts of Yuma, Arizona, under intolerable conditions that caused virtually the entire cast and crew to fall seriously ill.
The finished film manages to convey a tongue-in-cheek, larger-than-life approach to its melodramatic material without ever actually making fun of that material or condescending to Valentino's legions of fans.
Rudolph Valentino had made Son of the Sheik in hopes of boosting his slightly flagging career; while it succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams, Valentino, alas, had died just before the film was released.