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The Sheik – Paramount Presents (Blu-ray Review)

Paramount Presents continues to be one of my favorite and more exciting little Blu-ray lines around today. And on November 2nd, they’ll be making a very exciting jump in their catalog with the 100th anniversary edition of the film The Sheik. Its an interesting piece for them to have as not only is it the oldest film to hit the Paramount Presents label, but the first silent film to be put in this lexicon. It’ll feature a meticulous new restoration accompanied by a score composed by Roger Mellon and a film historian providing a verbal essay of sorts on the history of the film. You can pre-order this gem to have on release day by using the paid Amazon Associates link that follows the review of the film below.

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Film

Rudolph Valentino is Ahmed Ben Hassan, a charming Arabian sheik who becomes infatuated with the adventurous, modern-thinking Englishwoman Lady Diana Mayo, played by Agnes Ayres. When the sheik abducts Lady Diana, the two clash, but ultimately profess their love for one another in this quintessential “desert romance” that effectively capitalized on the popularity of the genre.

The Sheik is a classic tale of love found through learning another culture. At first that reluctance to open up turns into much passion, the tale is a countless one we’ve seen many times. This particular one places in the Arab dessert. Whence the love comes to be it has a revelation that is pretty age old, reminding you of even more modern stuff like Shrek. The Sheik through its novel and film may or may not have done this first, but it did it in such a popular way it was influential.

This 100 year old piece of cinema also includes some solid action beats to go along with suspense. Knowing how silents were produced, its always impressive to see the grand sets, costumes and big productions they were able to put on. And its an extra joy to watch the performers buy in and lose themselves in an imaginary world and bring it to life. They themselves are an extension as they have to be more expressive in their physical movements and facial reactions.

Much of The Sheik proves a timeless tale and an interesting little piece of historic romantic adventure cinema. With years and years later, the desert would be more ground and the performances ground themselves, but this silent film still manages to capture a charm and effectiveness to hold its own with such esteemed films.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Paramount has provided the following in regards to the film’s restoration and transfer:

  • The Sheik restoration employed modern technology so viewers can experience the original beauty of this monumental silent film. Since original negatives for silent films rarely exist, Paramount searched the world for the best elements 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. The result is the best picture quality The Sheik has had since it was originally shown in theaters 100 years ago.

The image does employ a bit of a scratchy, grainy image, but keeping that intact preserves the details and depth within the frame. Overall, its impressive to look at this 100 year old film looking so clear and crisp.

Depth:  The depth here is rather intriguing. Many a still medium shot showcases a lot of space and good separation of character and object keeping it from being flat. Movements are very moment filmic in the 24fps vein and smooth. No issues occur with motion distortions.

Black Levels: Blacks are quite deep and do showcase more of the grain around their darker corners. Great shading and tints help to contrast and bring out the white/more sepia tone to the rest of the movie. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: While this isn’t exactly black and white, it is very much a constant sepia tone which has a charming vintage look with good consistency. There are some moments where it goes lavender instead, yielding similar consistency and saturation results.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones very much keep with the sepia/lavender look of the film with consistency from start to finish. Its pretty stunning the facial texture and details you can make out from pretty much any reasonable distance a character is in frame.

Noise/Artifacts: None

Audio

Audio Format(s): 2.0 Dolby TrueHD (Music Only)

Subtitles: French

Dynamics: This is a silent film with no real audio track attached to the film. The score for this is composed by Roger Bellon. Its a rock solid, crisp, airy presentation, with some nice low tone and an all around full feeling for The Sheik.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: N/A

Extras

The Sheik in first pressing, comes with a slip cover that folds open to reveal the original poster art for the film. It also comes with a redeemable digital copy.

Desert Heat: 100 Years With The Sheik (HD, 12:21) – Available with English or French subtitles. Film historian, Professor Leslie Midkiff DeBauche speaks on the film’s history, film culture, pop culture and how it fit into the American way of life when it came out. She also goes over the book and adaptation and many other aspects of its legacy. This showcases many stills and archival document type things while she speaks.

Summary

The Sheik is a solid little silent and a very welcome addition to the Paramount Presents label as the first of its kind and the oldest one now in the canon. The disc features an impressive display of a great restoration and a very solid accompanying essay. Its about all you could hope or ask for in a film this old on physical media. This just feels like a must have for film lovers and collectors even if its not a film you’re very high on. Just a historic little one to own.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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