Rembrandt (1936)

Alexander Korda was a very solid British director, perhaps best known for participating in the 1940 remake of Douglas Fairbanks’ The Thief of Bagdad (1924), which is considered to outshine even the spectacular silent original, and which was a major source of inspiration for Disney’s Aladdin (1992).

In the 1930s, Korda made three films that are so thematically similar that they must be considered as a trilogy. The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) and The Private Life of Don Juan (1934) have already been reviewed on this blog, and the turn has now come to the third film, Rembrandt.

Charles Laughton in Rembrandt (1936)

All three films are biographies of various European personalities in the 16th and 17th Centuries, two historical and one fictional. All three can be traced in various ways to the reformation and counter-reformation, although admittedly this is a theme that does not shine through in the films. All three films also deal with lost loves and with the agonies of growing old.

Rembrandt begins with the death of famous painter Rembrandt van Rijn’s wife Saskia. The film then follows Rembrandt’s remaining life with its numerous sorrows, but most of all it is a powerful portrait of a strong and gifted artist, who at all costs stayed true to his own vision and character. When his friends implore him to paint nobles (who can pay good money) in the traditional style, Rembrandt prefers to develop his own personal technique on motifs of his own choosing. For example, he picks a beggar off the street and dresses him as a biblical king.

This film is best enjoyed for Charles Laughton’s exquisite performance as the famous painter. The film is well made overall, but the story lacks that extra edge that would have secured its place as a great classic, partly because it is a bit shattered and out of focus. As it stands, Laughton makes it well worth the effort of watching, but you may want to go for The Private Life of Henry VIII first, also with Laughton in the lead. Comparing these two films with one another will give a good picture of Laughton’s great versatility as an actor.

Charles Laughton in Rembrandt (1936)

Rembrandt
Download link
Year: 1936
Running time: 1 h 24 min
Director: Alexander Korda
Stars: Charles Laughton
Image quality: Excellent
Resolution: Medium (666×509, not counting black border)
Sound quality: Good
Best file format: MPEG4 (814 M)

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The Mind’s Eye (1990)

I have previously written about all the other instalments in the classic four-part series about computer animation from the 1990s, The Mind’s Eye. The time has now come to the first part, the one which gave the series its name, The Mind’s Eye.

CGI computer animation from the segment Mobay Chemical in The Mind's Eye (1990)

Much happened in the world of computer animation during the seven or eight years during which the Mind’s Eye series was designed and directed, Thus, The Mind’s Eye often seems pretty primitive, even when compared with the later films in the series. For that reason, I would not recommend beginning with the first film if you are looking for an introduction to the series. Perhaps the most artisitically interesting instalment is the second, Beyond the Mind’s Eye (1992), though the following parts The Gate to the Mind’s Eye (1994) and Odyssey into the Mind’s Eye (1996) are also interesting, each in its own way.

The series was intended to continue after the fourth part, but no further films surfaced under that banner. There were, however, a number of spin-offs. At least one, Virtual Nature (1993), is available for download.

Like Virtual Nature, the version of The Mind’s Eye available at the Internet Archive is unfortunately a VHS rip. Thus, neither image nor sound are as good as they could have been, although still good enough to be enjoyable.

This film is best enjoyed for its historical significance. While the weakest part in the series in terms of editing and animation (also to some extent with regard to soundtrack), it gives a tremendous insight into just how much CGI animation developed during just a few short years. It is also worth remembering, that just a few years previous, it would have been impossible to make a film like this at all. (If you are interested in even older animation, a State of the Art of Computer Animation from 1988 can be downloaded.) Put into perspective, The Mind’s Eye is still an impressive piece of artistic and technological achievement.

CGI computer animation from the segment Prime Corporate Video in The Mind's Eye (1990)

Beyond the Mind’s Eye
Download link
Year: 1990
Running time: 38 min
Director: Jack Nickman
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Medium (704×468)
Sound quality: Acceptable
Best file format: Cinepack (456 M)

The Gate to the Mind’s Eye (1994)

I have previously written about two of the films in The Mind’s Eye series of CGI animation episode films, namely Beyond the Mind’s Eye (1992) and Odyssey into the Mind’s Eye (1996). Now the time has come for the film that was chronologically released between those two, namely The Gate to the Mind’s Eye. If you know nothing about this series, it may be better to follow the link to one of the other films before diving into this one.

The Great Wall of China from The Gate to the Mind's Eye (1994)

Music is always central in any Mind’s Eye film, and this one is no exception. The music was produced and performed by Thomas Dolby, and features a mix of vocal and instrumental tracks. I like it a lot, but I prefer the instrumental tracks, since I find that the vocals detract some of my attention from the images.

As with all the other films in the series, this one has good parts and rather less good parts. The sci-fi animations in the first half for the most part lack originality, even though they look nice at times, but several animations in the middle part, such as “Legacy” and “El idioma español”, are both beautiful and fascinating. Towards the end, we even see some pretty nifty social commentary in sections such as “Zapping”.

This film is best enjoyed by fans of the series, or if you like Thomas Dolby. If you have not seen anything from The Mind’s Eye before, I would suggest that you start with Beyond the Mind’s Eye.

The Gate to the Mind's Eye (1994)

The Gate to the Mind’s Eye
Download link
Year: 1994
Running time: 55 min
Director: Michael Boydstun
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Medium (640×480)
Sound quality: Excellent
Best file format: CD/DVD image (2.3 G) or h.264 (330 M)

Odyssey into the Mind’s Eye (1996)

Today, advanced computer graphics is something that you come to expect in most new movies, at least in the action genre. Many times, these graphics are so advanced that the human eye cannot tell them apart from what has been filmed in “reality” (whatever that means in the world of motion pictures).

In the 1990s, this new technology was only starting to become a tool for film-makers, and films like the Mind’s Eye series, which was basically only a platform for showcasing the latest and best animations, were really cool and spectacular. Today, they seem a bit quaint, but they do have innate artistic values in addition to the nostalgia factor.

I have previously written about the series in my review of Beyond the Mind’s Eye. Now, the turn has come to the fourth and final part, Odyssey into the Mind’s Eye.

"Flying Start" by Doug Foster from Odyssey into the Mind's Eye (1996)

The differences between the four parts in the series are fairly subtle. They all reflect the visual and musical preferences of the early to mid 1990s. My feeling is that Odyssey is more thematically coherent than the other parts, but it has less originality, less metaphors, and less artistic integrity.

There are lots of things we have seen before, such as underwater scenery, futuristic cities, alien plant life and psychedelic patterns. The only part that feels really timeless, perhaps even groundbreaking, is the far too short segment titled “Martell – The Art of Cognac”. But I would still recommend Odyssey, especially if you enjoyed some of the earlier parts. At its best, it is soothing, dreamlike and almost meditative. True, the music is not as coherent as in the other parts, but it is still very good if you happen to like the 1990s.

The Odyssey into the Mind’s Eye copy to be found at the Internet Archive is a VHS rip, and therefore quality is less than perfect. It is a good VHS rip, however, and it is definitely enjoyable, unless you strive for optimal quality.

This film is best enjoyed after you have already seen some of the other parts in the series and want more of same.

"Aspen Moon" by Kurt McKeever in Odyssey into the Mind's Eye (1996)

Odyssey into the Mind’s Eye
Download link
Year: 1996
Running time: 1 h 6 min
Director: Steven Churchill, Edward Feuer
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Medium (640×480)
Sound quality: Good
Best file format: Cinepack (635 M)

Beyond the Mind’s Eye (1992)

The early 1990s. The World Wide Web had come into being and would soon take the world by storm. Whitney Houston topped the charts with “I Will Always Love You”. Terminator 2 was the coolest thing ever seen on the silver screen. Windows 3.0 made the PC into a user-friendly alternative. Spawn became the most popular comic book overnight. And Doom changed the computer game market forever.

Such was the world into which The Mind’s Eye series of four films was released. The second of these, Beyond the Mind’s Eye, appears to have been the most popular and influential.

Looking into the Future segment from Beyond the Mind's Eye (1992)

The concept of The Mind’s Eye was to stitch together a series of computer animations, the most advanced that the day could offer, and smack on an electronic score (by Jan Hammer). No trace of a common plot. Not even any recurring themes, beyond what the spirit of the times suggested.

Sounds boring? Not for a minute! Sure, a few segments give you the feeling of “look what we can do with our cool new toys,” but even then the part of me that is still twenty-two years old will come out and say: “You know, that actually was pretty awesome in 1992.”

So I wish I had seen this back when it was first released. But even today, there is much in it beyond retro nostalgia. It is not altogether far-fetched to describe it as a sort of Fantasia of its time.

This film is best enjoyed in its entirety. Even though the separate parts are not interconnected, the 1990s feel and the music still make it feel as a whole.

Dreams segment from Beyond the Mind's Eye (1992)

Beyond the Mind’s Eye
Download link
Year: 1992
Running time: 50 min
Director: Michael Boydstun
Image quality: Excellent
Resolution: Medium (640×480)
Sound quality: Excellent
Best file format: CD/DVD image (1.5 G) or h.264 (296 M)