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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One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942)

The Internet Archive offers a tremendous scope of films. But of course there is more of some things, less of others. Many of my favourite film makers, such as Bergman and Kurosawa, are not represented at all. Others, like Keaton and Hitchcock, have many titles to their credit in the Archive.

Then there are some favourites that are only represented by a single film, or just a couple. Among these are the British producers, writers and directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. One of their few joint productions in the Archive is One of Our Aircraft Is Missing, a film about a downed bomber crew during World War II and their attempts to make it back home.

Crashing model of Vickers Wellington bomber in One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942)

Powell and Pressburger were together responsible for creating some of the all-time classics in the history of cinema, such as A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948).

They worked together mainly through the 1940s and 1950s, and formed a joint production company called The Archers. Each had his own strengths; Pressburger did most of the writing while Powell did most of the directing, yet they were jointly responsible for the entire creative effort throughout each production. These kinds of cooperative efforts are rare in movie making.

One of Our Aircraft is Missing was one of their earliest joint productions. It is a propaganda film commissioned by the British Ministry of Information, but unlike many other propaganda films, this one is actually good. The script is not as tight as in some of the duo’s later productions, and Powell had not yet perfected the visual language which was to become his watermark. Yet it is a powerful movie with strong and effective characterisations.

The propaganda is easy to overlook, or to become fascinated by. On the surface, it mostly consists of a couple of patriotic speaches, though there is plenty going on more subtly, if you care to look for it.

This film is best enjoyed with the awareness that you will be spoon-fed with the naturally heroic characteristics of the British and the Dutch.

Hugh Burden, Eric Portman, Hugh Williams, Bernard Miles, Godfrey Tearle, Pamela Brown in One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942)

One of Our Aircraft Is Missing
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Year: 1942
Running time: 1 h 38 min
Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Stars: Hugh Burden, Eric Portman, Pamela Brown
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Medium (720×576)
Sound quality: Good
Best file format: DivX (700 M)