The joy of the Criterion Collection’s Eclipse Series is in its presentation of hard-to-locate quality films at level-headed prices. There are 16 sets in the Eclipse Series thus far, with movies from Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, and Yasujiro Ozu among those featured. The latest presentation from Criterion’s Eclipse Series features films from producer/director/writer Alexander Korda.
Korda made a name for himself through his production company, London Films, and infused the 1930s with a sense of satire and lush narration. His main focus was on history, with a magnificent taste for grand historical drama and mythical subjects.
Eclipse Series 16: Alexander Korda’s Private Lives takes a look behind-the-scenes (and sometimes into the bedrooms) of some of history’s most important, mesmerizing people. Korda’s usual satirical license is well intact, too, so these films present a view of history you are not likely to find anywhere else. His examination of history is less about factual presentation and more about telling a vibrant, grand story.
Korda, born in Hungary, rose through the ranks to become one of British cinema’s most popular filmmakers. In 1942, he was the first film director to ever be knighted. Korda had tremendous success as a producer, too, rolling out such films as 1939’s The Four Feathers and 1949’s Carol Reed-directed picture The Third Man.
The Eclipse Series 16: Alexander Korda’s Private Lives set features four films: The Private Life of Henry VIII, The Rise of Catherine the Great, The Private Life of Don Juan, and Rembrandt. As with other box sets in the Eclipse Series, there are no special features and the movies are not remastered. This is to help keep things affordable while still exposing audiences to some lesser-known works.
Of course, Korda’s The Private Life of Henry VIII is probably fairly familiar. This motion picture, the first British film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, stars Charles Laughton in the iconic role. Laughton won an Oscar for his performance and really does the king proud in a larger-than-life production that often borders on the outrageous.