Les Misérables (Fox 1935/1952 Double Feature)
C Sound: C Extras: C/C+ Films: B/B-
Hugo’s adventure of Valjean has been immortalized in Les Misérables, one of his most successful books and most often
adapted works. Besides the recent huge
success of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical version, many dramatic versions were
also made and continue to be produced.
20th Century Fox made two of the most interesting in 1935 and
1952, both of which have been issued on one DVD. Both are sound productions.
Boleslawski’s 1935 version is the slightly better of the two with the great Fredric
March really good as Jean Valjean. For
those who have not seen enough of his work, this is one of the best
performances of his I have ever seen and he has turned in some good ones. Charles Laughton is Inspector Javert, so mad
Valjean has escaped that he will devote his life to capturing him at any
cost. I think W. P. Lipscomb’s
screenplay adaptation is the more honest of the two and its explicit book-like
approach works in its favor. Cedric
Hardwicke and John Carradine also star.
more realistic in some ways and confined in others, the always capable Lewis
Milestone delivers a comparatively pumped-up version with Fox backing the
production with a cast that included Michael Rennie as Valjean, Robert Newton
as Javert, Debra Paget, Edmund Gwenn, Sylvia Sydney, Cameron Mitchell, Else
Lanchester, Ian Wolfe and a pre-Dr. No
Joseph Wiseman. They are good, but
Rennie is an odd choice in the lead role and as much as he tries, he just
cannot compare to March. On his own
without the comparison, he seems a bit out of place. However, it is still decent and worth a look.
X 1 image on both editions is restored as much as possible, but both are softer
than expected, which is why Fox has disclaimers that the best elements were
used. However, I bet these will benefit
from Blu-ray release in these restorations just the same. Both shot in black and white, the 1935
version was shot by the great Gregg Toland, while the 1952 version is by
capable Fox favorite Joseph LaShelle. I
lean towards the ’32 version, but both are shot richly just the same.
made the soundtracks available in stereo and original mono version in Dolby
Digital 2.0 mixes, but the differences are negligible. Alfred Newman did the music for the first,
while the underrated Alex north scored the latter version. Extras include stills and restoration
comparisons for both films, while the 1952 version adds the original theatrical
trailer and a featurette about the character Vidocq, wh0o became one of the
early groundbreaking detectives in literature.
- Nicholas Sheffo