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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Literature > Poverty > Crime > Les Miserables (Fox 1935/1952 Double Feature DVD)

Les Misérables (Fox 1935/1952 Double Feature)


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: C/C+     Films: B/B-



Victor 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.


Richard 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.


A little 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.


The 1.33 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.


Fox has 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


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