Les Miserables (1935 & 1952 Two-Disc Set)

Comments: There are several versions, both American and French with modern renditions often forgetting the true spirit of Hugo's original novel. A story universally known now - Jean Valjean, a Frenchman of good character, has nevertheless been convicted for the minor crime of stealing bread. This infinitesimal infraction leads to his pursuit by the relentless policeman Javert, an encompassing journey that consumes both men's lives for many years.

The 1935 edition is often regarded as the best Hollywood version on film and Gregg Toland's cinematography and Laughton's evil characterization are a huge part of that. The 52' movie is able to encompass the pure storytelling concept of the plot - Michael Rennie deftly playing Jean. Both films are a valued pleasure to view holding the essence of the narrative very close at hand.

The DVD package: Erroneously labeled as 2-disc this is actually one DVD10 - two single-layered transfers sharing the opposite sides on one DVD. Aside from a 20 minute featurette there are no bona-fide extras and this all could have fit quite snugly on one side of a dual-layered DVD. In the final tally the price is well worth it for owning these two films on digital. More specific comments are below.

 

 

Directed by Richard Boleslawski
USA 1935

 

  Fredric March may take the central role of Valjean, but it is Laughton's stunning performance as the sadistic Javert that really sticks in the mind. As the ruthless nemesis who hounds Valjean, from his youthful days as a galley-slave convicted for stealing bread through to respectable, wealthy middle-age, Laughton convinces with a panoply of controlled sneers, leers and ingratiating gulps, while providing the character - devoted to the law rather than to justice - with touching, credible undertones of shame and frustration. Despite occasional incursions of Hollywoodian sentimentality, the film is still perhaps the best screen version of Victor Hugo's harrowing epic of social conscience, strong on period atmosphere and endowed with fine performances.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

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Theatrical Release: April 3rd, 1935

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DVD Review: 20th Century Fox - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:49:16 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.4 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio English (Mono), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
Subtitles English, Spanish, French, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: 20th Century Fox

Aspect Ratio:
Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

Disc 1:
• Les Miserables - The 1935 Version (Black & White)
• Restoration Comparison
• Still Gallery
Opposite side:
• Les Miserables - The 1952 Version (Black & White)
• The Fugitive and the Pursuer: Vidoq Featurette
• Restoration Comparison
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Still Gallery

Also 4 lobby card reprints

DVD Release Date: April 24th, 2007

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Chapters: 12

 

 

Comments:

The single-layered transfer is fairly weak - which is a real shame as the film is marvelous. On the positive it is progressive but damage is quite prevalent - especially in the beginning 25 minutes. There are a lot of marks and scratches and contrast is not particularly engaging. Compression artifacts are also present. Saying this though the DVD did represent the film well enough to me to enjoy it thoroughly. Audio was weak in moments but nothing fatal and there are optional subtitles.

There is a restoration (split screen) sampling and a stills gallery. The film does look better than it has in a while going my the restoration supplement.  I actually wish the film was much longer as it kind of squeezed in the great story. Laughton is fabulous and I've always liked Frederic March. I'd LOVE to see this in a superior transfer but it will, most likely, never happen. So fans of classic cinema and this Hugo novel - this is it for quite possibly the best Hollywood film version.

Gary W. Tooze



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This caveat starts both features:

 

 

Screen Captures

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 

 

Directed by Lewis Milestone
USA 1952

 

 Rennie's Valjean is a stormy Biblical prophet (in the chiselled cinematic manner), while Robert Newton's Javert is a puffed-up turkeycock always, it seems, about to burst his buttons. Neither the escaped convict nor the 'imprisoned' policeman holds back. In the end, however, the honours go to Newton. He knows when to lay aside the bluster and movingly touch in the details which make his character pitiable. This lavish and very carefully mounted version of Hugo's novel was scripted by Richard Murphy for Fox; it's well acted by a roster of star secondary players, all of whom rise to the dignity of the proceedings, and was shot in rich, chiaroscuro b/w by Joseph LaShelle.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

Poster

Theatrical Release: August 14th, 1952

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DVD Review: 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:45:28 
Video 1.338:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.42 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio English (Mono), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), DUBs: Spanish (Dolby Digital Mono)  
Subtitles  English, Spanish, French, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: 20th Century Fox

Aspect Ratio:
Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

Disc 1:
• Les Miserables - The 1935 Version (Black & White)
• Restoration Comparison
• Still Gallery
Opposite side:
• Les Miserables - The 1952 Version (Black & White)
• The Fugitive and the Pursuer: Vidoq Featurette
• Restoration Comparison
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Still Gallery

Also 4 lobby card reprints

DVD Release Date: April 24th, 2007

Keep Case
Chapters: 12

 

 

Comments:

Although I wasn't as keen on this film version as the first on the DVD - it had some good moments and Rennie is always great to watch. The print used is better than the 35' version but still has compression visible and contrast has decent grays but blacks are kind of dullish. Audio is fairly consistent and I only listened to the mono track (Stereo English and a Spanish DUB are options). This also has English, Spanish or French subtitles if you desire.

There is a supplement about Les Miserables on this DVD called The Fugitive and the Pursuer. It is okay with clips from both films and some talking heads. It has a restoration comparison, a trailer and a Stills Gallery. As I stated up top I think this price is well worth it but it is a shame that Fox really didn't go to town it it - I would have paid much more - certainly to have a superior 35' version. 

Gary W. Tooze





DVD Menus


 


Screen Captures

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 

 


 

 


 

DVD Box Cover

   

CLICK to order from:

Distribution 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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Gary Tooze

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