19 March 2005 | theowinthrop
The best of the fuller versions of Les Miserables.
In the middle 1950s two film versions of Hugo's best remembered novels appeared and disappeared very quickly in movie houses. This French version of "Les Miserables" was one. The other was a French/Italian version of "Notre-Dame De Paris/The Hunchback of Notre-Dame". That one starred Anthony Quinn as Quasimodo and Gina Lollabrigida as Esmarelda. Both films were actually quite good, and were the best straight versions of the novels to try to get most of the stories onto the screen. However, both were too long for most audiences, especially this version of Les Miserables. This ran over three hours. As pointed out in the other review that I wrote about the 1935 version of Les Miserables, that film version is the best normal screen length film version. But the performance of Jean Gabin as Jean Valjean in this film is superior to the performance of Fredric March in the same role. I would also note that the performance of Bourvil as Thenardier is the best I've seen (even better than Ian Holm's in the 1978 version). Thenardier is an even slimier villain than Javert is, but Javert's single minded pursuit of Valjean in the novel makes the antics of Thenardier look secondary, and they are usually dismissed in the filmed versions (though not in the musical version). Check out the scene where Thenardier and his goons kidnap Valjean for ransom, and the latter demonstrates how tough he is effectively thwarting the plan. It does not appear in the 1935 version.