Review: Les Miserables (1952)


Another take on the Victor Hugo classic!

Written By: Richard Murphy
Directed By: Lewis Milestone

Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is indeed a classic, and it has been adapted to the big screen many times. This version is by Lewis Milestone and it came on the heels of an Italian version in the same year and the excellent 1935 version, Les Misérables. Coming after such a lively and heartfelt version of the story made it hard for Mr. Milestone’s Les Miserables to ever gain ground with me. All the trappings are there; the corrupt law, man’s struggle to better himself, and to overcome his evil nature. The weird bond between pseudo father and daughter. All of the underpinnings of the story are present, but they are executed without heart and without care.

Les Miserables is almost a shot for shot remake of the 1935 version, but simply copying something shot for shot isn’t enough. Somewhere in the transfer of shots they lost the little things that made the 1935 version so great. You don’t feel for Jean Valjean nor is Javert as dastardly and without recompense in Mr. Milestone’s Les Miserables. A by the numbers movie may look good execution wise, but if it doesn’t have the heart or ability to make you care then it is simply an execution in technique.

If you want to see Les Misérables, then watch the truly classic 1935 version and steer clear of Lewis Milestone’s 1952 Les Miserables. You will have a much better experience with the 1935 version, but if you are like me and curiosity gets the better of you then watch this, as well as the other versions, and compare them to see how they match up with each other. But, outside of comparisons sake leave this version of Les Miserables alone.



Bill Thompson


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