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    Les Miserables (1978)

    Magna/Magna . R4 . COLOR . 138 mins . PG . PAL

      Feature
    Contract

    One of the greatest and most well-known stories to date would have to be Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Everyone has heard this title somewhere along the line, whether it be in regard to other films or the hugely successful musical, and this portrayal of Hugo’s detailed novel gives die-hard fans something to enjoy. But for the rest of the populous it’s something to doze over. Director Glenn Jordan’s film just missed the mark for this reviewer and resulted in very difficult viewing that just seemed to depressively plod along in no real rush at all.

    Made as a two-part miniseries for TV in 1978, you can imagine what the production values are like, let alone the pacing, and for the first half the acting seems off key with characters lacking dialogue. Not actually having read Hugo’s enormous novel, it’s hard to make a fair text-to-screen comparison, but it just feels that something is missing from this adaptation. If you want an honest opinion, the musical provides so much more emotion and drama than this television version has, however much abridged from Hugo’s novel.

    The story is simple enough for anyone to follow, and many of you will at least know the gist of it. In order to feed his starving family, Jean Valjean steals a loaf of bread and gets caught, sentenced to 20 years imprisonment after several foiled escape attempts. However, now out of jail, Valjean wants to rise above his past and, with the help of a bishop, is able to see beyond the cruelty of people like Javert, the chief of the jail. A chance encounter causes Javert and Valjean to meet face to face, and Javert now wants Valjean back under his “control”, as he feels that all criminals are criminals for life. This epic piece is painted over a backdrop of 1800s France, full of themes of poverty, crime, romance and redemption, but somehow just failed to grab this reviewer's attention.

      Video
    Contract

    The video is presented in what is assumed to be the original television ratio of 1.33:1, and is therefore obviously not anamorphically enhanced. This transfer is quite disappointing, with a flurry of artefacts and scratches attacking the screen before the first image is even up on the screen. The colour palette used is very dry and drab, with depressing tones and only reasonable shadow detail. The clarity of the image is quite low, with an often blurred appearance that gets quite difficult to try to watch. Compression-related artefacts aren’t an issue at all, and aliasing is not noticeable. It’s just a real shame that the image looks so poor with its large variety of imperfections.

      Audio
    Contract

    The single Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono) soundtrack is sufficient given the age of the film. Dialogue is clear for most of the film, however some lines are a little soft and muffled. Audio synch with the dialogue is fine, however the foley needs a bit of work with some rather odd footstep effects. See, that puts it in perspective as to what this reviewer was really paying attention to. The score is truly bland and repetitive, and to be honest I was just kept waiting for Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg’s powerful score from the musical to chime in. Sadly it didn’t. Oh well.

      Extras
    Contract

    Erm, wrong answer. Nothing’s here – maybe Jean Valjean took these too?

      Overall  
    Contract

    As a fan of the story, and the musical, this piece just falls over with a painfully drawn-out presentation on a cruddy transfer that, sadly, has very little going for it. Really there is little left to say – in this reviewer’s opinion, for a more powerful interpretation of Hugo’s colossus novel, try the internationally successful hit musical. Enough said.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1436
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      And I quote...
    "Give me One Day More! and I Dreamed A Dream any day."
    - Martin Friedel
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Philips DVD 736K
    • TV:
          TEAC EU68-ST
    • Receiver:
          Sony HT-SL5
    • Speakers:
          Sony SS-MSP2
    • Centre Speaker:
          Sony SS-CNP2
    • Surrounds:
          Sony SS-MSP2
    • Subwoofer:
          Sony SA-WMSP3
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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