The lives of numerous people over the course of 20 years in 19th century France, weaved together by the story of an ex-convict named Jean Valjean on the run from an obsessive police inspector, who pursues him for only a minor offense.
The scene is set during the French Restoration at the beginning of the 19th century. Jean Valjean, a galley slave who was sent to prison for stealing food, is now released after serving ... See full summary »
A singing rodeo rider hires on at an expensive all-women dude ranch and beauty spa. He falls for a pretty fitness trainer who is constantly threatened by a gang who wants her late grandfather's cache of gold hidden in a ghost town.
After stealing a loaf a bread to feed a starving family, Jean Valjean is sentenced to ten years at hard labor as a galley slave. There he is taught to read and write by another prisoner and meets Javert, an obsessive policeman who was himself born to convict parents aboard a prison ship. After his release, Valjean is treated as a pariah but finally finds shelter in the home of a kindly bishop. Valjean repays the clergyman's generosity by stealing his silver plate. He is apprehended by the authorities and returned to the bishop but is amazed when the kindly old priest tells them that the valuable plates were a gift. This becomes a transforming experience for the ex-convict, who establishes himself under an assumed name in a small country village as factory manager and ultimately mayor. Unfortunately the newly-promoted Javert is assigned there as chief inspector. Although he doesn't recognize his old nemesis at first, the two clash over Javert's overzealous prosecution of the letter of ...Written by
Michael Rennie is impressive as the haunted Jean Valjean...
This may not be the best version of LES MISERABLES, but it certainly can be recommended on the basis of a strong performance from Michael Rennie who easily gives the most interesting and sympathetic performance in the film. A considerably restrained Robert Newton is the hated Javert hunting him down. Newton, usually a superb villain, fails to make the sort of villainous impact Charles Laughton made in an earlier version of the story.
Unconvincing and simply there as window dressing is Debra Paget as Cosette. Likewise, Cameron Mitchell is stiff and lifeless as the young man who falls in love with her, which surprised me because he is a talented actor who made much better impressions in other films. He seems badly miscast here.
Much of the story has been altered in this version, but whenever the concentration is on the story of the haunted central character the film is lifted to another dimension. Rennie as the convict in the early sequences is especially good at conveying all the pain and humiliation his character feels.
Too bad that subplots take away from some of the story's strength, especially the one involving Sylvia Sydney's character which is probably among the weakest roles of her career. Her reunion scene with daughter Cosette is almost laughable.
A deeper, more penetrating exploration of Valjean and Javert would have given the film a stronger feel. Production-wise, Fox has given the film all the technical values it needed with some fine B&W photography and settings, but it all comes across as a superficial version of the original story.
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