Misérables, Les (1978)

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Released 9-Apr-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 137:39
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:21) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Glenn Jordan
Studio
Distributor

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Richard Jordan
Anthony Perkins
Cyril Cusack
Claude Dauphin
John Geilgud
Ian Holm
Celia Johnson
Case Click
RPI $19.95 Music Allyn Ferguson


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Victor Marie Hugo was born in France on February 26, 1802. He is best known outside of literary circles for two works, the first being The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the second Les Miserables. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was so widely read that the story has become part of the common mystic, and of course Les Miserables has become famous not only as a novel but as a musical as well.

    Victor was the son of a general in Napoleon's army and travelled with the army until the age of ten. This, to say the least, was a turbulent period of history, especially so for France. There were several revolutions and several completely different forms of government all within a relatively short period of time. He went into exile during the rule of Napoleon, returning only after the fall of the Second Empire in 1870.

    Les Miserables is set in France in the early 1800s and manages to touch on just about every facet of life within French society of the period. Written as a commentary on social justice, the story is an epic adventure that spans more than thirty years. It is a very large work and to attempt to bring this work to the silver screen, or the musical stage, is a challenge. Thankfully, in this version we have the extra time afforded by a TV production intended for airing over two nights, although I suppose that today 138 minutes is not as unthinkable in a single film as it was in 1978.

    The top billings in the film are given to three actors: Anthony Perkins, Claude Dauphin and John Gielgud. Not to detract from John Gielgud's performance, which is as usual brilliant, but he rates front cover mention as a draw card rather than as a main character as he only appears in the film for a very brief period of time as Marius's father. The same applies to Claude Dauphin who plays the pivotal but again small part of the bishop that saves Jean Valjean's soul. Anthony Perkins earns his place on the cover with a fantastic portrayal of Javert. At times, particularly at the start, there is not a great deal of dialogue. Both Anthony Perkins and Richard Jordan (who plays Jean Valjean) manage to bring to life incredibly complex characters with little more than a glance or an expression, using both facial and body language. It is incredibly compelling viewing watching these two actors ply their trade.

    Jean Valjean became caught up in the injustice of the French judicial system at a time when it was incredibly brutal. For the crime of stealing one loaf of bread he is sentenced to nine years in the Bastille. Due to a couple of failed escape attempts, this is extended to 20 years. Right at the start there is an incredible tension between our two main characters. Both with their own code of honour, Javert is in charge of the jail and is a rigid and unbending man and Jean Valjean is a man that believes in helping others. After many years, Jean Valjean manages to escape. The many years of prison have taken their toll on his conscience and honour, but he encounters a saintly bishop who shows him that there still is kindness in the world. Redeemed, he improves his lot in life to become both wealthy and well known, but unfortunately Javert is reassigned as the chief of police in the same town that Jean is now living. Through an unfortunate encounter, Javert recognises Jean and denounces him to the authorities in Paris. Jean has the opportunity to escape as the authorities have arrested the wrong man in his place, but his conscience does not allow him to allow another to take his place. On the run again, this time accompanied by the young daughter of a woman that he promised to help, he takes up residence in a convent as the gardener. Ten years later, the young girl has grown up and he decides to come out of hiding so that the young woman whom she has become can experience life outside the convent. Unfortunately, fate again intervenes, and not only is Javert on the trail again, but they become embroiled a small precursor to the revolutions that were to come.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Unfortunately, this transfer is badly let down by poor source material. The framing of the image may also cause a problem for some people. On the right is a small black bar which I think should be safely outside the viewing area of most TVs, but the left has a slightly larger black bar that also for the first section of the film contains a white stripe. This may well be visible on some viewing devices depending on the amount of overscan the device has. On my setup where I have very little to no overscan, this white stripe is a little distracting.

    The transfer is presented at what I believe to be its intended aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and of course it is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The first problem with this transfer is that the sharpness is not the best. In fact, the image is quite blurred. Shadow detail is not bad, particularly for a film of this age. The black level varies from good to not so good. Examine the variance in black levels in the scene at 13:25. There is some low level noise triggered by the grain and dirt on the source material.

    Even allowing for the age of this film, the colours are somewhat drab and washed out. Even if this was an intentional move by the director to show France of the period as drab and dirty, it appears to have gone a little too far. Skin tones are also lacking and a bit washed out.

    There are no MPEG artefacts present in the transfer but there is the occasional wobble to the picture. I am unsure if this is source related but an example resides at 99:57 - examine the drain pipe in the background in relation to the edge of the screen. Film artefacts abound throughout the film, ranging from grain and dirt, through to marks and flecks, some of which are not just specks but obvious holes in the source material. At 28:28 there is an example of one of these holes and also a very big scratch at 0:12 that looks for all the world like a great lightning strike with the unfortunate target of the rear of a horse.

    The subtitles include information for the hearing impaired and are available only in English. They are accurate and easy to read.

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change at 72:21. Considering that there are countless fades to black for commercials (this is a tele-movie), it is surprising that they did not hide the layer change in one of these but rather placed it in the middle of a scene. It was not really distracting, but there were better locations for it.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     There is only a single Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack on this disc. It is in English and is a mono soundtrack.

    There are no problems with the dialogue quality nor with the audio sync, although there is a minor amount of hiss present.

    The string section of the orchestra that played this soundtrack must have thought that it was their day. Strings predominate with only the occasional piece of brass intruding when the villain makes a particularly big entrance. I found it well matched to the emotions of the scenes but did get a little tired of the similar feel to the music that continued throughout.

    The surrounds were not engaged and the subwoofer had little opportunity to sound off.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    A simple static menu with picture of our two main antagonists accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There does not appear to be a version of this disc in any other country.

Summary

     I found this film riveting viewing - the quality of the acting is truly compelling. The story is great and you come to care about the main character and have no problems seeing the conflict in Javert. The only part I found a bit of a surprise was the ending, which came up quite suddenly. From other comments that I have read about this version of Les Miserables it would appear that it adheres to, and portrays well, the story as told in the original novel (which I haven't read). I must admit that I thought that I would miss the music that has become so associated with this story but the quality of the production wiped this from my mind in the first few minutes.

    The video is affected by the source material.

    The audio is an acceptable mono effort.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Thursday, February 13, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

Other Reviews
The DVD Bits - Damien M
DVD Net - Martin F (read my bio)
AllZone4DVD - TerryJ

Comments (Add)
There's an R2 UK version, but it's identical (nt) -