By-the-numbers version of the oft-filmed tale (two superb silent French serial versions run five & seven hours, respectively) focuses almost exclusively on the Jean Valjean storyline, which not only jettisons much of Hugo’s best work in his historical digressions, but also exposes Michael Rennie as way over his head as an actor. He seems desperate to go all Ronald Colman on us which only points up the decidedly British flavor here (at least, until the American ingenues show up). Robert Newton sounds like a fine idea for Javert, but he has to work in a vacuum under Lewis Milestone ’s flavorless megging and is swamped, along with the rest of the cast, by Alex North ’s horribly misconceived score.
NOTE: Try to check out the Orson Welles Mercury Theatre radio production. It’s out on CD and it’s like finding the audiotrack to a 3-hr Welles pic you never knew existed.