Les Miserables (1978) starring Richard Jordan, Anthony Perkins, Cyril Cusack, Claude Dauphin, John Gielgud, Ian Holm, Christopher Guard directed by Glenn Jordan Movie Review

Les Miserables (1978)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Richard Jordan as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables (1978)

Jean and Javert

This 1978 made for TV movie is the second adaptation of "Les Misérables" which I have watched and I am quickly coming to the mind that the reason why there have been many well received adaptations of "Les Misérables" is that Victor Hugo's story is simply brilliant. I have never read that story but I am becoming increasingly lead to do so because both this adaptation and the 1998 version which I had previously watched have both grabbed me which considering that is two movies using the same story means there has to be something special about it. There is also the fact that this 1978 adaptation despite being made for TV boasts an impressive cast with both Richard Jordan and Anthony Perkins delivering captivating performances in the roles of Jean Valjean and Javert.

Now again I don't believe it is possible to deliver a quick synopsis of "Les Miserables" because to keep it intriguing forces you to under sell whilst going in to any detail will spoil it for those who are yet to experience this fantastic story. What I will say is that in comparing this 1978 adaptation to the 1998 version we get a series of extra scenes which establishes how Jean ended up in Toulon jail and how he came to hate Javert after suffering at his cruel hands before escaping from jail. It is a terrific opening which not only sees Jean in desperation try to steal bread for his sister's starving family but gives us some great back story to Jean and Javert and a mix of animosity and fear which bounds between them.

Anthony Perkins as Javert in Les Miserables (1978)

Now what is surprising about this 1978 adaptation of "Les Miserables" is that I had visions of it being quite a stuffy, theatrical version which came from the calibre of the cast who alongside Jordan and Perkins also sees John Gielgud and Ian Holm among many well known names and faces. But whilst this version does have a more theatrical even classical period styling it is none the less engrossing as director Glenn Jordan and screenwriter John Gay have done a great job of still delivering the excitement. Much of that comes from the subtly surprising atmosphere when having become a respected member of society Jean comes face to face with Javert and from then on there is always a sense of anything could happen when they either meet or pass nearby to each other.

A big reason for this is terrific performances firstly from Richard Jordan who unlike Liam Neeson's later version makes him more of a thinking man, not super intelligent but someone aware of what is going on and prepared to react. He also gets across Jean's compassion for the needy as well as his dislike of Javert especially during the jail scenes. And then there is Anthony Perkins who makes Javert a slippery customer someone who whilst keeping his thoughts to himself oozes this sense of evil. But rather than letting the evil side run away from him Perkins keeps it in check so that Javert never becomes over the top just someone you know is capable of untold evil.

What this all boils down to is that this 1978 made for TV adaptation of "Les Miserables" is again a brilliant version. Now nothing should be taken away from the actors and directors but in truth I am increasingly convinced that this movie like other adaptations work and work well because of Victor Hugo's magnificent story more than anything else.