Called "the most memorable film version", it was filmed in East Germany and was overtly political. Of the many film adaptations of the novel, this has been called "the one most popular with audiences in postwar France". One noteworthy plot change was made to accommodate the fact that the actors playing the roles of Valjean and Javert were far apart in age, rather than near contemporaries as in the novel. Instead of Javert recognizing Valjean as a convict he had often guarded years earlier, he remembers how, when he was just a boy, his prison guard father had pointed out this man as "the worst kind of prisoner, who tried to escape four times".
The New York Times described it as one of the first French "blockbusters" that appeared in response to such lengthy feature films as Around the World in 80 Days and The Ten Commandments. It said it was "a ponderous four-hour retelling of Victor Hugo's oft-filmed epic.... Not a page is skipped... Too literary, it has the saving grace of Jean Gabin's truly heroic depiction of Jean Valjean plus some stirring scenes on the barricades." It was a "quintessential Gabin role ... that of a loner, an outsider, usually a member of the lower orders who may flirt with love and happiness but knows they are not for him".
The film did not premiere in New York until July 1989, when it ran to coincide with the celebration of the bicentennial of the French Revolution.
Source : Wikipedia