December 27th, 2008


Sweeney Todd

Sweeney Todd
- The Demon Barber of Fleet Street -
{XLI A.S. Directed by Tim Burton. Starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jamie Campbell Bower. Music score by Stephen Sondheim. Genre: Horror Musical}
"There's a hole in the world like a great black pit, and it's filled with people who are filled with shit, and the vermin of the world inhabit it, but not for loooong!"

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet StreetPLOT

A rotten judge desires barber Todd's wife, framing him on trumped up charges, and sends him to the criminal isle of Australia for exile. Making his way back to England, he swears revenge from being separated from his beloved and his daughter, Johanna. Once settled incognito for his deadly mission, he begins "polishing off" patrons with 'close shaves', as it were, while dumping the corpses down an ingeniously efficient "death chute".

His first kill actually occurs with a traveling charlatan by the name of Pirelli, who tries to blackmail Todd, and thus, with first blood, the bloodshed begins. The accompanying barker kid "Toby" becomes a veritable foster son.

He eventually meets a "Mrs. Nellie Lovett"*, a would-be lover who runs a meat pie shop - it is not long until they become partners in crime, when she suggests that instead of just disposing of the bodies in the furnace, to save the meat for her delicious cannibalistic confections, which becomes quite a sensation, providing them an pleasantly opulent lifestyle.

Todd does gain purifying revenge against the judge, but profoundly unforgivable secrets are also uncovered, a 'lie of omission' divulged, where Nellie is justifiably punished. Unfortunately, while Sweeney adores his rediscovered dispatched mad beloved {oh, the tragedy! By his own hand...!}, little Toby discovers a piece of finger in his repaste; thus mortified, catches Sweeney unaware. So in death, are finally in each other's arms again. Ending in classic operatic manner.


With shades of The Crow at times {injustices righted through vigilante vengeance}, and Edward Scissorhands, even Corpse Bride in others {many of the aesthetics}, Sweeney Todd is dark in all aspects, with Tim Burton's 'Gothic' sensibilities beautifully accentuating the tale, from the costumes to the environments, and even the signature makeup, where the characters essentially appear as "gothic dolls" . The music by Sondheim is splendidly exhillerating, although the vocals do sound like actors, instead of actual trained singers {which this reviewer would love to hear}, although Timothy Spall's voice holds a surprising depth.

Rating: 4/5.


The urban legend of Sweeney Todd can be traced back to "Martin Chuzzlewit" by Charles Dickens, and a subsequent tale named 'The String of Pearls' by George Dibden Pitt - the latter which was included in a penny dreadful distributed throughout Britain, and perhaps may have inspired one Jack The Ripper. It has also been claimed now and then that the character was based on an actual person. Several plays have since been performed throughout the years, with some variations in exploits and events by different authors

* The character has been known by several names including Marjorie, Maggie, Sarah, Shirley, Wilhemia and Claudetta.