SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET. (2007) DIRECTED BY TIM BURTON. BASED ON SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET, THE MUSICAL, BY STEPHEN SONDHEIM AND HUGH WHEELER. STARRING JOHHNY DEPP, HELENA BONHAM CARTER, ALAN RICKMAN, TIMOTHY SPALL AND SACHA BARON COHEN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. © I only saw this film for the first time recently, and was blown away by it, even though I’d been expecting to find it annoying after hearing that there was singing in it, lol. But the singing is fantastic, and so is pretty much everything else about this film based on a musical that in turn was based on a Victorian legend. It’s the legend of the titular Sweeney Todd, the barber of old London who slits his customers’ throats and trapdoor-s the corpses deep down below into his girlfriend’s pie shop, where the flesh is baked into some of the ‘worst pies in London.’ Quite a neat little scam, though how they expected to get away with such a bold scheme indefinitely is a mystery to me. Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd, formerly the barber Benjamin Barker, returns to London in 1846, after spending fifteen long years in exile in Australia, even though he’d committed no crime. The evil Judge Turpin, played by Alan Rickman, had him sent there on a pretext, purely so that he could put the moves on Sweeney Todd’s beautiful wife, Lucy… Now Lucy is dead, and her and Sweeney Todd’s daughter Johanna is Turpin’s captive. He’s basically waiting till she’s old enough to take her as his wife, then she’ll be lost to her father, Sweeney Todd, forever… Sweeney Todd, played bitterly and broodingly by the great Johnny Depp, teams up with Helena Bonham Carter as his literal soulmate, his perfect other half, the missing piece of the puzzle, one Mrs. Lovett who runs the pie shop. Helena Bonham Carter, by the way, was born to dress this way and play this kind of role. She’s practically perfick for it. As the film is very faithful to the source material, Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett do exactly what I mentioned in an earlier paragraph: he slashes his customers ‘froats,’ as they say in London, then she bakes their nice juicy flesh into her pies in the bakehouse below. They are assisted in this grisly work by local urchin, the highly Dickensian Tobias Ragge. He’s the former employee of one of Sweeney’s rival barbers, the faux-Italian Adolfo Pirelli. Wonderfully played by comic actor Sacha Baron Cohen, Pirelli finds out what it means to incur the wrath of Sweeney Todd and end up in a trunk with yer froat cut and yer features re-arranged by forty whacks with a boiling kettle… Business for both the barber and the pie shop goes really well for a time, and it’s not long before Sweeney gets a crack at swiping a cut-throat razor across the manly jaw and chin of the hanging Judge, the whipping Judge, the nefarious Judge Turpin, and also that of the Judges’ toady and yes-man, the rat-faced Beadle Bamford, marvellously played by Timothy Spall. There’s also a lovesick young man looking to rescue Johanna, Sweeney Todd’s daughter, from the clutches of Judge Turpin, who has placed his beloved ward in an insane asylum for refusing to marry him. But we won’t worry too much about that. It’s much more interesting to watch the dead-inside Sweeney Todd interact with Mrs. Lovett, who’s pining away with unrequited love for him. Does she deserve her truly awful fate…? The movie’s not an 18s for nuffink, folks… A suitably dark, brooding and heavy atmosphere hangs over London town the whole time. I also have a question, and this never occurred to me before: Did the female inmates of the insane asylums have their hair butchered against their will by the orderlies and sold to the wig-makers, to whom real, natural hair is always a boon and a bonus…? Just one of many violations of their human rights, I reckon. The song lyrics are so funny and well-written, even razor-sharp if you’ll excuse the pun, and Depp and Bonham Carter can’t half sing! The costumes and grim settings are fabulous too, and, as is evidenced in nearly every attempt to film the Victorian era, the class differences between the rich and poor stand out a mile. As a poor person, you can get hung for stealing a loaf of bread, or sent to Australia, branded a convict and a wrong ‘un forever, just because some high-faluting Judge has the hots for your wife. Well, I suppose, as in the case of Sweeney Todd, you can always come back and get revenge. Even revenge set to music. All together now: ‘It’s a hard knock life… for us…’
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books: