Sweeney Todd Cover Do you know how many times I have been to the barbers in my life? None. Well, I do not have - do I - because my Mum, my Brother, and my Cousins, are all in this cuticle craft. But then again, I can say the same thing about, Director: Tim Burton; and Actors: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Timothy Spall – especially in 2007 and for 116 minutes.  

Sweeney Todd

Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) is the name of the man that haunts Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) as soon as he steps foot in Old London town again. It haunts him because this was the man sent who him away for twelve long years. It haunts him because this was the man who took his wife, Lucy (Laura Michelle Kelly), away was from him. Moreover, this was man whose arms Lucy died in also – as told to Benjamin by pie shop owner, Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter).

However, before Benjamin can enact his revenge upon the Judge, a number of instances play out first that bar his path. For a start, Benjamin changes his name to Sweeny Todd, and opens up a Barbers shop above Mrs Lovett’s establishment. Next, he makes the acquaintance of the Judges aide, Beadle Bamford (Timothy Spall), and a charlatan, Adolfo Pirelli (Sacha Baron Cohen), whilst parading the market place nearby. After that, ‘Sweeny’ hears the surprising news from a friend of his, Anthony Hope (Jamie Campbell Bower), that his wife could possibly be alive. And finally, Adolfo tries to blackmail Sweeny, because he knows who he really is.

Now, does anything come out of Adolfo’s threat? Does he accomplish anything with this? Yes – for him – because Sweeny gives him a ‘very close shave’, before Mrs. Lovett serves him up in a savoury snack, CHOMP!

Oh! So what about the Judge then? Because is this the right time for Sweeny’s revenge too? Err – afraid not – because even though the Judge is cohered by Beadle into visiting Sweeney, and Sweeny has him in his grasp, he is halted from doing anything about this due to him being interrupted by Anthony, NO CHOMP!

Anyway, even though Sweeny is disappointed that does not get his revenge – yet – Ms Lovett on the other hand, is having tremendous success with her ‘new found ingredient’. In fact, she is so happy about this, that he starts to daydream about a relationship between her and Sweeny, whilst he is carving away at anybody who comes his way, CHOMP!

Nevertheless, over time, the proverbial penny drops, when Ms Lovett’s new squire, Toby (Ed Sanders) becomes suspicious of Sweeny’s strange behaviour, just as Anthony finds out that something strange is going on back at the Judges place. Therefore, what then transpires is a rather lyrical affair indeed – as traps are sprung – bodies are flung – revenge is done – and songs will be sung.

Now is anybody up for a McDonalds?

When I was a kid, there used to be a program on the television called ‘The Sweeny’. It was one of those cop shows, where two gruff detectives drove around in a soaped up Ford Capri, and shouted a lot at people for no apparent reason. So when suddenly, out of the blue, a television dramatisation popped up – one called ‘Sweeny Todd’ – I just presumed that it was more of the same.

Boy – was I wrong.

Johnny and Helena in Sweeney ToddNow this television dramatisation really stuck me for a six I can tell you. The sight of this sick looking Victorian chap, whom just went around singing to himself whilst chopping people up, before his b*tch made the carcasses into ‘meat pies’ - well - it made me want to shave my cat.

Strange that, huh?

Thankfully, though, this is all behind me now – that is until I watched this film ‘Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’.

You see, I am somewhat conflicted with this film. As on the one hand, I like stylish films, I like the Victorian era, I like gothic murder mysteries, I like Johnny Depp, and I like Helena, Alan, Sasha, and Timmy too. Whilst on the other hand, I hate bloody musicals. Well, I just find it annoying when the story is waylaid because of some git breaking into song at a drop of a hat. I mean, what if that same git takes a sh*t?  Will he break out into a rendition of ‘Oh When the Saints Come Marching In’? No – I don’t thinks so. Still, that is was is at the heart of this film, huh? Moreover, I suppose I should judge it on what it should be, rather than what I would have liked it to be.

Johnny and Alan in Sweeney Todd
So how should I do this? Oh! I know – it’s trivia time!!! (1) ‘Sweeny Todd’ was originally a stage musical devised in the seventies by composer, Steve Sondheim. (2) The myth surrounding Sweeny Todd is not a myth, because there was a man who went by this name. However, he was not a murderer who chopped people up for pastries; instead, he was a tight-fisted skinflint, who was alleged to have killed for profit. (3) Another loose link ties the ‘legend of Sweeny Todd’ to Jack the Ripper suspect / barber George Chapman. Though, Chapman killed his many wives by poisoning them – and his connection to Jack the Ripper is a timorous one too. (4) Some of the themes in Sweeny Todd are true. Fleet Street wasn’t a nice place to be at the time [unlike now], people of a lower class were treated very badly by the upper class [like now], and it was known for people to eat people when there was nothing else to eat [no comment]. And (5) Violence was a very discrete affair in Victorian London before Jack the Ripper came along, and many murders were swept under the carpet and made into myth, just to curb the populous.

OK, so now that I have all of that out of my system, can I judge ‘Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’ with a more positive frame of mind?

Johnny and Helena on a beach in Sweeney Todd

Errr – no.

Still, despite my own biased view, I was able to watch this film from beginning to end. The song were pleasant enough – the acting (when a song didn’t interrupt) was good – the style was the usual Tim Burton black, red, and white, gothic fair – and the story (when it was allowed to proceed) was a nice one also.

Nice film – not one for those people who do not like musicals.


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