DVD Review: Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition)
By Jeff Swindoll Mar 31, 2008, 10:37 GMT
Johnny Depp and Tim Burton join forces again in a big-screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim\'s award-winning musical thriller "Sweeney Todd." Depp stars in the title role as a man unjustly sent to prison who vows revenge, not only for that cruel punishment, but for the devastating consequences of what happened to his wife and daughter. When he returns to reopen his barber shop, Sweeney Todd becomes the Demon Barber of ...more
“I guarantee the closest shave you’ve ever known.”
Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd. Johnny Depp puts aside Captain Jack for a bit of straight razor, gallons of blood, and a lot of singing. Both the blood and music flows as Sweeney hacks his way through the gentlemen of London looking for a spot of revenge against a lecherous judge.
Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) has returned to the fog choked streets of London after an absence. He used to be the cheery Benjamin Barker, a London barber, but the lust of the lecherous Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) finds him taken away to jail. He escapes prison, rechristens himself Sweeney Todd and pale and cadaverous has returned to London to seek out Turpin and ventilate his neck.
He was taken aboard a ship, on his escape, by sailor Anthony Hope (Jamie Campbell Bower), who happened to spot the rowboat that Sweeney was marooned in. Sweeney returns to Fleet Street to his old flat that happens to be above Mrs. Lovett’s (Helena Bonham Carter) pie shop. She recognizes him and explains what has been going in while he was away.
Turpin had his way with Mrs. Barker (Laura Michelle Kelly) and once his lust was sated he turned her out into the street where the distraught Mrs. Barker poisoned herself. Turpin took advantage of this situation to take Barker’s daughter Johanna (Jayne Wisener) as his ward and plans to marry her. Todd vows that he will avenge himself against Turpin and reopens his barbershop.
Meanwhile Anthony has been wandering the streets of London and has seen Johanna. He instantly falls in love with her. Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett witness the street show of the flamboyant Italian barber Pirelli (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Sweeney challenges him to a “shave-off.”
It’s all part of Sweeney’s plan because he’s asked Judge Turpin’s right hand man Beadle Bamford (Timothy Spall) to judge the contest as a way to get closer to the judge. Sweeney wins the contest and offers Bamford a free shave.
The blood flows and Sweeney gets ever so closer to Turpin’s throat, but he also finds out that Mrs. Lovett may not have been exactly honest with him about the events that have occurred in his absence.
Sweeney Todd is based on the Tony winning production by Stephen Sondheim and it also marks the sixth collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Depp and Bonham Carter are not professional singers, but I thought that they acquitted themselves nicely.
Depp seems to be channeling David Bowie, though unintentionally as some of the extras say. Bonham Carter seems to grate more on my ears sense she sings in cockney and shrilly at times. I think this was more of a character trait than her singing ability, but I could be wrong.
Some fans of the Broadway version might bristle at some of the changes made for the film, such as some songs being cut completely and others shortened. However, these changes were made with the blessing of Sondheim so who are we to go against the will of the almighty?
I heard that he liked the film version so much that he was having multiple screenings for his friends and family so it obviously impressed the maestro. One thing I greatly liked about the film is that it felt like a musical version of a Hammer or Universal horror film.
There’s some reliance on CGI, but the actual sets evoke a feeling of old London town. Those expecting something akin to Pirates of the Caribbean will come away greatly disappointed, but those looking for geysers of blood and a song may well find the happiness of a close shave.
Sweeney Todd is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. The first disc in this set features the 26 minute “Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd” which is collection of interviews with the principles as well as other members of the cast.
Disc two starts off with the informative 19-minute “Sweeney Todd Press Conference – November 2007.” Next is the equally interesting 20-minute “Sweeney is Alive” which examines the legend of the demon barber and speculates if the story came from fact or fiction. The 12-minute “Musical Mayhem” sits down with Sondheim about the Broadway show. Next is the 24-minute “The Making of Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”
The 19 minute “Grand Guignol: A Theatrical Tradition” looks at the bloody theatrical tradition that Todd, both the Broadway play and film, draws its inspiration from. The 9-minute “Designs for a Demon Barber” is about the costumes and production design and the 9-minute “Bloody Business” covers the makeup and effects.
The 11-minute “Moviefone Unscripted” finds Burton and Depp taking questions from an online audience. The 8 minute “Razor’s Refrain” is a photo gallery set to the music from the film and there’s also a separate photo gallery. Finally, you get the 2-minute theatrical trailer.
If you went into the theater expecting the Johnny Depp of Pirates of the Caribbean, boy were you in for a surprise (this might explain the somewhat disappointing box office receipts). However, I found the movie a dark surprise and, even if they’re not professionals, the singing still quite good. Anyone for a shave?
Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) is now available at Amazon. It is available for pre-order at AmazonUK for a May 19th release. Visit the DVD database for more information.