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Benjamin Barker was a simple man that merely wanted to live the perfect life. And by having a beautiful wife that loved him and a wonderful daughter, he was living what he considered to be the perfect life. It is quite the shame that such small details can be considered the perfect life by someone and then another could want to take those things away. But that is how it was meant to be for Mr. Barker as his perfect life was stripped from him by no fault of his own and simply by the greed and jealousy of another man.
It is said by many that all things happen for a reason and in the end, all will be explained. Those “all things” also include revenge.
For fifteen years, Benjamin Barker was institutionalized and forced to merely dream of returning one day to his beautiful wife and daughter. Through no fault of his own, Barker watched as a jealous Judge Turpin had him taken away while he ogled Parker’s wife and daughter. But after serving his time, a different person returned to London to find his wife and child. A person that is very unlike the Benjamin Barker who was wrongfully imprisoned so long ago. For Benjamin Barker was now dead and in his place had come, Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street.
Upon his return to London, Todd has found out that his wife was no longer living after taking her own life due to depression. His daughter, Joanna, was now holed up in Judge Turpin’s estate as he had adopted her. All of this news has come by way of a Mrs. Lovett who happens to own the bakery under Todd’s old barbershop. She also is known for creating the worst pies in all of London, but that is beside the point. Todd now has revenge in his sights and knows just what to do in order to exact it to his liking.
Sweeney Todd is going to reopen his barbershop and lure the judge into his quarters so that he may be able to kill him and get back his daughter, but it won’t be so easy. In order to make the judge know that his shop is a respectable one, Todd must give the best shaves in all of London to other customers. That includes besting his arch-nemesis, Signor Adolfo Pirelli and putting him out of commission, a-hem…permanently. This of course leads to a deal and perfect partnership between Todd and Mrs. Lovett in order to get rid of those London won’t miss and for her pies to become better tasting, so to speak. But it all leads back to revenge and making sure that Judge Turpin realizes the errors of his ways.
For someone that has never enjoyed many musicals other then Moulin Rouge, Oliver, and The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, I was pleasantly surprised. Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter have always been some of my favorites when it comes to the world of motion pictures, but I have to admit my skepticism was strong when word of a full-blown musical had come out. Needless to say my anxiousness won out over my skepticism and I am glad it did. Sweeney Todd is by far one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time, musical or not. It is dark, brooding, full of gore, humorous, enchanting, mesmerizing, and just downright insanely fun.
To start, the film is almost ninety percent singing; so like my girlfriend you may not enjoy it much if musicals are definitely not your thing. If you can’t get past the singing, then my suggestion is to not waste your time watching it. It wouldn’t be a waste, but you’d be so concerned about the singing that you wouldn’t let yourself fully appreciate how good it truly is. The songs are just phenomenal and so catchy that you’ll find yourself trying to sing along with words you can’t possibly know just yet. Their lyrics are injected with so much humor and just total disgust that they suck you into the film that much more.
There’s just no way of not finding amusement in lyrics like, “There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit, and it’s filled with people who are filled of shit, and the vermin of the world inhabit it, and it goes by the name of London.”
Johnny Depp makes another masterful performance here as the demented Todd and shows off his awesome singing skills. The same can be said for Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett who just always has a weird elegancy about her making her so fun to watch and just so incredibly gorgeous. The performances of Alan Rickman and Sacha Baron Cohen make this star-studded cast full of those you’d never expect to see in a musical, but are glad this one didn’t do without. Burton has delivered again on a film that seems to mix the liveliness, brooding mood, musical brilliance, and craziness of Nightmare Before Christmas and turns it into a live film.
The film is shown in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and it is absolutely gorgeous. The colors are bright amidst the gloomy background and surroundings while the shadow and darker scenes bring so much to life with limited light. Tim Burton continues his masterpieces looking totally beautiful.
The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and it also makes the film even that much better. The music is fantastic with singing that takes center stage above all else. Any sound effects of the fire pit or blood spattering can be heard in all their gruesome glory while the wonderful soundtrack fills the room.
Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd – This is our behind the scenes featurette and it runs over twenty-five minutes. Besides the three main (Burton, Depp, and Carter) people mentioned, others from the cast and crew do give their opinions here as backstage footage and still frames are shown. Watching these actors really have to get into the full mood to sing and such is extremely entertaining.
Sweeney Todd Press Conference November 2007 – Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, and other members of the cast sit down for a very humorous press conference. They tell stories of working together, the making of the blood, putting Sweeney Todd together, and other subjects that keep them smiling and laughing the whole time. It lasts close to twenty minutes and is damn funny watching all of them interact together so candidly.
Sweeney Is Alive: The Real History Of The Demon Barber – This twenty minute documentary takes old pictures, parts of the film, and the words from historians as to the true legend of Sweeney Todd. Some feel he did not really exist while others lay their truths to the facts that he did and was quite possibly the most savage mass murderer in history. Very fun.
Musical Mayhem: Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd – Stephen Sondheim discusses the origins of the film and story for about twelve minutes here. He talks about first seeing the play and then Burton adapting it for the big screen. It is said that Sondheim was very cautious about actually letting the story be made into a film and that it has been in production for close to twenty or thirty years. He was very happy though with Burton’s version and gave the go ahead.
Sweeney’s London – While you might expect this fifteen minute feature to be about the creating of the set, that couldn’t be further from the truth. It is actually a documentary depicting how London really was during the seventeen and eighteen hundreds when Sweeney Todd was said to be alive and when the play/film would have taken place. Many period drawings are shown and a lot of the same historians from the “Sweeney Is Alive” feature return here to talk more about the city.
The Making Of Sweeney Todd – Even though it lasts twenty-four minutes, this is your basic “making of” featurette. The cast and crew lend their comments while backstage footage and different film clips roll by.
Grand Guignol: A Theatrical Tradition – This feature is about a theatre in London called the Grand Guignol which was open from 1897 to 1962 and showed a lot of horror plays and pieces. It is a very interesting look at some of the different types of shows they presented and how a lot of them were about the destitute and morbid classes of people. It lasts just over nineteen minutes.
Designs For A Demon Barber – Tim Burton is joined by costume designed Colleen Atwood, production designer Dante Feretti, and set decorator Francesca Lo Schiavo to give comments on how they wanted the film to appear. Drawings and costumes and paintings are shown to make the timeframe be very turn of the century while incorporating horror movie London. This featurette only lasts nine minutes unfortunately which is a shame because it is extremely interesting and shows some wonderful depictions of how their minds were working while creating “their” London.
A Bloody Business – Here is another awesome featurette that sadly only runs about nine minutes and is full of blood and gore. It shows all the different prosthetics that were made for Sweeney Todd’s victims and even has Burton giving pointers to Johnny Depp on how some of the kills should look.
Moviefone Unscripted With Tim Burton And Johnny Depp – I love this segment as it has Depp and Burton simply answering questions as asked from internet bloggers. Some are quite funny and really just has the two of them having fun and enjoying themselves. Not sure if it was intentional or not, but Depp has a t-shirt with the familiar green and red stripes of Freddy Krueger and even has his hat on. The segment also is quite short and only lasts about eleven minutes.
The Razor’s Refrain – Here is an eight and a half minute slideshow of still frames from the film set to the score.
Photo Gallery – A big collection of still frame pictures you can go through including drawings, set shots, backstage images, still shots from the film, and much more.
Here is yet another film in the small number on musicals that I would ever care to watch on a regular basis. Besides those I’ve mentioned, Grease 2 also ranks highly. Yes, part two. I like it better; the song “Charades” is excellent. Sweeney Todd on the other hand is just fantastic and impeccably well done from start to finish. Mere hours after watching it, I purchased the soundtrack and listened to it twice in its entirety. Seeing the action on screen to go along with the music and lyrics makes them all the better. With numerous amounts of special features, which are almost all worth watching, you’d be foolish to go with simply the single disc version of the film. There is not only a lot of extra stuff from the film itself, but then plenty more to learn about the historical aspect of the story and London. Pay the extra five bucks and get more then your money’s worth with an awesome DVD packed full of great special features and a film that will have you singing along in seconds. Tim Burton has done it once again my friends; revel in it.
DreamWorks presents Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street: 2-Disc Special Edition. Directed by: Tim Burton. Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen. Written by: John Logan. Running time: 116 minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: April 1, 2008. Available at Amazon.com