Movie: "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
Directed by: Tim Burton
Writing credits: John Logan, Stephen Sondheim, Hugh Wheeler, Christopher Bond
Reviewer: Max Burbank
Plot: Escaping after years in exile for a crime he did not commit, Benjamin Barker A.K.A Sweeney Todd, returns to London to find his wife a long dead suicide and his daughter the ward of the very Judge who knowingly sent him away. With the help of Mrs. Lovett, his downstairs neighbor, who owns and operates the ‘worst pie shop in London’ what begins as a quest for revenge soon becomes a murderous free for all. Believing everyone deserves a violent death, Todd slits his customers throats, dumps them down a chute to the basement kitchen, where Mrs. Lovett grinds them up to fill her suddenly popular meat pies.
Review: When I was thirteen, I wanted nothing more than to be a Broadway musical star. Like a kidney stone, the desire passed. For anyone thinking to give this movie a pass because it’s a musical, trust me, this isn’t ‘Cats’.
In 1979 Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler adapted Christopher Bond’s ‘73 play based on the classic English pulp horror tale “The String of Pearls” and had a hit, drenching the Great White Way in crimson blood and black comedy. Tim Burton may have sliced the running time buy cutting songs, but he made up for it with far more graphic violence and rivers of bright red blood.
Johnny Depp is only a decent singer and he’s the best in the cast, but I promise you this won’t even cross your mind unless after watching the film you put on headphones and compare the soundtrack with the Broadway original cast album. The film is a battle for supremacy between Depp’s masterful performance and Burton’s vision of Victorian London, a vast black, white and gray sewer brightened sporadically by gouts of blood. That’s not to say the rest of the cast aren’t good. Helena Bonham Carter (Mrs. Lovett), Alan Rickman (Judge Turpin) and Sacha Baron Cohen (Faux Italian barber extraordinaire, Pirelli) are all favorites of mine and turn in fine performances, but they pale beside Depp’a brooding, seething, fermenting, murderous rage. Timothy Spall comes closer to Depp’s level than any of his more well-known cast mates as the amazingly repulsive Beadle.
I suppose of you’re a fan of the ‘Saw’ or ‘Hostel’ franchises you won’t be impressed by the gore or violence of this film, but it’s a good deal more than the casual moviegoer is used to and while some of the murders are staged for a macabre beauty others are grimly visceral. And while it’s violent and tragic on a Greek scale, it’s also hilarious. Casual brutal murder and cannibalism set to song and dance lead to a great deal of uncomfortable nervous laughter. Horror and comedy, seemingly at odds, can make a heady mix, something most horror fans already know, but in this film a terrible, unrelenting sadness adds something altogether new to the table. It’s repulsive, but undeniably delicious.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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