How about a shave?

Ah, yes, another New Year’s Eve and another night of sitting in a darkened movie theater gorging ourselves on popcorn while the world outside slips into another year. This is one of our coolest traditions.

This year’s movie was Sweeney Todd, and it was great. However, if you don’t like your musicals mixed with buckets of blood, then stay away from this one. It’s not for the kiddies.

I knew about the musical from the 70’s with Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett, the deranged pie maker, but I didn’t know that the history of Todd goes back over 160 years to a supposedly true account of a serial killer in London. The story showed up in a story called “The String of Pearls: A Romance” and was made into the play “Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street” the next year. It was made into a movie in 1936. You can watch the whole thing at the Internet Archive.

The story was changed in the 70’s. Originally, Sweeney Todd was simply a villain like Jack the Ripper or the Phantom of the Opera. Christopher Bond wrote a 1973 play titled “Sweeney Todd” that gave Todd a motive other than pure greed. In this version, he is a wrongfully imprisoned barber named Benjamin Barker who returns under the name Sweeney Todd after fifteen years to find that the judge responsible for his imprisonment has raped his young wife and caused her to committ suicide. He swears revenge, but when his plans face obstacles, he begins to slash the throats of his customers and deliver them to Mrs. Lovett to put in her pies.

Johnny Depp is wonderful. He’s not the world’s greatest singer, but he does a fine job, and he projects the twisted, dark soul of the vengeful Todd with such clarity that you almost root for him. You definitely hurt alongside him for a bit. Meanwhile, Helena Bonham Carter (again no Broadway superstar) gives Mrs. Lovett just the right combination of insanity and longing that you feel for her, too. Mostly.

The rest of the cast is great, as well. Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin is his usual oily self. Timothy Spall as the judge’s henchman, Beadle Bamford, is his usual toadying self. And Sacha Baron Cohen does a fantastic turn as the competing barber, Adolfo Pirelli.

It’s not for everyone, but all-in-all, I think this was one of the best movies I saw in 2007.

This entry was posted in The Big Screen. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to How about a shave?

  1. Ric The Schmuck says:

    That is one that I want to see, for sure.

  2. Sassy says:

    Firstly, enjoyed it immensely, which is saying something for a die-hard pit musician. I tend to get really picky, and I liked it bunches.

    Secondly, I really think Tim Burton’s goal is to see how much blood he can cover Johnny Depp in in the course of one picture. Really, really, far-reaching and admirable job this time.

    Thirdly, OH-MY-GOD-WHAT-WAS-GOING-ON-IN-SACHA-BARON-COHEN’S-TROUSERS? There was a lot of fixated horror and hilarity in our viewing group that had nothing to do with razors and auto-dumping chairs.

  3. *** Dave says:

    Definitely a fine job. HBC couldn’t quite deliver the goods, music-wise, but overall a solid film.

Comments are closed.