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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tim Burton takes on a great musical
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Johnny Depp Stars in "Sweeney Todd".
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $40,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

August 27th, 2007: The story of Sweeney Todd is of a wrongfully imprisoned barber in Victorian England who sets out to seek revenge on the judge who imprisoned him. The plot is foreshadowed in the first lines of the opening number: "Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd./His skin was pale and his eye was odd./He shaved the faces of gentlemen/Who never thereafter were heard of again."

What to Expect: The character of Sweeney first appeared in the "People's Periodical" in 1846 in a fictional story titled "The String of Pearls: A Romance". The reason I point out that it was fictional was that many people throughout history claim that Sweeney was an actual serial killer that was tried and hung in 1802. No evidence has ever been found to prove the existence of such a person thus it is more urban legend than fact. In its original form Sweeney was just a psycho serial killer who slashed the throats of the well to do customers who visited his barber shop for a shave. Then, in 1979 British playwright Christopher Bond adapted the story into his play "Sweeney Todd". In this version he humanized the killer by giving him a motive for his bloodlust; he was wrongly imprisoned for 15 years by a judge who then raped and murdered his wife. He also gave Sweeney a co-conspirator, the land lady who would dispose of Sweeney's corpses by cooking them into delicious meat pies and selling these pies to unsuspecting customers. Finally, Bond added comedic relief to the tale transforming a simple urban legend into a comedic revenge tragedy. These additions made the play a lot more marketable and spun off a variety of stage and movie renditions. The most successful of these adaptations was the hugely popular Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical which won eight Tony awards when it premiered in 1979. Now, that musical is set to go through another transformation or should I say Burtonation when Tim Burton brings Sweeney Todd to the big screen. It was a long arduous journey for Burton that spanned a decade and the final product is going to justify the effort.

Burton first signed on to the project in the early 90's but eventually dropped it because he could not get it mounted. Then in 2004, encouraged by the success of the Broadway revival, DreamWorks decided to proceed with turning it into a movie. Sam Mendes was hired to head the new production, and he in turn wanted to cast Russell Crowe for the lead. That all ended in 2006 when Burton was hired to direct and right away wanted his buddy Johnny Depp to star as Sweeney. The two have successfully worked together on five other projects prior to this one, including the hugely successful Edward Scissorhands and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. DreamWorks, despite Burton and Depp's lack of musical experience, decided to allow Burton to use Depp and direct the movie in his vision. This was clearly the right decision. What Burton lacks in musical experience he makes up in talent and creativity. The surreal worlds he creates in his movies with all their brightness and quirkiness will work in perfect juxtaposition to the sadness and tragedy of the actual plot. Depp will not disappoint either as Sweeney. Despite the fact that he has never sung in a movie and might look too young to play the character, he always puts the necessary effort to get ready for a part. To prepare for this film Depp wanted to "get inside the mind of a serial killer.... to feel adept with the razor blades, to feel as if they were an extension of his arm". He even walked around the house singing songs from the movie in his loudest voice while slashing a razor at the air. This preparation even frightened his long time girlfriend and mother of his two children Vanessa Paradis. If he can scare her, just wait and see what he can do to the average movie audience! As a perfect complement to Depp, Alan Rickman was cast as the evil judge Turpin. Rickman, although already an established actor, really broke out in the Harry Potter series as Severus Snape, the dark, mean looking teacher of Harry (Yeah, I know Snape was actually a good guy, so save your emails). This roll will be a perfect follow up to his work in the Potter series. Finally, to provide some comic relief Sacha Baron Cohen will have a small part in this film as Signor Adolfo Pirelli, the eccentric rival barber of Sweeney. This is going to be Cohen's first movie since his incredibly funny hit Borat. Even though he is on screen for a small time, I might just go see this movie just for him.

However, it was not all smooth sailing with Depp, because in the middle of production his daughter Lily-Rose got sick and he abruptly left the set. Burton did not want to go on without his star and production was completely halted. The entire staff was laid off, with the promise that they would all be re-employed when filming resumed. However, when Depp finally returned almost two months later, eight actors had to be cut from the movie due to time constraints. Luckily, Burton was able to finish the movie on time and it still looks pretty good.

In Conclusion: Todd should be another successful collaboration for Burton and Depp. Although I really do not like musicals and this one is about 70% singing, I might make an exception. Sondheim is almost guaranteed to add another Oscar for best score to the one he already had for Dick Tracy, unless of course, 3 6 Mafia did a score I do not know about this year. Also, expect another great performance from Depp that might garner Oscar consideration. If you are looking for a dramatic, funny serial killer movie and do not mind the singing, then this movie is perfect for you.

Similar Titles: Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, The Phantom of the Opera
December 21st, 2007 (wide)
April 1st, 2008 (DVD)

Paramount Pictures

Tim Burton

Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jamie Campbell Bowen, Jayne Wisener, Laura Michelle Kelly, Ed Sanders

Total: 392 vote(s).

Drama, Special Interests, Suspense

Click here to view site

Rated R for graphic bloody violence.

117 min




Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at AskMen.com

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