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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street - comedy DVD review
Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 1/2 stars
Actors: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen
Director: Tim Burton   Studio: Dreamworks Video
DVD release:01 April 2008   Runtime: 116 minutes (2 discs)
Format: AC-3, Collector's Edition, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD features: Subtitles (English, Spanish, French), Audio (Dolby 5.1 Surround - English, French, Spanish), "Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd," "Sweeney Todd Is Alive: The Real History of the Demon Barber," "Music Mayhem: Sondheim's Sweeney Todd," "Sweeney's London; The Making of Sweeney Todd," "Grand Guignol: A Theatrical Tradition," "Designs for a Demon Barber," "A Bloody Business," Moviefone unscripted with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp

If you're unfamiliar, Sweeney Todd is the story of a murderous barber and the woman who makes pies from his... er... clippings, so to speak. Originally written as a penny dreadful (an inexpensive pulp fiction book marketed toward the working class in Britain in the early 1800s), it's been performed a number of times as a play and was turned into a musical in 1973 by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler. What we have here is an adaptation of that last.

Johnny Depp stars as Benjamin Barker, a barber. He had a wife (and she was beautiful) and a young daughter, and life was fair and sunlit. Soon a judge catches sight of the young wife and wants her for his own. Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) sends Barker to prison (perhaps Australia) unjustly, and Barker is left to worry about his family.

Fifteen years later, he returns to a dark, muddy London with trouble on his mind. He finds his barber parlor just upstairs from a shop that serves the worst meat pies in London. Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) does the best she can, but meat's so expensive and she doesn't use cats like that crafty Mrs. Mooney. Barker, who now calls himself Sweeney Todd, wanders into Mrs. Lovett's pie shop and she remembers him. As they talk (sing, actually, as it is a musical), he discovers the fate of his wife (poisoned herself, she did) and daughter (adopted by Turpin). Todd vows revenge on Turpin and soon gets him in his chair but is interrupted before he can finish the job. Todd spends some time honing his skills on people nobody will miss. Mrs. Lovett has found a good source of meat, and her pie business takes off. So it goes until the end. I'll say no more about the ending as it is delicious.

Depp is excellent as Todd. His haunted eyes, almost always downcast, tell us he is a shell of the happy man he once was. If he should ever get his daughter back, he'd be useless as a father; indeed, he doesn't even seem too interested in trying. He sings beautifully, with rage and subtlety. Carter's Lovett is fantastic as well. The songs are clever and interweave in wonderful ways. The subject matter is perfectly suited for director Tim Burton. The subdued light and muck-covered everything is much how I expect London of the early 1800s to have been.

The special features tell me exactly what I needed to know - features on the legend of Sweeney Todd, who may or may not have done his foul deeds in London in the 1700s, and features on the set design, the makeup effects, and the making of the whole film. Nice work on disc two. I doubt my mother-in-law, who enjoys a good musical, would enjoy this one with its gore and the body count, but it will hold a place of honor in my library for years to come!
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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