Well, I’m not Beccah but this is Monday Musical, or at least my iteration of it. Hi, I’m Arthur Gordon from The Round Table Review. Beccah has been running rampant the last couple of weeks, so she asked if I’d like to fill her shoes for the week.
This week we’ll be looking at Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Sweeney Todd marks the sixth collaboration between director Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Alice in Wonderland) and Johnny Depp (Duh). The two began working together in 1992 with Edward Scissorhands and in the last two decades they have made eight films together. I recently wrote an article over at Examiner.com ranking their first seven collaborations in anticipation of Dark Shadows; you can find that article here.
I chose Sweeney Todd because I don’t think Beccah will ever build up the nerve to watch it. While she may be a fan of musicals, she isn’t a fan of horror/slasher films. With that in mind, let us dive into the movie. The film opens and instantly the tone is set as dark music plays over animated credits involving blood and meat grinders. This wonderfully fades into a shot of a ship pulling into port in London as the cheery first notes of “No Place like London” begin playing. We then meet Anthony (Jamie Bower) who sings the first couple of lines, lines of hope and ambition. Enter Sweeney Todd (Depp) who takes the song down a more melancholy route, pushing us even farther down the dark abyss. We discover that Todd was once a barber by the name of Benjamin Barker who had a beautiful wife Lucy and a baby named Johanna. Barker/Todd was arrested and sent away by Judge Turpin; Turpin also loved Lucy and wanted her for himself. Upon Todd’s re-arrival to London we discover he has been away 15 years.
Upon leaving the ship Button seeks out answers about his former wife and child and in the process runs into Mrs. Lovett (Carter) a widow with a failing meat pie business. As she whispers sweet nothings into Todd’s ear, the want of revenge takes hold Todd and sends him to a point of no return. Todd reopens his barber shop above Lovett’s pie parlor and the two become partners, striking a horrific deal with the devil.
Apparently Burton saw the original musical, written by Steven Sondheim, while in film school in the seventies. It struck him at an early age as a very cinematic piece. For the last few decades Hollywood had been trying to get a film version going and even enlisted Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) to direct and Russell Crowe star at one point. They eventually dropped out and Burton got the call, probably for the best. Mendes is a talented director, but the content of Sweeney Todd is right up Burton’s alley.
This certainly shows throughout the film. Burton is big on Gothic Horror elements and grey color palettes both which heavily set the stage for this production. Depp was cast in the lead and had never really sung in public before. The only other musical he had been in, Crybaby, contained a lip-synched performance by him. Burton’s long time lover Helena Bonham-Carter was cast as Mrs. Lovett, and Alan Rickman got the role of Judge Turpin. None of these actors are known for their singing ability, and their performances add a raw, stripped, emotional feel to their performances.
The movie contains some beautiful, haunting, and even humorous musical numbers. “No Place Like London”, “Worst Pies in London”, “My Friends”, “Pretty Women”, “Johanna”, and “By the Sea” are just a few of the stand out numbers in Sweeney Todd. In fact “By the Sea” may be some of the best direction in the film, as it slips out of ‘reality’ and adds a fantasy element allowing Burton to play around outside of the darkness of the reality he has created.
Final Decree: 7.5 out of 10 – Sweeney Todd had a strong showing, winning two Golden Globes (Best Picture –Musical, Best Actor – Depp) and one Oscar (Art Direction), while receiving numerous other nominations. It’s a solid film and great musical for people who may not normally enjoy musicals. The horror, dark comedy, and suspenseful aspects draw in another crowd all together.
Well there you have it folks, thanks for reading and thanks Beccah for letting me take your spot this week. Hopefully you will be good to go next week. For more movie reviews go over and check out my blog The Round Table Review, you can also ‘like’ my page on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, @RndTblReview.
Thank you so much Arthur! Not only is Arthur a personal friend; he is also an up-and-coming movie critic in OKC! So I hope you enjoyed my first guest post - woot woot - so go ahead and comment and show Arthur some love!