Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) - 2-Disc Special Edition

Genre(s): Drama / Horror / Musical / Thriller
Warner Brothers, DreamWorks || R - 116 minutes - $34.99 || April 1, 2008
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2008-04-05


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Tim Burton
Writer(s): Harold Prince (orginally staged by); Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler (music and lyrics); John Logan (screenplay)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen


Theatrical Release Date: December 21, 2007


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:

    Disc 1:
  • Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd


  • Disc 2:
  • Sweeney Todd Press Conference
  • Sweeney Is Alive: The Real History of the Demon Barber
  • Musical 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
  • The Razor's Refrain
  • Photo Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (1.85)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

The story of Sweeney Todd is well-known in English folklore dating back to the mid-19th century. It was used as a tool to scare kids (much like the boogeyman in the States) but soon the character made his way from literature and myths to the stage, then the TV screen and finally the big screen. According to Wikipedia, “Sweeney Todd” has been adapted numerous times as a stage play, the last in 1979 by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler (based in itself by Christopher Bond’s 1973 adaptation). It is the 1979 Broadway musical for which the first big screen incarnation is based upon, reuniting director Tim Burton with Johnny Depp for a surprising sixth time.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street stars Johnny Depp as Todd, a man who has been wronged by Judge Turpin (Rickman). When Sweeney Todd, then known as Benjamin Barker, was younger, he had a beautiful wife and a newborn daughter. Turpin, overtaken with envy falsely imprisons Sweeney and tries to take his wife for himself. Years later, Sweeney Todd returns to London. We have no knowledge of what he’s been through, but he is a little worse for wear. Once back, he meets Mrs. Lovett (Bonham Carter), a bakery shop owner (who makes the worse meat pies in London) and discovers that his wife had died and his daughter, Johanna, is now the ward of Judge Turpin. From this point, Sweeney Todd vows revenge!

Todd and Mrs. Lovett make a demented couple as Sweeney uses his barber skills to set up shop where he quickly becomes a serial killer. He devises a contraption that sends the dead and bloodied bodies to a cellar below whereupon Mrs. Lovett uses them to, um, fill her newly redefined pies.

Admitting up front, musicals are not my thing. I enjoy some, but if you ask me to breakdown musicals numbers, I couldn’t do it. But something about Sweeney Todd was intriguing, for one thing, this has to be the first musical-thriller-horror feature film and when you add the Burton/Depp team, it makes for a must-see even for those who dislike musicals. Yet when the credits rolled, I honestly wasn’t very impressed.

The musical numbers were quite good and Depp and the rest of the cast have surprisingly great voices, but the story really did nothing for me. Perhaps I overestimated my enjoyment of revenge stories or maybe the mixture of blood, revenge and music just didn’t click, but in the end, Sweeney Todd felt more like a movie with style — a guarantee for any Tim Burton film — but little substance. While I understood Sweeney’s motivation and his passive attraction towards Mrs. Lovett, but how did he arrive to becoming a mass murderer? Sure, Judge Turpin is a first-class a-hole, a man who deserves Sweeney’s vengeance, but the carnage from his other victims didn’t make much sense other than to shed gallons of blood across the screen.

There’s really nothing wrong with Johnny Depp’s performance. As I said, he has a great voice and belts that perhaps even Simon would enjoy — of course, Randy would find it “pitchy” while Paula just giggles like a little school girl. He also gives a striking acting performance with conviction and authority, and with a certain charm that made the Pirates of the Caribbean movies so popular. Just for the fact that it is a singing role, that alone I believe makes him worthy for the award nominations and critical praises.

What is in Sweeney Todd’s favor is Tim Burton’s excellent set design, a trademark and usually the high point for his movies. Despite being a dark film both in style and the nature of the story, it is still something to behold. Between the costumes and sets, this is a film worth watching just for those things that is if you don’t mind graphic violence.

Maybe Sweeney Todd proves once and for all that musicals are not my thing. I wanted to like it, but in the end it didn’t really work as a whole even with the solid performances by Depp and Carter.

The film co-stars veteran character actor Timothy Spall (most recently seen in Enchanted) and Sacha Baron Cohen in an amusing but all too short cameo role.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Regardless that a commentary track is missing, DreamWorks and Warner Bros. have gone all out with the latest 2-Disc Special Edition piling the set with numerous featurettes that will get anyone caught up with the story behind Sweeney Todd, be it the play or film.

DISC 1:
Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd (26:06) – This nice primer of a featurette is a compilation of interviews with the main talent on the picture as well as Stephen Sondheim, the man behind the play this film is based upon. It basically goes through the origins of how the movie came to be going back decades when Burton first saw the stage play multiple times. Consider this the Cliff’s Notes version of the Making of Sweeney Todd. If you’re only interested in the one-disc version and don’t care about other features, this will suit you just fine.

DISC 2:
Sweeney Todd Press Conference (19:41) – Highly enjoyable press conference filmed in November 2007. All the primary participants are there (Burton, Depp, Carter, Rickman, Spall) as they field a variety of questions about filming Sweeney Todd.

Sweeney Is Alive: The Real History of the Demon Barber (20:06) – Various scholars and history buffs chat about whether Sweeney Todd was real or not plus his origins in British mythology and his arrival on the stage (and TV as well) played for many years by Tod Slaughter. If you’re interested in the historical background of Todd, this is a solid featurette to watch.

Musical Mayhem: Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (12:00) – So we got a rundown of the origins of the character, now we learn about the stage play that was the inspiration for the film.

Sweeney’s London (16:15) – This featurette covers the historical aspects of 18th and 19th century London from architecture to the population. If you enjoyed “Sweeney Is Alive”, you’ll also like this one.

The Making of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (24:01) – This is probably the more EPK feature of the bunch. It contains interviews with various cast and crew members as they explain the plot and working with each other. The featurette also examines the set and costume designs and a little more background on the story origins.

Grand Guignol: A Theatrical Tradition (19:13) – As if you needed any more historical background, this featurette takes a look at a theater called the “Grand Guignol”, a place where a variety of bloody plays took place. Think Saw or Hostel but on a stage...

Designs for a Demon Barber (8:52) and A Bloody Business (8:52) take closer looks at the costume design for each character and how they were chosen to, for the latter, the special makeup effects done and the gallons of blood used for those scenes.

Moviefone Unscripted (11:35) – You usually find these on Paramount releases (last one I remember was for Failure to Launch). This time we have Tim Burton and Johnny Depp fielding questions from the Internet and just having a good time chatting with each other. Strangely, this is the only feature NOT presented in anamorphic widescreen...

Last set of features contain The Razor’s Refrain (8:38), a musical number set against still photos from the movie, a photo gallery and the theatrical trailer (2:31).



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

The picture quality is pristine with no noticeable deficiencies and the black levels, and there’s plenty to judge on, look excellent even on an LCD television. The film is presented in its OAR with a 1.85 aspect ratio.

The audio however, is the crown jewel of this set. I was very surprised on how strong it was from beginning to end as each musical number sounds absolutely fantastic, and all coming from a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. If I had one quibble, albeit a minor, the dialogue isn’t as strong, but certainly good enough.



.::OVERALL::.

Although I didn’t care for Sweeney Todd that much, I cannot overlook a great 2-Disc Special Edition that Paramount and Warner Brothers has released. You have just about every aspect of the film and source present with only a commentary missing to take it into another realm. While the increase cost with these 2-disc special editions are concerning, this is one that is well worth the extra dough!