Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Movie Information

The Story: Wrongfully imprisoned barber Benjamin Barker returns to London as Sweeney Todd to have his revenge on those responsible for his plight. The Lowdown: A magnificent -- and magnificently over the top -- horror musical from Tim Burton that hits every aspect of both genres just right.
Score:
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Genre: Horror Musical
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen
Rated: R

Tim Burton’s film version of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is nothing short of a masterpiece. It’s at once everything a Tim Burton picture should be, everything a musical should be, everything the play should be and everything the venerable horror story of good old Sweeney should be. It may also be Burton’s most accomplished film. Certainly it’s as good as anything he’s ever done, and that’s saying a great deal right there.

A lot of people seem to be surprised that Burton could pull off a musical—an idea that baffles me, since his operatic style has suggested he could all along. The “Ice Dance” and the final scene in Edward Scissorhands (1990) are almost musical numbers in themselves. The animated films Tim Burton’s the Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005) are in fact musicals, and there are musical numbers in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). So where’s the big shock? At that, Burton’s never done a musical quite like this, but perhaps no one has if it comes to that. Oh, yes, Sondheim’s play has been around since 1979, and yes, it’s very aptly called a “horror musical,” but there’s a significant difference between the highly stylized stage presentation and the comparatively realistic splattery horrors of Burton’s film.

Make no mistake, this is every inch a horror film—hands down the best one of the year—and a pretty darn gruesome one. The blood flows freely and the throat slittings are every bit as graphic (if more cheerfully so) as the ones in David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises. Sweeney Todd is awash in blood and gore, but this after all is the story of a serial killer barber who “polishes off” his victims with a razor and then delivers them to his accomplice, Mrs. Lovett, who bakes them into meat pies. It’s been an extremely gruesome tale ever since it first appeared in Thomas Priest’s story “The String of Pearls: A Romance” in 1846, and subsequent versions have only upped the horrors.

Brit horror star Tod Slaughter played Sweeney for years on the stage—and once in a film back in 1936—but his was the traditional Sweeney Todd, the mad barber out to rob returning travelers when they docked in London. It wasn’t until 1973 when Christopher Bond took George Didbin Pitt’s 1847 stage version and reworked it as a revenge story, coming up with Sweeney as the alias for the wrongfully imprisoned Benjamin Barker, who returns to England from Australia to exact vengeance on the judge who sentenced him. It is this version that formed the basis for the musical. The changes make for a Sweeney Todd who is undeniably more sympathetic, but they do nothing to make him any less homicidal or bloody.

Burton’s film offers probably the bloodiest version to date, as well as the most artistically accomplished. It’s also a surprisingly dark and cynical film. While Burton is no stranger to dark material, there’s always been a certain quirky charm and sweetness of tone to undercut the grimness. That’s not really the case here. As portrayed by Johnny Depp, Sweeney is never less than horrifically mad. There are a few glimmerings of the usual Depp-Burton character in the scene where Sweeney meets Mrs. Lovett (notably in his attempts to get a word in while she fawns over him as a potential customer in her roach-infested bake shop), but that’s all.

The closest the film ever comes to sweetness lies in Helena Bonham Carter’s Mrs. Lovett, who is hopelessly in love with this throat-slitting lunatic—and even fantasizes about the hopeless prospect of a happy future for the two of them and their “adopted” workhouse charge, Toby (newcomer Ed Sanders). It’s a singularly twisted fantasy—her vision has the three of them in an idyllic seaside setting, but they all have a horror-film pallor and dark eye makeup, and Sweeney is as remote as ever—but it’s the single bit of warmth in the film, apart from the subplot involving Sweeney’s daughter, Johanna (newcomer Jayne Wisener), and his former traveling companion, Anthony Hope (newcomer Jamie Campbell Bower). Bonham Carter also has the film’s most heartbreakingly human moment—when she realizes that it will be necessary to add Toby to the long list of victims if she and Sweeney are to be safe.

An air of doom hangs over the entire film, but it’s never an unpleasant experience—unless, of course, you just don’t like flat-out horror—because it’s done with such style and cheeky assurance. It’s never less than dark, bloody fun, but it is most definitely dark. Simply put, it’s the best horror film in ages and one of the best films of the year. It’s brilliant and bloody—and bloody brilliant. Rated R for graphic bloody violence.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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32 thoughts on “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

  1. Chip Kaufmann

    I wish I could share your enthusiasm for this movie. As an adaptation of the Christopher Bond play on which the musical is based it’s 5 stars all the way. The production design and the cinematography are flawless with Grand Guignol elements that old Tod Slaughter could only have dreamed of making this the best film version of the story of SWEENEY TODD that we are ever likely to see. But this is supposed to be a film version of the Sondheim musical. Depp, Bonham Carter, and the rest of the principals do well enough with their acting and singing given John Logan’s screenplay that minimizes the quirky black humor of the original and removes the musical’s raison d’etre, the unifying thematic number “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” which is akin to removing the “Angel of Music” number from PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Although it’s supposed to be over the top bloody, I found the throat slashings and body dumpings to be overdone. What emerges is an essentially humorless film that places the story first and Sondheim’s music a distant second (4 of the musical’s major numbers have been cut and others shortened). If Joel Schumacher, a far less gifted filmmaker than Tim Burton, can turn out a marvelous version of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA retaining it’s musical elements then I was expecting more from Burton who is one of my favorite contemporary filmmakers.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Well, Chip, we occasionally disagree. This is one of those times. Perhaps if I held the score in higher regard — I’ve never been that warm for it on earlier listenings — I might have more trouble with this (one of the things I don’t like in the score is, in fact,”The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”).

  3. Chip Kaufmann

    I readily admit that I’m a big fan of the Sondheim score although it took me a while to appreciate its complexities as the writing is operatic in nature. According to Wikipedia “The Ballad Of Sweeney Todd” was to have been included with Tom Baker and Christopher Lee among the ghosts in the chorus but was cut due to time constraints. That and the downplaying of the ironic/humorous aspects are what really bothered me. It is truly a remarkable film in many ways, it’s just not what I expected. Considering the overall tone of the movie, the trailers for it were spot on. For once truth in trailers.

  4. Ken Hanke

    The trailers, however, do their damndest to minimize the fact that the film is a musical. And even with the cuts and the literalness of the cuttings, I’d be hard-pressed to call it anything other than a musical.

  5. I don’t think I’d go as far as Mr. Kaufmann in saying that the film was humorless.

    True, the stage production was able to pull off a little bit of a lighter tone in part because of the minimalist set. That and theater audiences weren’t able to see the pallous industrial decay of 19th-century England they way Burton presented it, and that kind of backdrop would have a tendency to drain a lot of humor from the proceedings.

    However, the showing we just saw a few hours ago proved otherwise – most of the audience was cracking up, tentatively at first and then uncontrollably, during the “A Little Priest” number.

    (We saw the film at Cinebarre, which made us very, very glad that they didn’t have tomato soup on the menu.)

  6. Ken Hanke

    Actually, I thought the film was very funny, but I just put it down to how thoroughly sunk in moral depravity I might be.

    Owing to the holiday schedule with this week’s paper — things I normally turn in on Sunday and Monday had to be ready today — I find myself in the unusual position of having a free Sunday and am seriously considering seeing the film again with a “real” audience. The audience I saw it with was certainly real, but it was a small group of mostly media folk (including Chip), which tends to create a different atmosphere.

  7. Walt

    Have to agree with Chip Kaufmann on this one. Having seen the original version and the recent revival version (Cerveris/Lupone) of Sweeney on Broadway, while the film is interesting, it makes Sondheim’s music and lyrics secondary and half of what they were on stage. I am always glad when any Broadway musical makes it into a movie—often that is the only way you get a permanent version of it but for me this film does to the stage version of Sweeney what the movies did for Rent. Not bad but not what I had hoped. Let’s hope Hollywood does a better job when it gets its hands on Spring Awakening.

  8. Ken Hanke

    I suppose it’s inevitable to compare a stage show (assuming you’ve seen it) to its movie incarnation, but it’s really kind of beside the point, since the two are such completely different mediums. Now, yes, I say this as one whose interest in Broadway musicals is…let’s say limited, so I’m not perhaps the best judge. In this case, however, it’s worth noting that Sondheim approved this version and was, for example, in agreement that the “Ballad” needed to go for a film version. Then again, that may also be beside the point, but if you’re going to bring the stage version into it, it ought to be factored in.

    The problem here is that this isn’t just a film of the play, but it’s a Tim Burton film of the play. And that changes things, because when you hire Burton, you’re not hiring a craftsman (think Rob Marshall with CHICAGO), you’re hiring a filmmaker with a complete vision. To expect a more or less straight record of the show is a mistake. This SWEENEY is more a filmmaker’s film than a duplication of the show. (From a purely personal point of view, I found this a good thing, because I’ve tried twice to watch the taped show and have never made it through it. And, yes, I know that taped versions of shows and operas never get anywhere near capturing the sense of the theatrical experience.) The fact is that you’re not going to get canned theatre when you bring in a director with his own vision. That doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to like that vision. But to take Orson Welles’ view that anyone taking on either a film or a stage version of an existing work is entitled to adapt that work to his own vision, I’m not sure that the filmmaker should be faulted for sticking with his vision.

    In the end, I suspect the reaction has more to do with our preconceptions than anything else. I went hoping to see something that was first and foremost a Tim Burton film, which is what I got. Even at that, I don’t think you could fairly say that his film was disrespectful of the material (see either version of ANYTHING GOES or, worse, the film of 50 MILLION FRENCHMEN, where all the songs were reduced to background score).

  9. Walt

    Ken wrote: “The problem here is that this isn’t just a film of the play, but it’s a Tim Burton film of the play. And that changes things, because when you hire Burton, you’re not hiring a craftsman (think Rob Marshall with CHICAGO), you’re hiring a filmmaker with a complete vision. To expect a more or less straight record of the show is a mistake.”

    Not sure if that is what you got from what I wrote but I can assure you that I did not expect simply a “straight record of the show”. While the director certainly is entitled to his vision—and I have nothing against Burton’s vision for the story. In fact, I did like the film. I just would have liked it far better if his vision had been more focused on the music. The film, afterall, WAS based on Sondheim’s musical. It would be one thing if the film had simply been a retelling of the Sweeney Todd story. It wasn’t, it was the film version of the stage show. And while Depp’s fine acting as Sweeney cannot be denied, his voice is certainly not that of Michael Cerveris. And Helena Bonham Carter is certainly not Patti LuPone (Compare each version of “The Worse Pies in London” from the soundtrack and the revival cast album.” Carter sings the song adequately. LuPone acts the song and dynamically adds to the story.

    I guess the point on which we can agree is that in the end our reactions have to do with our expectations based on our preconceptions. You went to see a film by Tim Burton, a director whom you have greatly admired over the long haul. I went to see a Stephen Sondheim musical directed by Tim Burton. And despite any agreement Sondheim may have made in going Hollywood, you got what you wanted and I got what you wanted at the expense of what I wanted.

  10. Ken Hanke

    “It wasn’t, it was the film version of the stage show.”

    See, there I would argue that it was Burton’s version of the stage show, which brings us to an entirely different thing — or an entirely different vision, if you will.

    “And while Depp’s fine acting as Sweeney cannot be denied, his voice is certainly not that of Michael Cerveris. And Helena Bonham Carter is certainly not Patti LuPone (Compare each version of “The Worse Pies in London” from the soundtrack and the revival cast album.” Carter sings the song adequately. LuPone acts the song and dynamically adds to the story.”

    Well, I cannot compare LuPone, since all I’ve seen is the taping of the Lansbury version (or as much of it as I could slog through). Now, on the basis of that, the operative difference for me is that I found Lansbury broad and cartoonish and I had zero emotional investment in her. With Bonham Carter, I actually came to care about the character.

    A friend of mine, who, unlike me, does indeed worship at the altar of Sondheim offered these observation on the changes and the approaches of Depp and Bonham Carter, “One cannot compare what Johnny Depp has put onto film with the work of the others, either on stage or on film. Depp’s SWEENEY is by far, the most driven and the most frightening, mostly due to the cutting of various elements of Sondheim’s score and Hugh Wheeler’s book. Personally, I didn’t miss ‘The Ballad of Sweeney Todd;’ the film doesn’t have to tell us to ‘be afraid of Sweeney,’ it shows us. It shows us in graphic, over-the-top, Grand Guignol fashion — part of Sondheim’s original intent. The cuts also provide for another factor of Sondheim’s original intent: a musical thriller which is also a chamber piece — what the film can do through close-ups, edits and sound cues, provides an intimacy which SWEENEY has rarely had onstge…Miss Lansbury’s performance was right for that venue; but again, her Mrs. Nellie Lovett is a different creation than that of Helena Bonham Carter. Onstage, her music hall antics provided much needed relief from the gore and suspsense going on around her. Helena Bonham Carter’s Lovett presents us with a perfectly believable Victorian woman of little means and limited wind. She inhabits the role and sings it appropriately for the medium.” That pretty much sums up my own take, but with the addition of being more familiar with the show as a show.

    But in the end you’re probably correct — you would have prefered a film that adhered to the play and its theatrical origins, which in all honesty was what I feared. As a result, it delighted me and disappointed you — and Chip. I don’t think there was any way of making all of us happy.

  11. Steve

    Well I’ll wade in here as a fan of the play. I have seen the same version you did Mr. Hanke, and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed in the movie, for the most part.

    I thought the film was amazingly faithful to the stage play, and I thought Tim Burton did a fantastic job with it. Frankly, I was expecting more changes. I too thought the camera work was brilliant, with the exception of the vampire-speed travel through London in the beginning, which I found over the top, and made me feel vaguely motion-sick (from which I do not usually suffer).

    I also though Depp was wonderful in his part.

    I’m even willing to forgive my disappointment for the way the songs were done. Personally, I thought “A Little Priest” would be much better and funnier; it is my favorite song from the play. They kind of made it up to me with “By the Sea”, which I loved, and thought was really well done and funny. The cartoonish color scheme was gorgeous, and really made the fantasy sequence pop, which I loved – even though they cut my favorite line from the song. The dour Sweeney Todd sitting there in a victorian bathing costume in eye-shattering color was pretty hilarious in and of itself. Edward Gorey meets Popeye.

    The dead spot in the movie for me was Carter. She did a good enough job, but never seemed to bring the sense of evil glee to the part that Lansbury did. All of her character’s motivation seemed to come from dire poverty and a dry pragmatism, along with her doomed love. If this was supposed to be dry humor, it was far too dry for me, and I love British-style comedy. Without a whackier Mrs. Lovett to leaven the considerable grimness, the chemistry of the work just didn’t seem right to me. To much black, not enough comedy. I also had a hard time accepting her as the pathetic figure she was supposed to be because she was still suspiciously beautiful.

    Worth seeing to be sure, but I doubt I would see it again.

    I’ll extend a caveat here that a) I was prejudiced for Angela Lansbury’s performance before I saw the movie, and b) I know it really isn’t fair to compare a Tony winning performace to a screen performance.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Having exhausted myself by a solid week’s worth of arguing pretty much these same points on a movie message board I moderate, I probably don’t have the strength to try to counter your arguments against Bonham Carter and for Lansbury. And I doubt it would accomplish anything anyway, except to prove that we will have to agree to disagree. Granting, that I never saw Lansbury onstage and have only seen that videotaped version, I can’t honestly weigh in on Lansbury’s work. Her award was certainly given to her long before that taping that was made on a tour. But I will say that I find her utterly appalling in the taped show. All she needs is baggy pants and seltzer bottle to turn the caricature she’s doing into outright burlesque. That said, I know this broader approach seems to have an appeal in a lot of quarters, but it neither amuses me, nor does it involve me.

    I’ve seen the film four times and have been more impressed with it — and with Bonham Carter — on each viewing. Interestingly, though he’s not posted about it here, subsequent viewings have also had an increasingly positive effect on Chip, even though he still decries the cuts made in the songs. If I were more familiar with the stage version, that might or might not bother me. I know, for example, that much as I love ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, I still find the cut lyrics in “I Am the Walrus” jarring. I don’t mind them being cut, but I know the Beatles songs so well that the omission of lyrics pulls me out of the movie just a bit.

  13. Walt

    Well just to complicate the issue a bit, I don’t think the real comparison is between Bonham Carter and Lansbury but rather between Pattie Lupone and anyone trying to play Mrs. Lovett. I was fortunate to see both Lansbury and Lupone do their versions on Broadway and Lupone was magnificent. If you are interested in getting just a hint of how good she was, I would advise you to rent the DVD of “Sweeney Todd in Concert”. In this version, George Hearn reprises his role as Todd and Neil Patrick Harris play Tobias.

  14. Ken Hanke

    “Well just to complicate the issue a bit, I don’t think the real comparison is between Bonham Carter and Lansbury but rather between Pattie Lupone and anyone trying to play Mrs. Lovett.”

    I also am told by others that the real comparison is between Dorothy Loudun and anyone…and in that instance I was sent links to YouTube clips, and, in all honesty, I what I saw was more music hall hijinks. I think it comes down to a basic preference in styles and general approach. The one thing that I keep coming up against in all this is that Bonham Carter’s Mrs. Lovett seems to me not only be the most human portrayal, but the only one I believe in as a woman of “limited wind.” That, of course, also means that, yes, she’s the least capable of belting out the songs. But as far as singing in character she seems the most realistic of the ones I’ve experienced. For me, that makes her the best choice for film purposes. (Granted, I’ve not heard Lupone, but I’m guessing — from having heard her in other roles — that she’s in the belting it out mode.)

    Then again, perhaps we should all just take the advice of Leigh Hunt and “continue to like that which is likeable in anything and not try to render it inferior by comparing it to something else.” (The quote’s from memory so it’s likely not accurate — and if anyone can provide the exact quote, I’d be mightily grateful.) Of course, it’s not going to happen — especially in the arts — but it’s a nice thought.

  15. TonyRo

    As an avid hater of Johnny Depp’s acting since he was in the first of those ridiculous pirate flicks, I thought I would hate this one. Tim Burton is always a hit or miss with me, but this one was a hit. I think the fact that it was such an unusual musical and that Alan Rickman was in it, won it over for me.

  16. Johnny D

    Honestly I do not know what you guys see in Lupone. I think her and Lansbury were both overblown. With those two by the time I get to “Not while I’m around” it is hard for me to believe they care about anything. Carter hits it spot on. She really made me sympathetic towards her even when she is a most vile character. Burtons version (save for the overly red blood) is not cartoonish in the least. I agree it is more black than humor, but this story is a tragedy. It is a dead on portayal of what happens when no ones does the right thing. I adored it.

  17. Ken Hanke

    I think the overly red blood is a nod to Hammer horror pictures.

  18. Walt

    Johnny D, what can I say other than I cannot agree with you less. Did you actually attend the productions of Sweeney Todd on Broadway with Lansbury and later with Lupone or is your judgment based solely on the filmed recording of the musical?

  19. Johnny D

    OK to the comment on Hammer horror I agree. Now that I think about it I missed Christopher Lee somewhere in this. It would have been cool just to see him do a cameo as one of Sweeneys doomed victims. Now my opinion on Lansbury and Lupone. I guess in my humble opinion I feel like less is more. Lansburys performance I liked but it felt clowney, Lupone (and yes I saw her do this live) was ridiculous. Bad casting if you ask me. She feels like she wants to be singing “Give my regards to Broadway” when she sings “The worst pies in London” Bleccch, get the hook.

  20. Ken Hanke

    “OK to the comment on Hammer horror I agree. Now that I think about it I missed Christopher Lee somewhere in this. It would have been cool just to see him do a cameo as one of Sweeneys doomed victims.”

    At one point Lee was slated to be in the film, but his presence went with the decision to drop “The Ballad.”

    As far as the Bonham Carter vs. stage Mrs. Lovetts, I’m staying out of further discussion, because it just goes in circles.

  21. Ken Hanke

    And a heads-up for admirers of this film, it’ll only be playing at one theater come Friday — and while the Golden Globe wins might have some impact on its box office, I wouldn’t wait too long to catch it again, if that’s on your agenda.

  22. Chip Kaufmann

    While the snow begins to fall, here are my final words on the subject. As Ken said, further viewings have allowed me to appreciate the film even more. I never disliked it in the first place although I gave it 3 stars in Rapid River for reasons stated in my review. It is more Tim Burton’s SWEENEY TODD than Stephen Sondheim’s which is to be expected. A less visionary director would probably have been more faithful to the musical material which I would have found more satisfying. Sondheim himself was closely involved with the film and loved the final results even though he knows how different it is from the stage version. HOWEVER…fans of the musical take note!!! The traveling road show version of the recent NYC revival will be at the Peace Center in Greenville SC January 22-27 so here’s your chance to see the latest rendition of the stage show. Check out their website -www.peacecenter.org- for more details including a videoclip of the production. A word of warning in advance though, the film version is definitely MUCH cheaper.

  23. Ken Hanke

    “A less visionary director would probably have been more faithful to the musical material which I would have found more satisfying.”

    You never know. You might have gotten Chris Columbus — now there’s a director who’s never been accused of being a visionary — and a SWEENEY TODD on a par with his film of RENT. Even granting that I’ve never seen RENT onstage (and never plan to), meaning I can’t tell how faithfully he honored the material, I don’t find the prospect of anything on that level enticing.

  24. Ken Hanke

    A word to the wise — this movie gets cut to two shows a day come Friday. That usually signals that it will be gone the following Friday. Having seen this both on the big screen and on a TV, I can definitely attest that the big screen is the way to see it.

  25. Walt

    “Even granting that I’ve never seen RENT onstage (and never plan to), meaning I can’t tell how faithfully he honored the material, I don’t find the prospect of anything on that level enticing.”

    I have seen RENT on stage—7 times to be exact and as recently as last week. While I do not hate the film of the musical, I certainly don’t think the film captures the spirit of the show. I’m not sure film can very well. I wonder what you thought of/would have thought of the Broadway production of TOMMY, Ken. I’m not sure that a stage musical is any more capable of successfully capturing Russell’s film than I think any film would successfully capture the spirit of the stage show of RENT. I do think that some shows like SWEENEY TODD can become excellent films and some films like KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN can become excellent Broadway shows. But I suspect that one’s preference of artistic medium will ultimately create an almost unavoidable bias for how each is judged.

  26. Ken Hanke

    “I wonder what you thought of/would have thought of the Broadway production of TOMMY, Ken. I’m not sure that a stage musical is any more capable of successfully capturing Russell’s film than I think any film would successfully capture the spirit of the stage show of RENT.”

    I only saw the stage TOMMY when it was done locally a couple years (or more) back. I liked it well enough on its own terms, but, no, it wasn’t the film — any more than the film is the 1969 album. (I know I must’ve liked it better than Ken Russell and Roger Daltrey did, because they went to see the stage show together — and walked out on it together — not the production I saw, of course.) My own basic problem with the stage TOMMY is perhaps the other side of the coin of one of your problems with the film of SWEENEY TODD. I have a basic objection to — or a sense of wrong-headedness about — the attempt of taking rock music and smoothing it out into a kind of Broadway show tune sound with the kind of vocal approach that goes with it. (Of course, lots of folks had the same reaction to what Townshend and Russell did with the album — even though this sidesteps the fact that the film soundtrack — vocals to one side — is very much in the style of the Who’s QUADROPHENIA album which was being recorded at the same time the film was in the works, suggesting that musically the TOMMY film is where Townshend’s head was at the time.)

    Now, taking that same idea and placing it on SWEENEY TODD, which takes the show tune aspect in a different, less show tune-sounding direction, a case could be made for why I prefer the film.

    “But I suspect that one’s preference of artistic medium will ultimately create an almost unavoidable bias for how each is judged.”

    Oh, very, very true. I’m completely upfront about preferring movies to the stage in nearly every regard. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed stage works, but they’re certainly not my first love. And I would never not admit that with very few exceptions I haven’t entirely warmed to musical theatre post-Cole Porter and bemoan the passing of Lorenz Hart causing Richard Rodgers to team up with Oscar Hammerstein. (Now how old-fashioned and curmudgeonly is that!)

  27. Ken Hanke

    A heads-up for anyone interested — Thursday is the last day for SWEENEY TODD on the big screen locally.

  28. Todd

    Went to see Sweeney Todd at Asheville Pizza & Brewing Co. last night. Wowza–great film. Tragic and funny and horrific and bloody and set to a score: all up there on one screen.

    Hanke’s right about needing to see this one in the theatre, and I personally recommend getting a “meathead” pizza to go with it. Mmmm…delicious reality imitating art.

  29. Todd

    Having read through the extensive debate above, above I wonder who you think would be the absolute WORST Mrs. Lovett. Perhaps Hannah Montana? Or Tyler Perry in his padded dragsuit, maybe? Others?

    Also, the swoopy-jerky camera work through London looked like it was lifted from Moulin Rouge. Was Moulin Rouge the first film to use that particular technique/gimmick/movie magic?

  30. Ken Hanke

    I think the fast-motion tracking shot you describe was first used in BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, where it was used far more extensively (BS’ DRACULA is nothing if not filled with overkill) than in either MOULIN ROUGE! or SWEENEY TODD. Isn’t it limited to one shot here?

    I think you’ve created an untoppably awful Mrs. Lovett with Tyler Perry in fat-suit drag.

  31. Walt

    Worst possible Mrs. Lovett? We’ll never know for sure (Alas!) but I think I’d wager the farm that Anna Nicole Smith would have been perfect(ly awful) as Mrs. Lovett.

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