Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Tim Burton

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Tim Burton
Though distinctly a product of Tim Burton’s aesthetic sensibilities, in his cinematic adaptation of Sweeney Todd, the king of gothic fantasy humbly takes a backseat to composer Stephen Sondheim’s brilliant source material. One can easily see Burton’s attraction to the macabre plot and dark humour of Sondheim’s musical stage play. A once simple barber returns to dank, rat-infested London after years of false imprisonment, seeking vengeance upon the judge who wronged him. Claiming the name Sweeney Todd, he visits his former home on Fleet Street, above Mrs. Lovette’s meat pie shop. The duo eventually devise a sinister business arrangement, each with a separate and rather single-minded objective. Barely a word of the story is spoken — this is a full-fledged musical movie. But though song and music are the main methods of storytelling, Sweeney Todd is not a traditional movie musical. There are no random chorus lines doing elaborately choreographed dances through the streets; the characters express themselves in song form, beautifully singing succinct dialogue; and Sondheim’s harmonically dense and complex music freely bleeds emotional undercurrents like so many swipes of Sweeney’s razor. Apparently the gallons of fake blood Sweeney frees from his victims resemble red paint as homage to the type of life-sauce employed in the stage version, and it doesn’t hurt to soften the immense volume of gore. It’s a little disturbing but mostly hilarious to see Burton miming kill slices at his crew while they strive to perfect spurting mechanisms in "A Bloody Business,” one of the many technical special features. It’s inspiring to see Sondheim so personally involved in the musical features and the first disc’s "making of,” which is more a telling of how the production came into motion (the second "making of” is essentially rehashed interviews and cobbled together shots from other features). The award-winning costume design is well explored, as is the mixed-method set design (there’s a lot of partial CGI at work). Extra features on the history of the Sweeney Todd myth and the Grand Guignol theatre are interesting but unnecessary. Ultimately, the content that allows Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp to joke around with each other is the most entertaining. A press conference and live interview included are cheekily hysterical, and almost make up for the lack of a commentary track. (Dreamworks/Paramount)