I’ve had several acquaintances like our odd Mr. Todd, but they never hovered in my life very long. They always had somewhere else to go–in a hurry–that I often thought they were bigwigs in some dark commerce or the arts, surgeons or maybe even lawyers at the least. So that when they changed their addresses, my letters to them returned unopened, I assumed they sold their properties and were living off another adventure across the salty seas. Actually, that’s not all together fair. One letter, from a Mac Z. Thumb was returned t’me, opened, with a perfectly formed bloodstain and a smear or two on the flap–a lovely souvenir. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is one of those shady characters. He has a past that would toss you about at night. Your fingernails gauging the bedpost in the moonlight for fear you might never sleep t’dream again. T’is good t’pity and fear the man.
Aptly directed by Michael Reeves. (Who died an agonizing death only a year later from an accidental barbiturate overdose-and that in itself is creepy too.) This British-made drama, originally billed as Edgar Allen Poe’s The Conqueror Worm, is a truly gory affair. Vincent Price plays the malicious Matthew Hopkins, a witch hunter that is more sinful than all the poor souls he brutally tortures combined. This is a nasty psychopath that hires an even nastier psychopathic sidekick to torture and mutilate the innocent while he’s off looking for more.
Before the final credits role, enough blood has splashed across the screen, enough women have screamed their bloody guts out, and enough skin has be ripped, pinched, and stabbed, that I don’t advise having the steak tartar afterwards. Really. I’m quite serious about this. This is hard to watch sometimes or just your thing if you like stopping to look at road kill . Thank goodness the blood is bright orange or more people would loose their lunches instead of laughing their heads off. Lots of Fun extras too! Well worth the bucks my frightfully fine fiends.
The history of the Barber of Fleet Street is as long a winding road as any title character has ventured. Todd himself first appeared in 1846 as a villain of a popular “penny dreadful” (so coined because of the cost & the content) magazine serial entitled The String of Pearls. It was a hit. In 1920 he surfaced on the boards in a melodrama penned by George Dibdin-Pitt simply entitled Sweeney Todd. Then our Mr. Todd made several film appearances in English fare until he landed back on the boards in an American Broadway Musical, music and lyrics by the Great White Way icon Stephen Sondheim. That production transformed the dastardly Todd into a forlorn anti-hero instead of the murderous robber he truly was. Who could complain, really? It starred two titans of the stage Len Cariou as the deranged Sweeney and Angela Lansbury as the scene-stealing, love-starved Mrs. Lovett. And fun was had by all. Sweeney has seen several stage revivals until the Demon Barber waited patiently to be brought back to life by a super star, pretty-boy, actor extraordinaire named mister Johnny Depp–thank you very much.
A Gothic treat, a naughty piece of eye candy that seldom disappoints, Mr. Burton’s blood ballet is a lovely slice of art. It is not the penny magazine or the stage play or even the musical it was based upon, but an entirely new beast. A terrifying opera with fangs where Depp sings his bloody heart out. He holds it up for all to see, still beating, dripping crimson-goo as he rock-stars all over the celluloid screen. Wonderful. See it on DVD in a Deluxe set with all the pomp and circumstance affordable for the price. Just remember to pay homage to a villain on equal footing as The Ripper, play it at the witching hour with the lights out, a few candles burning around the house. A glass of red wine, a potpie perhaps, and, oh yes… there will be blood.
Brazillia R. Kreep
THE ROT OF SWEENEY TODD
In the attic there he trots
Sweeney Todd connives n’ plots
Of ways t’spill the blood of men
Then splatter more t’say amen
T’nightmare’s of his great love lost
Aught t’avenge at any cost
Sharp razor blades
Meat Pies in spades
The Demon Barber preps n’ shaves
While Mrs. Lovetts bakes her pies?
Tongues t’thumbs wee toes n’ eyes?
Though a price this Todd will pay
Sweltering pails of blood t’weigh
T’pour them over frozen heart
T’thaw they pain t’dare depart
From bloody attic in the sky
T’down below were demon’s fry
T’devil’s purge by fires hot
Fore’er our Sweeney Todd will rot