Purveyor of Tall Tales.

Review: Sweeney Todd

I finally got round to seeing Sweeney Todd.

Sweeney Todd

Sweeney Todd tells the tale of the demon barber of Fleet street, an early prototype of the serial killer who first appeared in penny dreadfuls of the early 1800s. Cutting his way through a swathe of victims whilst his partner in crime Mrs Lovett recycles the corpses in the form of meat pies. Waste not want not is what I say.

Basically Burton has taken the 1979 Broadway version of the tale (because lets face it nothing says serial killer like a musical) and turned it into a film. Complete with Hammer Horror blood and crunching sound effects that did not fail to make G whince every time another corpse went down the chute.

Somewhat unsurprisingly I’m a huge Tim Burton fan, I was an easy target: Beetlejuice, Batman and Edward Scissorhands all came out when I was under twelve. Back in the eighties and early nineties there really weren’t that many – I can’t actually think of any – directors unashamedly doing their own thing their own way.

In short Burton was a revelation.

In fact the only really bum note I can ever recall him taking was Planet of the Apes; a film for which he should have had to do serious time in movie prison. Frankly I have no idea why anyone would try to remake Planet, the original really does stand up very well in spite of the lame ape suits. Bonham Carter is the only good thing in that film but that’s more about me and even then the ape suite required several trips to the therapist.

The point being: Burton is alright in my book.

And he nearly lost me with the opening of Sweeney Todd. Now I know it’s a musical, and I expected Burton’s hyper-real, almost comic, visual style but I didn’t expect a song right from the off. To me it created a slight barrier in slipping into the plot, loose that it is, but then you see the genius of Burton at work: Depp starts to sing.

And he’s actually good.

It is clearly his voice: melodic, British (no dicky van Dyke mockney for Mr Depp) but still definitely Depp. He delivers a lusciously lunatic, darkly comedic performance as the psychopathic Todd. An actor who obviously loves his craft without the need to disappear up his own arse – or at least the skill to appear like he doesn’t.

Then there’s Helena Bonham Carter. No one does unhinged like Helena, she’s just brilliant and I’m not the most biased commentator on her so I’ll stop typing now before I’m relegated to the couch.

Not for the faint hearted, this is Burton doing what he does best: darkly funny, bloody fantasy. Oh yeah and they sing some. I loved it.

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