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Harry loves the delicious meat pies of SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET - that Burton is some cook!

SWEENEY TODD is Tim Burton’s best film since ED WOOD – which I consider to be his very best film to date. That said, upon multiple viewings it is possible this film will become my favorite Burton film. It is that perfect subject matter for him… a hybrid of Disney and Bava and Corman. In structure it is a sweeping love story between a young innocent man and a caged would be Repunzel… but then there’s that rare character that you never see in a Disney fantasy musical. A bitter psychopathic father figure that is out to revenge the horror of his own life. I would call this Tim Burton’s Grimmest Fairy Tale. The story of SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET is sort of like the first version of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Alleged to have been based on a real series of crimes from around 1800 – though nobody seems to be able to find any real evidence about it. However, in the mid-1800s the story started appearing in literature. And from their it became a popular urban legend of a Barber that slit the throats of his clients and with his lady friend baked them into meat pies and served them back to folks of the town. A delicious Grand Guignol tale that is, simply irresistible. And as a work of film, set to Sondheim’s songs it is very much the great dark musical fantasy horror work. Now here’s a warning for all of you. If you can’t stand ALL SINGING MUSICALS – be forewarned, this is almost entirely a singing film. With that form of dialogue known as SING-TALKING. Personally, I’m a big fan of the musical form, from the early days of the musicals where the songs were incorporated in the lives of performers… to the big 50’s and 60’s era of fully produced musical theater on screen. The film begins with a young Anthony Hope, played by Jamie Campbell Bower, upon a bow of a great sailing ship breaking through the fog heading toward London singing:
I have sailed the world beheld its wonders from the dardinells, to the mountains of Peru, But there's no place like London!
He’s singing with the passion and the hope of a young Disney hero, impossibly young, boyish and handsome – entirely pure and hopeful. And then, right when he’s at his height, the camera pulls back to make room for the joyless, tormented, world weary Sweeny Todd, who spits out with barely restrained disgust and loathing:
There's a whole in the world like a great black pit and the vermin of the world inhabit it and its morals aren't worth what a pin can spit and it goes by the name of London. At the top of the hole sit the privileged few Making mock of the vermin in the lonely zoo turning beauty to filth and greed... I too have sailed the world and seen its wonders, for the cruelty of men is as wondrous as Peru but there's no place like London!
And it is with that spitfire bit of song that Sweeney’s entire philosophy of London is given. You see, he doesn’t just loathe those that did him and his ill. He blames the whole of London, all of those that did nothing – and with that he sets himself as judge, juror and executioner of them all. It is, absolutely delightful. Depp’s SWEENEY TODD is not the showy work of Jack Sparrow, he isn’t playing a character that can even be compared. Sparrow is about openly speaking and wanton physicality. Sweeney is a man boiling on the inside, he has experienced torture and confinement for years… he lost his wife and child and the center of his rage is upon the man that did him that wrong. He kills many, but there’s only one whom he’ll take pleasure in slicing. He hates himself as much as he loathes all others. He blames himself as being a fool to have been taken so unaware and for once being as blind as Antony. Depp’s voice isn’t terribly harmonic, but it’s due to the lack of joy in his voice here. He’s as black as the great black pit and all the people who are filled with shit. He’s a tormented soul and his singing reflects that. Though, you shouldn’t get the feeling that he’s “one note” he isn’t. The first time we see the fire in his eyes and the charge of purpose is with the song, MY FRIENDS – which is a wonderfully bizarre duet – where he is singing with passion and communal sorrow for his razors, his old friends that he will use to exact his revenge…. Meanwhile, Mrs. Lovett (played by Helena Bonham Carter) is singing hoping to catch his eye and share in this reunion, but Sweeney is all about the blades and the purpose they will help him realize. My favorite song / scene with Depp is when he has the Judge (played by Alan Rickman) sitting in his chair and is relishing the opportunity to give him a second lower smile – and they’re singing PRETTY WOMEN. PRETTY WOMEN is possibly one of the most dementedly awesome moments I’ve seen in a film ever. I have never seen SWEENEY TODD on stage, so this was all new – and when the Judge is singing about the specific pretty woman that he has his sites honed in upon… it’s Todd’s friggin’ daughter – and Todd is goading him forward, all the while he’s readying to slice the man’s throat. The song is lovely, twisted and amongst the most ironically cheerful moments of the film. Rickman’s Judge is thoroughly brilliant throughout. He is a particularly loathsome character obsessed with the beauty of Todd’s former wife, and now that she’s out of the way – his magnificent obsession has been to raise the child and groom her for his own perverted means. It’s one of those… so wrong it’s right things. It’s my fave Rickman role in quite some time. And of all his moments – my favorite is when he takes Anthony (the boyish would-be hero and lover) into his study and begins to insinuate a sordid life for the young sailor… “Oh, yes … such practices … the geishas of Japan … the concubines of Siam .. the catamites of Greece … the harlots of India … I have them all here .. Drawings of them …” Then he looks at Anthony and sings, “All the vile things you’ve done with your whores!” Rickman absolutely is remarkable in the scene… coveting and longing for the dirty women of the world – while loathing the boy who he assumes has lived out his fantasies. It’s a great great scene. One of many for him. However, the character that probably a ton of you are waiting to hear about is Sacha Baron Cohen’s Signor Adolfo Pirelli, the greatest barber in the world – or so he claims. I’m happy to report that Sacha is utterly brilliant and hilarious in that role. During THE CONTEST folks are going to go friggin’ nuts over him – and this is exactly the sort of role that the Academy might nominate for a Supporting Actor nod. It’s a delicious and wondrous character and Cohen blew the audience away with this performance. And I expect that every time this movie plays that beginning with the introduction of Pirelli’s character – the mass audience is going to fall head over heels for the film. His scenes are the lightest and most fun of the film (in a traditional mainstream way). Me – my favorite moments are all the deliciously wrong and twisted scenes… like the song, A LITTLE PRIEST – where they discuss the meat for Mrs. Lovett’s Meat Pies or PRETTY WOMEN number or the utterly insane and crazed BY THE SEA number. Now my favorite character in the entire film is played by a young boy that has no previous film experience that I can find. His name? Ed Sanders and he plays Toby aka Tobias Ragg. Watching a young lad be this brilliant at this age… just left me flabbergasted. I haven’t been this stunned by a singing child since Jack Wild’s The Artful Dodger in OLIVER! When this kid begins his barkering song for Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir. Later when he’s chugging rum like I did Halloween night – we fall that much more in love with him. He’s being a naughty boy, like boys used to be when forced into hard labor and hard lives. Shame the world changed. Watching a boy forced to indentured slavery – reminds you of times when kids were good for something. Heh. His character is the most grounded and realistic character in a film made of characters that think only of themselves. He has the soul to care for others, value human life and well – Ed Sanders – I hope this is a beginning of a beautiful career – because it’s easily my favorite character in the whole film. Now – let’s talk about how this is one of the most lush and beautifully captured films I’ve seen. Victorian England has never looked better. Dariusz Wolski (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films and DARK CITY) makes a perfect partner as Burton’s DP. By the time you see his final shot – you’ll just be drooling. Dante Ferretti’s amazing production design is again amazing. At every level the film works. I can not wait to see this film again, it’s easily one of my favorites this year. I feel this was one of those perfect material, perfect cast resulting in the best work from Burton in over a decade. And that’s a great thing for all of us.

Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 2, 2007, 5:52 a.m. CST

    good morning

    by keekthesneek

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 5:54 a.m. CST


    by Nordling

    Terrific review. I'm pretty hyped now.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 5:58 a.m. CST

    10 minutes

    by Mastidon

    The 10 minutes I saw of it completely blew me away. Can't wait to see the rest!

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 5:58 a.m. CST

    right on

    by palinode

    I have the entire soundtrack to the play memorized. I'm not a huge Tim Burton fan, but I'll be showing up for this one.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 6:05 a.m. CST

    glad to hear burton

    by palewook

    has put out another winner. he's spotty but when he's on, he's an artist of amazing ability.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 6:15 a.m. CST

    "makes a perfect partner as Burton's DP"

    by darquelyte

    So, now ole Timmy's making pornos?

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 6:32 a.m. CST

    I don't normally like musicals in film form, but...

    by rbatty024

    I'll definitely be there for Sweeny Todd.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 7:04 a.m. CST

    the gore is exquisite!


    Gorgeous swashes of blood cascading from necks like the fountains of the Bellagio! And the body drops... crunchingly cruel!

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 7:11 a.m. CST

    Watching Sweeney

    by Jaws Wayne

    So Harry, did you watch a DVD screener of Sweeney Todd while nervously surfing on a laptop as well? Since you mentioned you did both at the same time ALL of the time, I'm not sure I have to take your moviewatching and opinions all too serious, it probably makes no sense, but that kinda dissapointed me .

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 7:15 a.m. CST

    Have a little shepherd's pie peppered with actual shepherd...

    by lettersoftransit

    Graat songs. I usually hate musicals, which are too often filled with dancing sailors tapping and singing about nothing. To this day I haven't been able to sit completely through damn yankees or even singing in the rain. But sweeney had me from the get-go on stage and this sounds good enough I am already planning to see it at least twice. Can't wait to see how they do the song to Joanna, which was another favorite (along with pretty women). Father and would-be boyfriend yearning for the girl, Sweeney cutting throats while singing sweetly about his daughter.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 7:16 a.m. CST

    Fingers crossed

    by kwisatzhaderach

    Burton's been off the boil for a decade now, he's never topped Beetlejuice, Batman and Ed Wood.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 7:23 a.m. CST

    Is it another puppet movie?

    by Abominable Snowcone

    With Johnny Depp's vocal talents, or is it live action, with the real Johnny Depp?

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 7:32 a.m. CST


    by Knuckleduster

    But I just can't imagine it ever being a better film than Ed Wood. I just don't think Burton will ever manage that level of control again. Speaking of control, Headgeek, how's Johnny in this? I can't help thinking that his campy, quirky persona is gonna get old and tiresome one of these days. I'd love to see him take on a role as dead serious as something Penn or Daniel Day-Lewis would do; something without that little wink at the audience we always get from him. Wonder if he's truly capable of doing that.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 7:40 a.m. CST

    Harry, how'd you see it?

    by Bluereader

    I'm just wondering if it was a screener or did you see it in a theater? The reason I'm asking is that this seems likes a flix that screams big screen and if you gave it such a rave on a flat screen it must truly kick ass on the big one.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 7:42 a.m. CST

    Has anyone seen Matthew Bourne's Edward Scissorhands?

    by Knuckleduster

    I was fortunate enough to go watch his brilliant little ballet (based on the Burton film) at Sadler's Wells in London early last year. What an amazing experience! It's just one of those sweet memories that will always stay with me and , dare I say it, more special than even the film itself.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 8:26 a.m. CST

    Love the play

    by smeagol2

    Great play. One of my favs. Is Giles in this? I know Anthony Head said he filmed some stuff but dont know if that made the film........

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 8:32 a.m. CST

    The Demon Barber of Beat Street

    by tonagan

    Sort of like Sweeney Todd, but with more breakdancing.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 8:44 a.m. CST

    I noticed nothing said about Bonham Carter

    by Purgatori

    How is she? Since she's like in the top 3 of the credits?

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 8:45 a.m. CST


    by Thunderbolt Ross

    It's the worst

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 8:56 a.m. CST

    I hope this is better than Wonka

    by photoboy

    That one really missed the mark I thought, ordinarily I'd expect Burton to be perfect for Dahl but with Wonka it just felt lifeless and dull.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 8:58 a.m. CST

    Sleepy Hollow?

    by Tomo

    That was a better film than Ed Wood! *Runs away, hides*

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 9:05 a.m. CST

    You make it sound Delightful Harry but...


    As soon as the warbling starts I hope it don't turn me right off like that insufferable Moulan Rouge shit which made me walk!<P>and by Pretty Woman you mean a song about a pretty woman don't you ? Not the actual ditty by Roy Orbison about Julia Roberts coz that would raise my arse from the seat quicker than Like a B#Virgin by Jim Broadbent!!!

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 9:18 a.m. CST

    But Harry, how is the singing itself?!?!?!

    by Jbud

    From the previous talkbacks you should know that for us musical afficionados, maybe the biggest caveat about this whole film is that the music is meant for highly trained and capable singers and, especially since the trailers are avoiding all the vocals, we have no idea how the cast has handled it!

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 9:19 a.m. CST



    Used several times as a description of a scene? Are you hungry big guy?

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 9:26 a.m. CST

    I don't like Ed Wood that much

    by CherryValance

    I prefer most of Burton's other movies really, starting with Big Fish and The Nightmare Before Christmas. So I'm doubting that I'll even consider this Burton's best musical. Hmm... the lack of comments about the quality of singing from the cast also worries me. However I've read on another reputable site that they consider this the frontrunner for Best Picture. So at this point the more I read, the more confused I get. I can't wait to see for myself but after two viewings in one week of Across the Universe, which I lurved, I'm not going to be happy with subpar singing. This isn't out 'til Christmas right? *sigh*

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 9:33 a.m. CST

    Thank god

    by henrydalton

    There was, as ever, some terrible grammar and writing in that review, but I'll chalk that down to enthusiasm ;) I've been so disappointed with almost all of Burton's output since Ed Wood (Mars Attacks and Sleepy Hollow aside, they were very fun, if hardly classics), so I'd love to believe he's finally got his mojo back. Oh, and Knuckleduster, I saw the Bourne ballet (now THAT should be a Matt Damon film), and thought it was unfortunately pretty patchy, but it did have some brilliant moments (I saw it a few days before Christmas so the finale snowfall was really special :)

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 9:38 a.m. CST

    I was in a Sweeny Todd production...

    by Sevenfeet

    ...back in college. The production was notable in that one of the chorus girls was then freshman student Mary McCormack who went on to movie and TV roles in Private Parts, Deep Impact, K-PAX and many others. Doing Sweeney Todd in college was a blast. We probably had one of the better college productions, with excellent set design including a two story Lovett's pie shop that could be quickly moved on and off stage by members of the chorus (including myself and my future wife). We also managed to rent a trick barber chair prop used by many of the Sweeney Todd productions nationwide. But we had a great cast...Joanna was played by now-professional Vienna-based opera singer Liesl Odinweller when she was a 20 year old college junior. Done right, Sweeney Todd is an awesome story and I'm surprised it took so long for it to get to film. But there are some things that prevent it from being good theater. Most movies these days have happy endings or at least tidy resolutions. Not Sweeney Todd. This is opera! Everybody dies! You know all of these characters are doomed, but you can't look away. My wife and I will be together in the theater on opening weekend to see this one and if you hear someone in the theater quickly singing the songs to himself, that would be me. :-)

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 9:59 a.m. CST

    How'd you see this 2 mos. early!?

    by Sith Witch

    You usually provide a context for your advance screenings. I for one though Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was his best since Ed Wood, so I'm pumped to see this one! And P.S.: Harry, have you ever seen Borat yet?

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 10:08 a.m. CST

    My wife saw the musical back in the 80's...

    by Johnny Law

    It really freaked her out - she's already explained that I'll be watching this one by my onesies.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 10:28 a.m. CST


    by deadshot07

    I've always been a little suspicous of the ones at my local gas station. Oh well. They taste good.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 11:12 a.m. CST

    Wow! Best since Ed Wood?

    by Raymar

    But I think "sing-talking" might be too much for me.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 11:23 a.m. CST

    Soooooo according to Harry,

    by skimn

    the trailer is very misleading, featuring a sliver of singing versus the movie itself. I don't think modern audiences are as aware of Sweeney Todd as they were for Dreamgirls and Chicago, so it'll be interesting when people state, "Err, whats with all this singing..?" And anyone who suggests that Sondheim's music be replaced by dialogue, needs a lesson in the history of theatre.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 11:45 a.m. CST

    You can't go wrong with Burton and Depp

    by Reel American Hero

    This sounds awesome, in my opinion Burton is the best director for this twisted story. I've never had the privilige to see the play, but I've been intrigued by it ever since I'd heard of it in my drama class in high school. I'll definitely be there opening night.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 11:46 a.m. CST

    I love Tim Burton but I felt Willy Wonka was a bit...

    by rbatty024

    of a letdown. Most of the problems stemmed from the fact that the original Gene Wilder version was far superior. Depp tried to avoid comparisons to Wilder's performance by drastically changing the character, but he still couldn't escape the original. I once heard that Burton had to beg the studios to let him put Depp in his films, but now they're suggesting he put Depp in his films. It just goes to show that if you do things on your own terms for long enough, good things can happen.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 11:48 a.m. CST

    I don't get all the hate for musicals.

    by Barry Egan

    People can suspend their disbelief for giant gorillas and Middle Earth and Freddy Krueger and Spider-man but can't for people expressing intense emotion through song. Some of the greatest American films are musicals. The strange thing to me is people genreally love music so why do they not like musical films. Hairspray was a really fun night out at the movies with a great song score by Marc Shaiman (odddly the film was a commercial and critical success and sites like this mostly ignored it as if it didn't exist). Most "geeks" love Shaiman's song score in the South Park movie but won't see Hairspray, which kind of baffles me. It's like being a Beatles fan but refusing to listen to John Lennon's solo work. If we are all supposed to be film fans shouldn't we be fans of all kinds of films? Is the musical hate a gay thing? It's a stereotype but since musicals are associated with gay men is that why people say they hate them? Are people really that insecure in their own sexuality? That they thnk seeing a certain kind of fim will make them gay or make people think they might be gay? That's a really sad commentary but it says far more about the individual person.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 11:53 a.m. CST


    by Pound Sand

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 11:59 a.m. CST

    pound sand

    by bunkyboo

    what does the INO stand for?

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 12:03 p.m. CST

    Sugggesting that musical hate is a GAY thing...

    by TheGhostWhoLurks

    is as IDIOTIC as saying people who LIKE musicals are gay. Most people who don't like musicals simply feel that they're annoying, and having people spontaneously break into song and dance is ridiculous.<p>I happen to like musicals because they're just fun, but I'm not going to start denigrating folks simply because they don't feel the same. The fact that you DID, Barry, is a really sad commentary but it says far more about you, than anyone else.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 12:05 p.m. CST

    INO = In Name Only

    by TheGhostWhoLurks

    Just so's ya know.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 12:07 p.m. CST

    I was skeptical at first, but sounds good.

    by jimmay

    Maybe, after the mediocrity of Corpse Bride and Big Fish, the obnoxious Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the abyssmal Planet of the Apes, it'll be okay to like Tim Burton again. I still wish he'd challenge himself with different actors, though, instead of playing it safe with Depp and Bonham Carter; doesn't say much of his ability to direct actors very well if he needs ones that share his perspective.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 12:13 p.m. CST

    wonka was amazing

    by sbessiso

    and i personally despise musicals. but wonka was sadistic and fun. the special effects were creative, it was dark and yet fun. the imax print was spectacular. but then again, i was on 3 hits of strong acid

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 12:17 p.m. CST

    Barry Egan

    by jimmay

    I think the reluctance towards musicals has more, at least for me, to do with the fact that most musicals are so melodramatic and unabashedly sentimental. The only musicals I can stand are ones that either don't take themselves seriously or have a naturally irreverent style (Little Shop of Horrors, Rocky Horror Picture Show, South Park, etc.). I hated Chicago, for example, because it lacked any semblance of a sense of humor, had an uninteresting plot, and was about as subtle as an uppercut to the testicles, leaving it as little more than a long, gratuitous, musical porn.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 12:21 p.m. CST

    the joy of song

    by bunkyboo

    most musical dislikers are not people who sing, or grew up around singing, experiencing the freedom and joy od expressing onself in song. Many feel embarassed by singing. I have many friends who were ridiculed for attemping to sing at an early age, or singing poorly. This could be factor. Also, I had the privledge of growing up in a household where music and singing was encouraged. We attended musical theater and enjoyed musical films together. It broadened our perspective and brought us closer, despite other differences. This used to be a country where people weren't afraid to sing- in bars, living rooms, public gatherings- in fact, you were seen as odd if you didn't join in on the fun. People became too shy about singing in the last 25 to 30 years. Allow kids to sing freely at home, bring singing music classes back to public schools, and stop being so damn closed to musical theater. Popular music is so narrow these days already.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 12:28 p.m. CST


    by jimmay

    I agree, and yet karaoke is so popular. It's weird, its like singing is only okay if you're drunk in a dimly lit tavern where not too many people can see or hear you. It's almost a guilty pleasure for people.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 1:03 p.m. CST

    They sing it almost entirely?

    by viola123

    Yes! That's going to be awesome. I so want clips!!

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 1:11 p.m. CST


    by Barry Egan

    Maybe I didn't communicate clearly but what I was trying to suggest was the the hate people have form musicals is based on homophobia. People in talk backs are always dismissing musicals and calling them "gay." I see that sentiment in talkbacks all the time.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 1:27 p.m. CST

    As a fan of the play, this gives me a lot of hope.

    by Bungion Boy

    I was really worried that a lot of songs would be left out and that a lot of the others would just be converted to dialogue. I'm especially happy to hear that Pretty Women is there, as it's one of the best songs from the show. I'm still a little wary of Depp in this part. Sweeney should have a great singing voice, but if he gives a great performances all the same, I'll be happy.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 1:28 p.m. CST

    fuck musicals.

    by BMacSmith

    i dont hate anything more

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 1:32 p.m. CST

    Sounds like Burton's back to being Burton

    by Pipple

    The creative genius, Not the remake-guy

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 1:35 p.m. CST

    But is the blood CG?

    by Kirbymanly

    I hope not

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 1:40 p.m. CST

    You communicated clearly, Barry...

    by TheGhostWhoLurks

    But it's simply a load of hogwash. Some people simply don't like musicals. It has little, if anything, to do with "homophobia." A lot of people just don't find them appealing or entertaining.<p> Blindly labeling people who don't like them as "homophobes" is more than a little offensive and isn't likely to win folks over.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 1:50 p.m. CST

    How was Timothy Spall?

    by Alfred_Packer

    I dont know the play well, but I liked his singing in Topsy-Turvy, does he get any numbers in this?

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 2:59 p.m. CST

    Barry Egan

    by rbatty024

    Interesting post. I'll admit that it's difficult for me to get into musicals on screen. While I don't frequent theater musicals, I do find them easier to take on the stage. I think it does have something to do with suspension of disbelief. I can take giant gorillas because it a well integrated part of a fantasy world. Musicals too often are set in our world but with people who suddenly break out in song. It's too disconcerting for me. Oh, and Ghost, I don't think he was saying everyone who does not like musicals is homophobic, but he is putting that out there as one reason. I've seen plenty of people gay-bash when talking about musicals (or Brian Singer) on this site. That doesn't mean everyone who dislikes them (I include myself) is a homophobe just a segment of the musical disliking population. Your tautology, "people just don't find them appealing" isn't helpful. Like it or not there are reasons we like or dislike something, even if we ourselves are unaware of these reasons.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 3:05 p.m. CST

    Stephen Sondheim

    by BestUsernameEver

    Read this to find out more about Sweeney Todd and why Sondheim kicks ass:

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 3:22 p.m. CST

    I've been nervous about this one...

    by chaplinatemyshoe

    ...I'm not the biggest Tim Burton fan (I like maybe one out of every three movies he makes), and it's just hard for me to envision Depp and Carter living up to the original cast show. I just don't want him to screw up my favorite musical. That said, if you're someone who doesn't like musicals, you should really check out Sondheim's work. It's definitely been begging for a major screen adaptation for sometime. I'm kind of surprised it's taken this long...

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 3:47 p.m. CST

    Geez Harry....

    by skimn

    "gorgeous swashes of blood cascading.." and your description of the virgin blood bath in Hostel do like to eroticize bloodletting a bit don't you?

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 4:09 p.m. CST

    Excellent News Harry.

    by Lashlarue

    Although, I'd probably give Stephen Sondheim much more credit. The whole musical is really about the begining of the Industrial Revolution, and it's effects on humanity. Do yourself a favor, and look for the DVD of the original musical with George Hearns and Angela Langsbury. It's fantastic!

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 4:34 p.m. CST

    Yeah, but no Danny Elfman is a bummer and a half!!

    by Drath

    Having not heard the original Sondheim music, I can't say if I'd prefer that to an Elfman remix, but I sure do think I will miss Elfman's hand in any Burton directed outing. And I find it kind of suspect, Harry, that you like best Burton's films without Elfman scoring. Not that Ed Wood was bad or that Howard Shore was terribly inferior, but I think there's something wrong about that coincidence just the same. I also haven't disliked a Tim Burton movie apart from Marz Attacks and Planet of the Apes, and also I think Batman Returns was frought with problems. But so far any time Burton works with his avatar Depp, it's been great. I guess I don't like holding up Ed Wood as the best of the Burton movies, just as I don't like someone trying to tell me which Miyazaki movie is the best.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 4:59 p.m. CST

    Ed Wood

    by Prossor

    how fitting the movie on the most underrated filmmaker is also the best of a directors/star's. my favorite 90s film.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 5:32 p.m. CST

    I've always felt that a musical was like a porn flick with a plo

    by Reel American Hero

    In that both start out usually with a scene showing what you paid to see, then some plot, and then some more singing/sex which may or may not advance the story, and then the return back to the dialouge, etc. Which isn't to say that I dislike either genre by the way, I just thought it was interesting.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 5:56 p.m. CST

    You lost me at "Musical"

    by manuk666

    Been reading you for a long time Harry (maybe 1999?) love your reviews and love the site. I also like Tim Burton and I´m pretty disappointed I´m going to miss your fave of his movies; but sadly, musicals just kill me... with all due respect to those who love them

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 6:01 p.m. CST


    by Puddleglum

    blatherin blatherskite, you morons. When did "gay" become a synonym for "shitty"? When I was a kid if something sucked we just said it SUCKED or was SHITTY. <p> ALthough I guess if one musical liked another musical, instead of a non-musical, would that make it gay?? oh jesus look at this mess.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 6:31 p.m. CST

    Never before have I so badly wanted Harry to be right

    by IndustryKiller!

    If it's true and Burton really has returned to form after a string of completely mediocre movies then god bless us all. I was watching The Nightmare Before Christmas the other night lamenting about how brilliant the man used to be. It's time for an encore.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 6:52 p.m. CST


    by godhelpus

    I think you're riding the buzz of seeing the movie so fresh, no way its better than Ed Wood, which wasn't really THAT great to begin with anyway, at least not Wild Strawberries great, maybe kind of American great, the only thing that Burton ever did that came close was maybe Pee Wee's big Adventure, funny how the talkback isn't long as this page, everyone's all about the superheroes on this site

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 7:01 p.m. CST

    SWEENEY TODD will hotly divide folks


    But it'll go straight down the line of people that love musicals versus those that can't stand the sing-talking. That said, I think there will be a lot of folks that so get into the perfect naughty gorey Victorian vibe - that they won't mind the singing at all. Me - I'm a musical lover - but I remember when NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS came out - there was a significant portion of the audience that didn't dig the singing. On Crack, they were... but it seemed to take 5 years for everyone to agree it was brilliant. I was on board from the beginning. Loving the hell out of that film. BUT this is an incredibly violent musical - there really has been nothing like this. In LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS you never saw vicious human mutilation. ROCKY HORROR and PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE didn't do that either. The play has been a part of society for quite some time, but I feel the film will shock audiences - which is AWESOME. And the last shot is BRILLIANT!

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 7:20 p.m. CST


    by Barry Egan

    I stand alongside you in my bewilderment at what films interest people on this site. I would think that people who claim to be film "geeks" (I am really growing to hate that term) would like all kinds of movies. I guess "geek" is a limited term referring only to people who like sci fi, horror, superhero films. "Cool" movies, it turns out, really aren't all that cool.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 7:44 p.m. CST

    Tim Burton

    by RogueIntruder

    BettleJuice and Ed Wood are his greatest achievements. NExt

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 7:55 p.m. CST

    Tad disappointed it's not Elfman

    by The Chosen

    When i first heard of this, i didn't know it was based on an existing play, so i figured Danny Elfman would sign the music in this movie, and i thought "Depp/Burton Singing killer rampage??? That's the reason God made Danny Elfman!" Too bad it isn't him. Still looking forward to see it!

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 9:27 p.m. CST

    No Danny Elfman = I'm there.

    by ZeroCorpse

    Seriously. Danny Elfman peaked with Beetlejuice and Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, and ever since then he's been plagiarizing himself over and over. I HATE his current scores. He has no new tricks, and I can spot an Elfman tune within the first three notes because they're all pretty damned identical. <p> Oingo Boingo rocked. Elfman's recent scores don't.<p> So yes, I LOVED Ed Wood because it was Burton at his best, without Danny Elfman's crap repetitive scoring to bog it down and overdose us with the sounds of de-tuned string sections, children's choirs singing "lala lala", and a variety of church and tubular bells gonging at the end of every measure to punctuate the film, just in case we, the audience, didn't get that we were supposed to be shocked/startled/amused/etc. <p> I'm looking forward to this one because it's got a great cast and it's material that Burton can't screw up by filming "his vision" (see "Planet of the Apes", "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", and "Sleepy Hollow" for examples of how he can make a story fall flat by overdoing it with his wonky "vision") -- Well, this just sounds awesome, and I'll have to check it out. Knowing that Elfman had nothing to do with this makes me extremely happy. As far as I'm concerned, Elfman was a heavy weight around Burton's neck that needed to be dropped. <p> And yes, Elfman's theme music for other movies sucks too. The Spider-Man theme sucks, especially.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 9:52 p.m. CST

    The original Batman 89 score...

    by ZeroCorpse

    The theme song is one of Elman's best... But the rest of the score loses ground as it progresses. I do have it on CD (one of the first CDs I purchased, actually) and it has a certain charm, but most of it doesn't hold up over time. <p> I think what bugs me about Elfman is he manages to make classical music that is *dated*. It doesn't seem possible but he actually makes scores that sound great in the year they're produced, and then sound trite and silly a decade later. That's a pretty neat trick for classical music. <p> As I said, he plagiarizes himself. Batman was one of the last decent things he did, and then he just plucked bits and pieces from Batman, Beetlejuice, and Pee-Wee to get his current stuff. He needs to broaden his scope. He needs to stop using the same instruments in the same, exact ways for every score he does. He needs to back off the children's choir completely. He needs to stop making scores that end abruptly, on a percussive strike that sounds like it was inspired by "Shave and a haircut". <p> Mostly, I think he needs to take a break from scores and go back to rock music, where he excelled.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 9:57 p.m. CST

    Elfman's recent music is completely interchangable...?

    by Osmosis Jones

    How do Corpse Bride, Big Fish, Charlotte's Web, and The Kingdom sound alike? Elfman doesn't even do that OOMPA-OOMPA stuff much anymore.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 10:05 p.m. CST

    Ed Wood...

    by 5 by 5

    ...seriously sucked, but this movie intrigues me.

  • Nov. 2, 2007, 11 p.m. CST


    by SeattleBuff

    man oh man these talks get boring whenever a musical is mentioned. the back and forth and bickering and homophobia and amazing ignorance is incredible. it's a movie genre. it's been around since Al Jolson first talked...and sang! Human beings display their talent through song and dance. Not just comic book action and special effects. OK, OK, some of you don't like them or don't "get" them. Relax already! All the same, there are millions of people that love the genre onstage or on screen. OK, now, let's just discuss the film.

  • Nov. 3, 2007, 2:20 a.m. CST

    Great, now bring on Repo!

    by oisin5199

    The horror musical with Tony Head (Giles from Buffy) and Ogre from Skinny Puppy. Isn't Tony Head in this one too?

  • Nov. 3, 2007, 3:09 a.m. CST

    oisin5199 Thats what i want to know

    by smeagol2

    I was hoping Harry would say wheather or not he is in it but no word if Giles got a cameo or what.

  • Nov. 3, 2007, 4:17 a.m. CST

    Is it true...

    by MrTrilby

    ...that they've cut all the chorus music?

  • Nov. 3, 2007, 4:21 a.m. CST

    burton's nuts, depp is nuts...

    by theonecalledshoe

    they go together like lamb and tuna fish. They must've been brothers in another lifetime.

  • Nov. 3, 2007, 6:46 a.m. CST

    Elfman's greatest moment is the score for 'Midnight Run'...

    by workshed

    Tell me i'm wrong at your peril.

  • Nov. 3, 2007, 6:50 a.m. CST

    And as for 'completely sung musicals' the finest ever is...

    by workshed

    ...The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg.

  • Nov. 3, 2007, 6:51 a.m. CST

    Alternate scores for DVD.

    by lutz

    If they wanted to they could have Elfman do a score for the DVD and you could select which one you listen to when you watch the movie. Criterion did this when they re released Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast. I guess this would just cost more money though that no one really wanted to spend. And all you Elfman bashes left out possibly the most famous score he ever produced... THE SIMPSONS theme music. I think that is because you don't even think of Danny Elfman when you hear that you only think of The Simpsons.

  • Nov. 3, 2007, 8:06 a.m. CST

    Mars Attack! is Elfmans best score.

    by theycallmemrglass

    Then Batman. Then Simpsons theme tune. But Elfman's greatest achievement was writing/composing all the songs for Nightmare before xmas and singing most of them as Jack Pumpkinhead. Crowning glory. however, I do admit that Elfman often whips up a mish mash of his other work too many times. But he is for the most part a fantastic composer with MANY memorable scores.

  • Nov. 3, 2007, 10:47 a.m. CST

    Can't Wait for This One

    by Tremayne7

    I saw "Sweeney Todd" on Broadway in 1980 with the original cast (Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou). Wanted to see it because of the Broadway review written up in Newsweek in 1979. Got the score and fell in love with it. And then was lucky to see the original cast. Fast forward 27 years... I've had to wait for this awesome Sondheim muscial to be made into a movie. Now, granted I'd love to have seen Ms. Lansbury and Mr. Cariou in the lead roles, but when I heard it was Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter the only thing I prayed was that they could sing. I've seen the trailers on line and yes, they will be good. And with Harry's review and having seen the original cast, I can't wait!!!!!!! I've only been listening to the original score almost non stop for the past two months and counding the days till it comes to the theater! My dad took me in 1980 to see it and I will take him to see the movie. Oh, yes and I'm dragging my husband to see it. I'm getting to listen to it a little more.

  • Nov. 3, 2007, 11:27 a.m. CST

    Man, first the Lincoln Monument Ape...

    by Banky the Hack

    Now Burton rips Kevin Smith off from Jersey Girl? Sheesh... <BR> <BR> Yes, that was a joke, can't wait to see this.

  • Nov. 3, 2007, 12:57 p.m. CST

    The revival of TODD with Lupone was terrific.

    by Bronx Cheer

    Brilliant, in fact. Sweeney Todd is one of the few musicals I would ever want to see twice.

  • Nov. 3, 2007, 12:58 p.m. CST

    Oh, and thanks for another sloppy writing job!

    by Bronx Cheer

    It's so cool that you respect your readers. Awesome.

  • Nov. 3, 2007, 9:37 p.m. CST

    Please, Harry..

    by Soma Imp

    Use correct grammar and spelling. Please. It's killing me. I really want to believe your reviews, but the poor quality of your writing makes it so difficult. I honestly think it would benefit your website and stop a lot of the personal (and nasty) criticism directed against you in the talkbacks of your reviews.

  • Nov. 3, 2007, 11:58 p.m. CST

    Yeah, the Sondheim purists are probably going to hate this.

    by AnnoyYou

    I'm looking forward to this film, and I loved the stage musical, which I've seen in several versions. What most people won't understand is this is a FILM interpretation, which is by nature very different than a relatively static theatrical musical. On stage "Sweeney" is usually performed by amazing singers who must project to the back of the theatre; this isn't necessary in a film. Still, I'm heartened to hear that Rickman, Cohen and the boy who plays Tobias are so good. Now Harry - how was Bonham-Carter? You don't really say.

  • Nov. 4, 2007, 5:49 p.m. CST

    Pretty Women

    by Grinning White Skull

    If you want to know how brilliant the play and actors (and their incredible voices/stylings) were with PRETTY WOMEN along with Angela Lansbury and George Hearn starring in Sweeney Todd by Stephen Sondheim go to:

  • Nov. 4, 2007, 5:54 p.m. CST


    by Grinning White Skull

    Here's the correct url to George Hearn starring in Sweeney Todd:

  • Nov. 4, 2007, 6:19 p.m. CST

    Take out the space...

    by Grinning White Skull

    ...etween the ?v and the =oy to go to the Hearns version of PRETTY WOMEN from the play.

  • Nov. 5, 2007, 1:38 a.m. CST

    New Song??!

    by Nazzim O'Bazzim

    Harry didn't notice as he wasn't familiar with the source material, but that judge's song about lascivious sailors is brand new stuff. Gotta add new songs for the Academy voters.

  • Nov. 5, 2007, 12:26 p.m. CST

    I had to sing/talk in our high school musical/i'm a gay cowboy

    by irrelevntelefant

    i was sir harry in "once upon a matress". it was painful. and i want to thank barry egan. based on his logic i am a gay cowboy ( not a fan of musicals or country music). my wife and son will be suprised

  • Nov. 5, 2007, 5:13 p.m. CST

    Depp's singing voice was dubbed in Cry-Baby

    by Demosthenes2

    But I guess the difference is that his character in Cry-Baby spent a fraction of the movie singing. If you don't want to sing in an all-singing musical, you may as well not be playing the role, so I guess his hands were tied here. It is odd the way the computers rectify movie stars' voices (Nicole Kidman, Sarah Michelle Gellar) in musicals so that they're on key, and you're hearing this robotically straight-lined sound held till the end of a word, with no vibratto, no building. But I guess it's better than hearing off-key. I'm curious to see if and how much they did any of that with Johnny Depp.

  • Nov. 6, 2007, 5:34 a.m. CST

    I Can Always Tell if I'm Going to Like a Film


    By Harry's review. I've complained about his reviews in the past, but, at the end, if he likes it and the review has a certain tone--ala the Sweeney Todd review--I know I will like it. So, cool. There are plenty of things Harry likes that I hate, but I can always tell which it'll be from the review. There are also things Harry doesn't like that I do like, and I can usually tell which it'll be from the review. I'm betting I'll dig this one.

  • Nov. 6, 2007, 5:41 a.m. CST

    The Effects of the Industrial Revolution on Humanity


    Sweeney Todd is about huge increases in the standard of living for 98% of the industrialized world? The radical reduction of infant mortality rates, a 40% in longevity, increased literacy, an explosion of secondary education, a dramatic explosion of opportunity for all of humanity? Who knew?<br><br>Because it sounds to me like a movie about a guy taking revenge on people who gave him the shit (and via mechanisms, such as titled power and a corrupt judiciary, that was pretty much the de facto standard in all pre-industrialized civilizations). And Johnny Depp with skunk hair.

  • Nov. 6, 2007, 4:35 p.m. CST

    Harry wrote this review in the nude.

    by scudd

    Just imagine it.

  • Nov. 8, 2007, 3:43 a.m. CST

    Musicals Are Gay--

    by Pompoulus

    -- is a phrase I've been promised will appear often here and I've yet to see, except as reference, or ironically. Just now.

  • Nov. 8, 2007, 1 p.m. CST

    info on elfman raimi fallout

    by frankenfickle

  • Nov. 11, 2007, 8:07 a.m. CST

    Victor Garber was in the original stage version.

    by minderbinder

    Yep, Jack Bristow's big break was doing the original broadway production of Sweeney Todd. Too bad they didn't film that, it would have been fun to see. At least he's on the soundtrack album. Along the same lines, he also played Jesus in Godspell in complete wacky hippy regalia including homemade superman shirt and mork from ork suspenders. Definitely worth checking out if you've never seen it, for camp value alone.

  • Nov. 11, 2007, 11:33 p.m. CST

    Blessed Relief

    by dedpubserv

    Sweeny Todd is my favorite musical, period. I've seen it at least eight times on stage in various incarnations, including the original production (3 times), at the NY City Opera and the most recent production on Broadway where the actors played the instruments (which worked beautifully surprisingly enough). I was thrilled by the prospect of Tim Burton directing this material with Johnny Depp in the lead, but was concenred that the trailer had virtually no music and wondered if Tim Burton had decided to downplay or eliminate most of the score in favor of his own vision. I'm thrilled to hear that is not the case, and I can't wait to see Depp and Carter extolling the virtues of "priest" pie on the screen.

  • Nov. 11, 2007, 11:55 p.m. CST


    by dedpubserv

    PS - One additional thought. It's true that Sweeny Todd does require beautiful voices to do justice to the score, but most of the heavy lifting is done by the supporting cast. The only song Johnny Depp is likely to have a problem with is "Pretty Women" and Harry seems to be very happy with the result. Most of Sweeny's other songs are half spoken, and I have little doubt that Johnny Depp will be able to carry them off just fine.

  • Nov. 13, 2007, 2:41 a.m. CST

    I'd be more excited if...

    by dragon-lord

    ...Harry had hated it. He has been DEAD WRONG about everything he has reviewed for the past three years. Or hadn't any of your noticed? My guess is that Harry is covering up for Depp lack of acting depth and the fact that he cant sing (as evidenced from the trailers). I was hoping they could fix his voice in the mix a bit, but if Harry is raving, it's a bomb... :(

  • Nov. 13, 2007, 1:52 p.m. CST

    does it have more musical

    by Lloyd Bonafide the Korean War Veteran

    numbers than spider-man 3?

  • Nov. 20, 2007, 8:28 p.m. CST

    It's a shame really

    by FuckKnowles

    I was looking forward to this one. Based on the HeadShill's paid advertis... uh... I mean glowing recommendation, however, I'll have to stay far, far away from it. Harry's taste in movies is absolute crap, but at least it's consistent. It's become a wonderful gauge in deciding which films to avoid.

  • Nov. 25, 2007, 11:34 p.m. CST

    by Admiral_Snackbar

    I can't wait for this one. I'm no expert on singing, but from the audio clips of Johnny Depp on YouTube, he seems pretty good. The current national tour of this show is pretty good, I've seen that a few times now. (I work at a theatre... one with a stage, not screens, if anyone remembers what those were like.) Also, Danny Elfman's Batman score heavily 'borrowed' from 1941's original Wolf Man movie. And of course his Spider-Man theme rips off his own Batman theme... hell, I'm off topic. I can't wait for Sweeney Todd. "Smoke! Smoke! Sign of the devil! Sign of the devil! City on fire! City on fire!"

  • Dec. 1, 2007, 9:11 p.m. CST

    about the gore...

    by Serge664

    I heard there were buckets of blood. Hope the rumors are true. just in time for Christmas.

  • Dec. 10, 2007, 9:37 p.m. CST


    by smeagol2

    My bro just saw a screening. Giles is in it for all of 1 minute. I think he said he has a line or two. Poor Giles.

  • Dec. 12, 2007, 2:27 p.m. CST

    MY GOD..

    by polyh3dron

    This is the bloodiest movie that will ever be made. It was AWESOME.

  • Dec. 22, 2007, 9:22 p.m. CST

    Meh, Cohan wasn't all that great.

    by JohnnyS2

    But the kid is a freakin' revelation. Awesome performance by him.

  • Dec. 31, 2007, 9:19 a.m. CST

    Saw this movie yesterday.

    by Nesstar

    I'm of two minds. I don't normally like so much blood spray in my musicals, but then again, a little singing can brighten up any slasher film. I thought it was excellent, and Depp proved his talents indeed go very deep.

  • Jan. 2, 2008, 2:12 p.m. CST

    Burton sucks...

    by sonnenberg

    The original play's genius is its oddly lighthearted black humor and the genuine sadness we feel for its unsavory characters by the end. Burton sucks virtually all the original humor and heart from the play and then tags on his usual hackneyed, grey-faced gothicisms to try and make it up to us. The buckets of blood only confirm how little he understands the genius of the original. I haven't been so disappointed in a movie in years.

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 3:48 a.m. CST

    I agree with sonnenberg

    by Droogie Alex

    Burton chopped off the beginning & ending of the play!!! It just stops and the credits start. Do youselves a favor and look at clips of the Broadway and Concert versions of the play on YOUTUBE this clip is the popular open thaaat Burton cut out.

  • Jan. 27, 2008, 10:46 a.m. CST

    Best musical since..

    by Axl Z

    South Park!

  • Jan. 31, 2008, 10:20 p.m. CST

    Sweeny Todd Bloody Awesome

    by Hat Man

    Saw it, loved it! Have seen it professionally in theatres, and been in it once in an amateur production, so I know it fairly well. The cuts in music and choruses didn't bother me though I imagine they will bother some of my crazy musical lover whackjob acquaintences. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter suit their roles very well on all levels, both singing and acting (of course). Cinema is much more intimate than theatre, and as a friend of mine said, you need screen stars for something like this. Use music theatre stars and they will look bloated and hammy on screen. It is after all, a SCREEN adaption of the musical. Oh, and look out for Evil Dead the Musical!

  • April 6, 2008, 9:28 p.m. CST

    He sings of murder and it's "delightful"?

    by Drath

    Not to be the harbinger of unwelcomed "morality" here, but there is something very decadent, morally bankrupt, and just plane wrong about saying that, Harry, even on this site, and even if it is just a show.