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I have loved this story since I saw my brother’s schools drama club perform it back in the late 1970s. There was a film made in 1936 by George King, although the story dates back to the 1840’s when the character was published in a penny dreadful available at the time.
Sweeney Todd is played by Tod Slaughter in the 1936 version which I think is a great name for the actor, but that is not the one I am reviewing so back to Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter.
Johnny Depp plays the lead character and makes a great Sweeney, while Helen Bonham Carter is
worryingly realistic as Mrs Lovatt.
The story begins when Benjamin Barker – Depp – arrives in London trying to find his long lost wife Lucy and daughter Johanna. He has wrongfully spent time in prison and now using the name Sweeney Todd, wants to get his family back and resume his career as a barber. He finds his wife has long gone and his daughter is the ward of the man who sent him down.
From the beginning the scenes are a bit sickening as there are beetles running around the pie shop but that would be preferable to what eventually ends up there. From the minute Todd opens a barbershop above the pie shop, the food in that area will never be the same again.
The film has a strong supporting cast with a range of well-known actors involved.
Alan Rickman – Judge Turpin who ruined Benjamin’s life – plays a major part in the film and at one time is brave enough to sing! He has a knack for playing nasty men and here he puts in what I would consider to be one of his best performances. Timothy Spall also puts in a good performance as Beadle Bamford who lives with the judge and Johanna.
Unfortunately I am a bit biased and immediately take a dislike to anything Sacha Baron Cohen does and there is nothing here to change my opinion of him. The two other main characters are Anthony and Johanna played by Jamie Campbell Bowyer and Jayne Wisener and both put in a good performance as a young couple in love.
For me it is the two stars who really are the people who make the film. The calmness with which they carry out their actions is unnerving but it is impossible to take your eyes away from what they do. The director is Tim Burton and while it is often said that Bonham Carter gets her roles purely by being his partner, she is an inspired choice for this role.
There are scenes that are gory and the singing is not up to chart standards, but that does not put me off the film. There is a large cast although many are not credited, and having seen it first at the pictures and then buying and watching the DVD at home I actually prefer the images on the small screen. The film runs for 116 minutes and cost £7.99 from Tesco when I bought it a few years ago.