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Film / Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a 2007 musical horror film directed by Tim Burton, starring Johnny Depp, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham-Carter and Timothy Spall.

It is based on the musical of the same name by Stephen Sondheim, which was based on the Christopher Bond version of the legendary story of an English barber who murdered his customers and, with the help of his neighbor Mrs. Lovett, made them into pies. Sondheim himself composed the film's soundtrack instead of Burton's usual collaborator Danny Elfman.

In this version of the story, Todd is out to get revenge on a corrupt Judge who sent him to prison on false charges, raped his wife (who then poisoned herself), "adopted" his daughter Johanna fifteen years ago and plans to marry her. Mrs. Lovett smoothly tries to dissuade him from this goal so that he can settle down with her and run a business, whilst Johanna takes a shine to a young sailor.


In addition to many of the tropes from the musical, the film provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Todd and Mrs Lovett search for Toby in the spacious sewers below London.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The film greatly tones down the subplot between Anthony and Johanna. All their duets from the musical have also been cut as a result.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Pirelli's real name goes from Daniel O'Higgins to Davey Collins, due to him being British rather than Irish.
  • Adapted Out: The crowd songs from the musical, including the much-beloved "Ballad Of Sweeney Todd", do not appear in the movie.
  • Almost Holding Hands: Mr Todd almost holds hands with Mrs Lovett, but doesn't.
  • Apathetic Citizens: During "Poor Thing." Not only do the partygoers do absolutely nothing as Judge Turpin forces himself on Lucy, they crowd around to watch it happen and laugh at her.
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  • Artistic License – History: London's Tower Bridge was not yet constructed in 1846, the year that the film is set in. In fact, construction wouldn't have even started until 1886, a whole forty years later.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished:
    • Pretty Boy Anthony has remarkably smooth skin despite his life at sea and the beating he takes early in the film.
    • Johanna after her time in the asylum is beautiful, even with her yellow hair perfectly combed.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Compared to the musical, which, being what it is, more implies its violence. The film gleefully shows it in all its morbid glory.
  • Blood Is the New Black: When Sweeney takes final vengeance against Judge Turpin, his face and clothes are practically covered in blood. This makes for an utterly terrifying scene when he finds Johanna, doesn't recognize her due to her disguise, and almost kills her.
  • Bungled Suicide: Lucy's suicide attempt was unsuccessful, as Mrs Lovett reveals in the film's final sequence. She poisoned herself after having been raped, but she didn't die.
  • Camera Abuse: Blood spatters the camera during Sweeney's rendition of "Johanna".
  • Cannibal Larder: Mrs. Lovett's evil basement is where she turns the corpses that Sweeney produces into pies for her customers. Poor Toby winds up locked in there near the end and soon discovers what the pies are being made of when he sees body parts in the pie he's eating and the feed hopper of the meat grinder, and then sees the Beadle getting dropped down the chute and into the room.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Signor Pirelli's purse. When Mrs. Lovett takes it out, Toby becomes convinced that Todd has murdered him.
  • City Noir: Tim Burton's dark vision of Victorian London. Ominous steamy sewers, dark and polluted streets and alleys, dirty houses and filthy rooms, corrupted and utterly evil people... Not a nice place to live.
  • Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are: Todd and Mrs Lovett call for Toby in the sewers but not with good intentions.
  • Cool Chair: Todd rigs his barber chair to flip backwards at the press of a foot pedal, dumping his victims through a trapdoor and straight into the bakehouse.
  • Cradling Your Kill: Mr. Todd desperately cradles the dead body of his wife Lucy. He murdered her without realizing who she was.
  • Crapsack World: To quote Todd himself:
    Todd: There's a hole in the world like a great black pit
    And it's filled with people who are filled with shit
    And the vermin of the world inhabit it...
  • Dance of Despair: When Todd realizes that he has killed his wife Lucy, he is utterly shocked and accuses Mrs. Lovett of lying to him. She explains that technically she didn't lie: Lucy did poison herself, but she lived, only she lost her mental health. Todd pretends to forgive her and he starts dancing manically with Mrs. Lovett. Then he suddenly pushes her into the oven and she burns alive.
  • Dead Man's Chest: When Toby comes up to Todd's shop looking for Pirelli, Todd is startled to see Pirell's hand sticking out from the chest he stuffed his body in. And it's still twitching.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • Joanna. She is one of the nine principal characters in the play with a decent amount of stage and song time, but the film reduces her to a Living MacGuffin. Most of her lines are cut, and she doesn't shoot Fogg in the asylum. She is only given one song ("Green Finch and Linnet Bird"), when the play also had her perform major parts in "Kiss Me, Kiss Me/Ladies in Their Sensitivities (Quartet)", "City on Fire", "Ah Miss (reprise)", and the "Johanna" quartet. Here, she is mainly just a living motivator for Todd and Anthony.
    • Not as bad as Johanna, but the Beggar Woman also has a much smaller role in the film. Again, this is due to the cutting of most of her singing material (specifically "No Place Like London", "City on Fire", and "The Beggar Woman's Lullaby"), the overall trimming of her scenes (her interaction with Anthony during "Ah Miss" cuts her "Hey, hoy, sailor boy!" line), and now she doesn't interact with Sweeney at all until her death scene. This renders the overall twist and ending much less effective than in the original play.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: In the original play, Fogg was shot by Johanna. Here, he gets killed by a mob of his inmates.
  • Double Meaning: Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett's line of "We'll serve anyone" refers both to them being willing to take anyone as a customer, and to their willingness to turn anyone into a meal to sell.
  • Do with Him as You Will: After freeing Johanna from Fogg's Asylum, Anthony leaves Fogg at the mercy of his "children."
  • Downer Ending: Anthony manages to get Johanna out of the asylum, but they're now on the run and Johanna is quite obviously scarred for life. Sweeney Todd may get his revenge, but he also unknowingly kills his long lost wife Lucy, and when he finds out Mrs. Lovett knew who Lucy was all along and lied to him, he throws her into the oven to be burned alive. As he begins to sing a reprise of "The Barber and His Wife," Toby, who is implied to have been driven insane by what he has seen and done, emerges from the sewers and kills Todd himself, with his own razor, no less. The last shot is the now-dead Todd holding his dead wife.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: One of the only men Todd changes his mind about killing is one who enters his shop with wife and child. Granted, it might be more because he simply doesn't want to get caught, but considering everything that happened to his wife and child, there's got to be some empathy going on here.
  • Exact Words: Mrs. Lovett's defense when Todd learns his wife was alive: "I said she took arsenic; I never said she died!"
  • Fauxreigner: Adolfo Pirelli a.k.a. Davey Collins (played by the English—and very Jewish—Sacha Baron Cohen).
  • The Film of the Play: It is based on the Sondheim musical of the same name, which was based on a theater play, the Christopher Bond version of the legendary story of an English barber.
  • Genre-Busting: A musical, period film, and slasher all rolled into one.
  • Get Out!: Todd screams at Anthony to get out after the latter unwittingly ruins his first attempt to kill Judge Turpin.
  • Gorn: There are many graphic close-ups of throats being slashed and stabbed, the blood spurting out.
  • Hanging Judge: Judge Turpin. After he sentences a preteen to death - whether the charge was true or not, the Beadle expresses to Turpin that the kid "must have done something to warrant a hanging." The Judge agrees, as in his worldview, everyone has done something along those lines.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: As mentioned on the page for the musical, Sweeney becomes so obsessed with revenge that he ends up becoming just as inhumane as the man he actually wants to kill by casually slaughtering anyone and everyone.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Every throat that is slit by Todd's razor gushes rivers of blood with two notable exceptions. The Beggar Woman who is actually Lucy Barker and Todd himself, despite having their throats cut like everyone else their blood flows gently down their necks instead of spraying everywhere.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The song "A Little Priest".
  • Ironic Echo:
    • "Life is for the alive, my dear." Said first by Mrs. Lovett, trying to get Sweeney to move on from his dead wife. Sweeney says this line in the final song, right before, having realized her betrayal, throwing Mrs Lovett into the oven.
    • Mrs Lovett continually calls out "Poor thing!" when she reveals what actually happened to Lucy, just as she did when she revealed what happened to her at the Judge's party and then led him to believe that she had killed herself.
  • Kick the Dog: In addition to most of the moments from the stage version, there's the Beadle, on orders from Turpin, beating Anthony bloody for the crime of "gandering" at Johanna.
  • Kill 'Em All: Were you expecting this movie to have a different, yet happy ending? Even though this is a film version of a revenge tragedy? Sweeney Todd, Judge Turpin, Beadle Bamford, Lucy, Pirelli, Fogg and Mrs. Lovett are all dead. Only Toby, Johanna, and Anthony are all alive. Toby is a murderer now. Anthony and Johanna do not appear at the end and are presumed to have escaped. Just before the end, Johanna got the clues needed to figure out that Sweeney was her father and that he murdered her mother as well as Turpin. It remains unknown whether she—or the law—ever actually figures it out.
  • Large Ham:
    • Johnny Depp—increasingly so as the film goes on.
    • Pirelli is, intentionally, this way. When he's not doing the Pirelli act and just being Davey Collins, he is more sedate, softer-spoken, and not at all flamboyant.
  • Location Song: "No Place Like London": Anthony is singing about how the world is marvellous and London is its crown jewel, while Sweeney is singing about how it's a Crapsack World and London is the worst place in it.
  • Love Triangle: Two of these—one regular and one insane.
    • Johanna is loved by Turpin and Anthony. Will she choose the beautiful young man who might help her break free—or the creepy guy who has the power to hurt her if she defies him?
    • Lovett and Todd have a duet where they sing about their one true love, using the same words of affection in unison. However: Lovett loves Todd, while Todd loves... a set of razors. From that point on, the things Lovett and Todd do for love just keep getting more and more depraved.
  • Madness Makeover: When Todd and Mrs. Lovett take Toby under their wing, Toby starts to get some characteristics from them, mostly the untamed hair and some eyebags and very pale skin.
  • Morton's Fork: Sweeney uses this to justify killing everyone in "Epiphany". There Are Two Kinds of People in the World—"the one staying put in his proper place and the one with his foot in the other one's face" AKA either you're powerful, because you're evil, and therefore you deserve to die, or you're good, so you're oppressed, and therefore "death will be a relief". To his credit, even in his madness he includes himself in his litany of nihilism—his drive to kill Judge Turpin is the only reason he has to live any more.
  • Mood Dissonance: "A Little Priest" is a cheerful, upbeat, pun-laden tune... about cannibalism.
  • Musical Spoiler: As a holdover from the stage score, much foreshadowing is built into the music, but perhaps the most overt and immediate case is when Todd kills the beggar woman. The notes that play after he makes the slash were previously heard in the song "Epiphany", accompanied by the words "And my Lucy lies in ashes". Turns out, at that point in the story, she didn't, but after killing the beggar woman, she did; Lucy was still alive but became the beggar woman and Todd unknowingly killed his own wife, which is revealed soon thereafter.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Todd utters this line when realizing he killed his wife by accident.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Sweeney Todd bashes Pirelli's head in with an iron water kettle.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Mrs. Lovett wears dresses with corsets, which makes her cleavage very prominent.
  • One-Hour Work Week: Sweeney works, he just happens to use his work day to kill people. He's only ever seen completing two shaves: one during his duel with Pirelli and another when a man's wife and child are present in his shop.
  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: The special effects people even admitted that all of the people who get killed spew forth far more blood than is typically in the human body (about 8 pints).
  • The Ophelia: The Beggar Woman/Lucy was driven into madness by her sad fate. She was happily married with a baby who was pursued and eventually raped by Judge Turpin.
  • Painting the Medium: During "Johanna (reprise)", when blood spatters on the edge of the camera lens.
  • Parasol of Prettiness: Mrs. Lovett has a cream parasol with red polka dots during her "I Want" Song "By the Sea"—she would like to be a lady and have a happy family.
  • Pet the Dog: When Toby almost catches Sweeney killing Pirelli. Rather than kill him, Todd tells Toby to go downstairs so that Lovett could make him a meat pie. When Toby didn't budge, Sweeney sweetens the deal by saying that, he is allowed to have some gin with it. Which causes the boy to rush downstairs in excitement.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Sweeney is seen cradling the body of his dead wife at the end before Toby kills him.
  • Pre-Insanity Reveal: The homeless madwoman that hangs around the barber shop is revealed to be Sweeney's long-lost wife, Lucy. Unfortunately, this isn't revealed—either to Sweeney or the audience—until after he murders her.
  • Precision F-Strike: Todd's first song (No Place Like London) has "shit" in the lyrics, used as a rhyming word, no less. The language up until then has been G-rated so it's a bit unexpected.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: The last words Sweeney yells to Judge Turpin. "BENJAMIN BARKER!"
  • Rape Leads to Insanity: Lucy, aka the beggar woman. One line in "Poor Thing" mentions that she could handle raising a child alone, her husband's jailing and Turpin's persistent advances, but being cornered while drunk and raped pushed her over the edge.
  • Rasputinian Death: During the final vengeance scene, Judge Turpin is stabbed in the throat multiple times, eventually has his throat slit and gets dumped headfirst onto a stone floor in the basement. Even after that, he manages to survive long enough to grab for Mrs. Lovett's dress before he finally dies.
  • Reality Ensues
    • While out in the marketplace, Sweeney sees Beadle Bamford out of the corner of his eye and reaches for his razor before Mrs. Lovett quietly tells him that a crowded market is not the place to commit a murder. Cue Sweeney slowly putting his blade away and looking at the ground sheepishly.
    • Pirelli learns the hard way that when engaged in a shaving competition, bragging and boasting and singing are not a free action. Sweeney has finished shaving his man in roughly under five seconds flat by the time Pirelli even begins.
    • Once Sweeney's finished singing 'Epiphany', Mrs Lovett—not looking at all impressed—asks dryly "That's all very well, but what're we going to do about him?" Alluding to Pirelli's corpse stuffed in the trunk. Cue Todd awkwardly getting up off his knees.
  • Relationship Compression: In the stage version, Anthony and Johanna have quite a few duets with each other, and both are at least a little more badass. But in the film they cut out almost all of their scenes to just the bare bones, and making Anthony come off as a rather creepy stalker obsessing so much over a girl he only looked at through a window once.
  • Scream Discretion Shot: "Poor Thing" is accompanied by flashback footage, which is soundless at first, but at the very end—when Lucy is in the grip of Judge Turpin and completely surrounded by the partygoers—her screams and their laughter compete with Mrs. Lovett's singing.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: Judge Turpin fills this role, fooling himself that he can protect young Johanna from the evil of other men's sexuality by forcing her to marry him and satisfy his own selfish lust. Judge Turpin is also shown in a flashback to have raped Todd's wife at a party with the witnesses laughing after having Todd shipped off to who-knows-where.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Mrs. Lovett looks less mousy and disheveled, and more well-dressed as the plot progresses.
  • Shout-Out
    • Sweeney's hair and wardrobe resemble the lead singer of The Damned in a concert video of their song "Video Nasty."
    • The pose that Todd and Mrs. Lovett strike at the end of "A Little Priest" is meant to resemble the poster for the original West End production.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Several main characters were left out of promotions. Some made sense like not revealing Laura Michelle Kelly also played the Beggar Woman but others were odd, such as Toby.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The film's advertising makes no mention of the fact that this is a musical. Arguably, it wasn't necessary because the musical is still quite popular, but a handful of audiences were surprised.
  • Wife Husbandry: Turpin is grooming his young ward Johanna into a perfect little wife.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Just after killing Pirelli Sweeney calmly tells Mrs. Lovett to send Toby up. She protects the boy, but Sweeney's intentions are very clear. However, he does hesitate to kill a father with his child, probably because he identifies with that man. Sweeney later nearly kills his own daughter Johanna; he doesn't recognize her, of course, due to her disguise, but she does look like a pre-teen boy. Shortly afterwards, Todd follows Mrs. Lovett into the sewers with the clear intent to murder Toby.


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