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Headscratchers / Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

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  • The film's barbershop/pie-shop complex; where are the bodies falling through exactly? It's clear Todd's shop is directly above Mrs. Lovett's and never do we see any chute in the middle of her shop. Surely Todd wouldn't have bodies drop directly through her shop in plain sight of her customers!
    • In the original penny dreadful, the bodies are shunted into an underground chamber where Todd strips and butchers them. Then he leaves the flesh in a pass-through shelf where the captive cook (who isn't in on what's going on) adds them to the pies he bakes.

  • Why is the Beggar Woman looking for the Beadle? Given that the Beadle betrayed Lucy and in the stage show held her down so the Judge could rape her why does she trust him to believe her? Does she not remember the rape ? Furthermore, why does Toby want to report to the Beadle? Is there nobody in law enforcement more trustworthy than the Beadle and Judge Turpin, or is the Beadle just really good at being a Villain with Good Publicity ?

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  • Do Sweeney and Mrs Lovett ever, y'know, eat the pies, rather than simply sell them? Does Mrs Lovett taste them in the process of making them and spit out the contents, or is she okay with eating as well as cooking the pies?

  • What does Mrs Lovett mean when she says/sings "with limited wind?"
    • "Wind" can mean "the ability to breathe", as in "to have the wind knocked out of you". Limited wind just meant that your lungs were not strong, a common problem in polluted 19th-Century London.
    • She means her pies taste like a bottom of the barrel joke

  • In the film, the Judge shows his erotica collection to Anthony. Are those drawings he drew himself? Did he go on a debauched odyssey around the world?

  • Sweeney is a barber, right? Why don't we ever see him, you know, cutting hair? Or pulling teeth or doing the sorts of things that Victorian barbers tended to do? Surely he gives out more than shaves.
    • Shaving is probably easier to stage than a haircut or tooth extraction.
    • Play version the contest in the beginning is best two out of three. The events were shaving and pulling a molar. Sweeney won both.
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    • Probably conservation of detail. Shaving's important to the story in that it's his MO. Haircuts and dentistry, on the other hand, are not.
      • Precisely. We don't see him eat, sleep or go to the toilet either, but he must do all three.
      • Also note that Sweeney doesn't kill every customer who sits in his chair, just those whose disappearance will not cause a great deal of stir.
      • Men need to shave a lot more often than they need a haircut or a tooth pulled.
    • If this troper is allowed to refer to the movie of the musical for a minute, why on earth was Sweeney so worried about Judge Turpin seeing the blood on his sleeve after killing Pirelli when barbers did surgery and blood-letting? Couldn't he just say that he'd been doing some rather messy surgery?
      • Turpin would've had him hanged for... something worth hanging him for.
      • Because the average moviegoer wouldn't know that little detail about Victorian barbers?
      • I may be wrong, but I thought Barbers became known mostly for their appearance caretaking than medical work by the time the musical takes place. Doctor barbers were mostly from the 1700s and earlier.
      • Also, remember, that Turpin is already suspicous of Sweeney. It probably only his panic and Sweeney appearing to be doing a Heel–Face Turn that got him into the chair. Turpin might have waited, but would have been hesitant to sit down upon seeing the blood.
      • Because Sweeney isn't sitting outside of himself viewing it with a dispassionate and rational eye. He is not thinking "Let's see here. The powerful man I want to kill is rapidly approaching me. I require a plausible explanation for this blood on me. Well, I'll just play it cool. If he even asks, I'll tell him I was performing a minor bit of surgery. A tooth removal. That should satisfy him." He is most likely thinking "SHIT the fucking JUDGE IS COMING and I'm COVERED IN HUMAN BLOOD from the ASSHOLE I JUST KILLED!" So he went with the quickest, most direct course of action and covered it up.
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    • We do (briefly) see Sweeny giving a proper shave to one customer, but only because the man's wife and kids had come along and are waiting for him right there in the shop.

  • Why does Sweeney Todd kill so many people at once? Mrs. Lovett would be so backlogged the bodies would begin to rot.
    • There IS some passage of time during the song—I would say a week or two. Anthony couldn't have found Johanna and become a wig-maker's apprentice in a couple of hours, after all. Note (in the film) the differences in Johanna's appearance from when Anthony first finds her (still pretty and unrestrained) and when he busts her out of the asylum (lack of grooming, straitjacket, and jumpy from being cooped up with insane people).
      • Further, in the stage show, Johanna has a line in "City on Fire" making it clear that she's been in Fogg's Asylum for a while: "You said you'd marry me Monday, that's what you promised.../That was last August..."

  • How was Todd able to kill people as long as he did? His victims weren't nobodies; they were well known in their communities. Didn't anyone ever investigate and find out that their last known action was going to the barber on Fleet Street?
    • Todd basically makes sure to kill foreigners and other folks who weren't well known around London, and those who didn't have families. His first few victims are a traveling salesman and then several men that we can assume fit the descriptions above. It's only on the last day of his life he kills anyone well known in the city: the Beadle and Turpin

  • Does anyone actually, truly believe that Todd would have been happy knowing Lucy was still alive, given her present condition? I mean, she was 1) crazy, 2 ) having sex with anybody who'd give her money (and you can't possibly believe that every single donor was self-respecting enough to turn her advances down like Todd and Anthony did), and 3) not the gorgeous young trophy wife he married. I think Mrs. Lovett really did do him a favor, it just got revealed at the worst possible time.
    • Doubt it. Todd might have believed it, but I don't think the audience is supposed to. Really, by the time the story starts he's already a soulless, bloodthirsty nutcase obsessed with revenge, and he just gets worse as it continues. It didn't matter to him what Lucy was (which he didn't realise anyway); Mrs. Lovett lied, her lies led to Lucy's death, and thus Todd kills Lovett like he killed everyone else he held responsible. She may have done him a favor, but there is no way in hell you'd get him to realize that given, as you said, the circumstances.
    • He wasn't exactly happy thinking she died, either. The man was going to be miserable either way.
    • Todd probably figured either his love and caring could have helped to restore her sanity (even when insane she was the first person to recognize him, whereas Judge Turpin had to be prompted) or in a worse case scenario he could have put her out of her misery. By not being told, Todd never had an opportunity to help her get better while she spent the rest of the play being left to the mercies of those self-respecting donors.
    • Actually, and this may be a bit much character-empathy on my part, I believe that. They had both been shattered by their fifteen years apart and suffering, but we've seen how driven Todd was, and I've always found that when one can be with the one one loves everything tends to turn out for the best very quickly. It's when people remain forcibly separated that things keep going to hell. Of course, they'd still have the problem of how to get Johanna back, but Anthony would surely have helped with that.... It could have been beautiful, even after Turpin's initial litany of horrors.
    • No, I don't think he would have been happy, but he had a right to know anyway. It wasn't Mrs Lovett's choice to make.
    • Also, "trophy wife"? There were no indications of that.
      • Well all we learn about her was that she was beautiful and beautiful and oh yeah, she was virtuous too. Though arguably young Sweeney Todd's relationship with Lucy is very much like Anthony's relationship with Johanna.
      • Probably because a song about how he enjoyed her personality and the conversations they had and her various less tangible merits would not have been as catchy or flowed as well. He sings about her beauty and virtue because, generally, when you're singing about someone you love in a classical musical, that's what you sing about.
      • Also, he practically howls when Mrs. Lovett tells him about Lucy being raped. That response seems to imply he cared a lot about her.
    • Even if he wasn't happy, one could imagine that Todd might not be so pissed at the world if he knew she was still around. I'd think that he'd at least have something to fall back on after Turpin got away the first time, stopping "epiphany" and the "everyone deserves to die" thing he had going for him.

  • I think the movie handled Anthony and Johanna well, but in the original stage show—were we really supposed to believe they were going to sail off and live happily ever after? A slightly demented girl who'd been locked in her room nearly all her life who's obviously running off with the only man to offer out of desperation, with a boy who sings creepily obsessive songs about her hair after seeing her once, through a window? Oh yeah. I see no problems in their future.
    • No, no you aren't. Antony may naively believe that they will have anything but a happy ending or that Johanna's clearly crazy out-of-her-mind (and even she expressed concern over their plan). So no, you aren't suppose to believe that they'll be completely happy.
    • I believe it. No doubt they're going to have a hard time. As you said, they don't really know anything about each other. He fell in love with an ideal; she saw a way out of a horrible situation and took it. Still, in the stage musical, it's clear that they like and care about each other. Maybe they won't live happily ever after, but they might be able to get by. That is, if you don't believe they get arrested at the end.
    • This Troper believes it as well. While they don't know each other very well, we (as the audience) know that they're good people, who obviously have a lot of regard and admiration for each other, and a desire to make the relationship work. Sometimes relationships do work simply because those in them want them to and they are quite happy with it. Also, they do seem Wrong Genre Savvy in an apparently Crapsack World, but remember, the Genre Savvy characters are all dead or institutionalized. It could very well be that being on the idealistic end of the Sliding Scale of Cynicism Versus Idealism might be their saving grace.
    • Even if you don't forsee a happy ending, Johanna would be grateful for Antony saving her and this would at least give them a small window of time to be happy together (even if it doesn't last).
    • I'm under the impression you're supposed to feel discomfort. It's such a Crapsack World they live in, and the pair are so screwed up, the future doesn't look too sunny.
      • I agree with this. I think Antony and Johanna are meant to seem like characters who've wandered onto the stage from a completely different musical — they're naive enough to think that they can have a happy ending because they're Wrong Genre Savvy. They don't realise how screwed up the world they actually live in is.
    • They had to leave a ray of hope... and besides, with Judge Turpin dead and the whole pie shop deal blown right open, they might escape in the confusion. Antony probably has enough brains to get the hell out of London and start somewhere else with a clean slate.
    • Doesn't Anthony talk about getting on a ship after rescuing Johanna? That implies that they were going to flee the country once they got away.
    • The 2005 revival handled this quite well, by portraying Anthony and Joanna as close to completely batpoop crazy. They never actually kiss during "Kiss Me" and the scenes where they're both playing cello near each other are heartbreakingly desperate - although to be fair, everyone in that revival is batshit and the musical is basically a representation of past events, played by asylum patients.
      • They portray Johanna like this in the Hearn/Angela version too. Antony may just be hopelessly naive, but Johanna is clearly crazy (beautiful and pure, but crazy). As someone above said, they make for a nice parallel to Todd and Lucy.
      • Same with Lisa Vroman's Johanna in the Hearn/Patti Lu Pone version from 2001: she starts out fine and seems like an extremely sheltered girl who seems to genuinely have feelings for Anthony (although whether it's really love or something based on him just being nice to her is up for debate), but who clearly suffered a breakdown during her time at the asylum - although whether it's permanent or can be healed after a long recovery can be debated.
      • Johanna in the 2014 concert is sheltered and naive, and a bit of an airhead, but she's definitely a lot more intelligent and aware of her surroundings than most Johannas this troper has seen. Her main problem is mostly of an Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny! kind of thing - which could definitely be a coping mechanism of sorts for her. Unlike the others, also, when Anthony cannot bring himself to shoot the asylum's director, her reaction is basically: "Oh, fuck it, I'll do it, we'll never get out of here otherwise", which in this case, while it's extreme and considering how the last few weeks were probably horrid, it's hard to blame her for it.
    • In all honesty, it depends entirely on how the two characters are played in any given production as to whether or not the audience is left thinking they'll have a happy ending. Objectively, yes they do since they lead a couple of policemen to the cellar and find Toby - one can assume after that, they happily leave London together. However, there are so many variations with how the two of them can be portrayed (especially Johanna) that you'll probably come away with a different ending for them with every different production you see.

  • Why didn't the asylum owner's "children" jump him earlier? Nothing was stopping them.
    • He still had control the other times. When they attacked him that time, he had been locked in with them with no weapons or means to defend himself or hurt them. They probably sensed he was defenseless. Plus, the fact that Anthony clearly was able to dominate the asylum owner (held him at gunpoint) and basically told the girls "have at him" probably prompted them.

  • Why did Mrs. Lovett pick her non-existent relationship with Sweeney Todd over her very real, motherly relationship with Toby? She could have easily taken Toby, all the money they made, and run off to live by the seaside like she dreamed. Chances are Sweeney never would have gone after them.
    • This is a woman who thinks baking people into pies is the best cure for bad business; you really think she would be in a right enough mind to even consider that idea might be the most reasonable one?
    • And would she want to use Toby to make her rumpled bedding legitimized?
    • I never really saw her relationship with Toby as motherly. It always seemed more like how someone treats a pet. ("Oh how a sweet thing IT is." Not 'you are', 'it is.')
    • Topping it all off, it's one of Mrs. Lovett's flaws that she wants everything, and doesn't see how the things she wants are incompatible or even mutually destructive — or just plain evil.

  • What was up with Johanna's speech at the end of the movie? All that "I've never had dreams, only nightmares" thing. I don't recall that being in the play, and until she was institutionalized she would have had no reason for it. She couldn't possibly remember either of her parents (we find out for sure she doesn't recognize her father) so the fact that her dad was sent away and her mom went nuts couldn't have caused her supposed nightmares. The man who raised her only recently became creepy and leering and trying to get with her, so that couldn't be it. She wasn't allowed to leave the house, so that sucks, but she lived in opulence and was given all the material goods she could want. I can understand that leading to her depression (which she expresses in Green Finch And Linnet Bird) but none of this nonsense about nightmares and ghosts that never go away. It rings false, sounds forced and gave me the impression that she was being a drama queen for Anthony's sake. Yeah, maybe you're having nightmares now that you've been through a terrible ordeal, but you've only ever had nightmares? I'm not buying it.
    • I think you're being too literal. The girl's not stupid, and, if I recall, Anthony had just used the phrase "dreams" to mean "hopes and aspirations," and she was going along with the figure of speech and commenting that she had never hoped for anything, since she had a crapsack life.
    • Johanna's final speech to Anthony in a sense is to illustrate "closure." It implies to the audience that although Johanna survives the ordeal, she will remain haunted by all the trauma inflicted on her, in contrast to Anthony's dream of a Happily Ever After. This was likely to compensate for Adaptational cuts as Johanna and Anthony have more presence and closure on the stage version.
    • Well the movie also shows that Turpin regularly spied on Joanna, so it's not that unlikely that he was extremely controlling and oppressive towards her in other ways. And just because he only proposed marriage towards Joanna recently didn't mean that he didn't show signs of lust towards her any other times. So she's a girl who's never been let out of the house and presumably never allowed to have any friends or company besides her foster father (who may or may not have been creepily lusting after her) and the Beedle. Also, this troper just got the feeling that the line meant more along the lines of "My life's been really dark and creepy and I find it really hard now to be optimistic that good stuff's going to come".
      • This Troper always theorized that Turpin may have molested Johanna (directly or indirectly, I don't know), hence her nightmares. I don't think she's a drama queen—Johanna seems pretty sincere to me.
    • Sixteen-year-old girls tend toward the dramatic even in healthy circumstances, and being raised by Turpin couldn't possibly have come anywhere near healthy. Even if he's kept his hands (and other body parts) to himself to date, his commentary about how she looks in a particular dress in the stage version reads very lustful/creepy, and this is the only parent she can remember, who's now drooling at her when he's not having jealous territorial rages at her, and plans to marry her whether she wants to or not (thus, he's basically informed her he plans to rape her at least occasionally until one of them dies). Grown women with healthier upbringings would get a bit dramatic when faced with a short-tempered, possessive, controlling father who suddenly turns lecherous and announces plans to force marriage, much less a teenager.

  • So, Toby found out what was in the pies by finding a hair and fingernail in the meat? In one pie? If Lovett's quality control is so poor, how did her shop become so successful?
    • Presumably that pie was just 'the one that got away' so to speak. Or the other times, Mrs. Lovett explained it away by saying that the guy who made the pies lost a finger into the batter while fixing the machine or whatever.
    • Also bear in mind that these are the pies that Toby is making. Lovett might be more careful when she makes them herself.
    • Toby is only charged with grinding the meat, not baking pies. I believe those were the faulty pies that aren't supposed to be served to customers. Besides, Mrs. Lovett is clearly planning to have him killed at this point, so him finding out the truth about the pies is not among her biggest concerns.
    • This Troper has just seen a production of Sweeney Todd, and I noticed the line "Toby, you know our secret for making our pies so juicy? We grind the meat three times. That's very important." We don't know how many times Toby has ground the meat, but I'd assume that it's less than three, so I'd imagine that she ensures that no fingernails or anything like that are in the pies by grinding it up repeatedly. With the hair, I'd imagine most customers would assume it was the hair of a worker.
    • It's not like quality-control or hygiene were much of a thing for food in general. Unless you bought a live animal and slaughtered it yourself, meat was seldom particularly fresh, and ice cream vendors would let patrons slurp "penny licks" from the same glass vessel the previous forty people had already licked. If a customer found a hair in their pie, they'd be disgusted, but not all that surprised ... and if they were, it'd be because they found it in one of Mrs. Lovett's famously-excellent pies, not that there's hair in a pie at all.

  • How on earth does Sweeney not notice that Joanna is a woman?
    • Believe it or not, it can be quite easy for teenage and college-aged girls to dress up as boys about the same age.(Boys Don't Cry, anyone?) They'll just end up looking like a Pretty Boy.
    • People get mistaken for the wrong gender all the time. If a girl seems to have a masculine hairstyle and no curves, she might get mistaken for a boy even if she's not aiming for that. Beyond wearing Anthony's sailor gear, Johanna also has on a heavy coat; underneath that her figure could be practically anything. Sweet Polly Oliver is a fairly established trope.
    • After Epiphany, it's arguable that Sweeney stops seeing people as, well, people, or thinking about them as such. They're either the wicked whose lives should be made brief or the rest of them for whom death will be a relief. He saw men's clothes and didn't think any further about the identity of who was in front of him.
    • At least in the 1982 tour (as filmed), Sweeney appears to see through Johanna's bluff and simply wants to kill a witness. "Surely your cheek is as much in need of a razor now as before!" is simply Todd taunting her as he goes in for the kill.

  • Why didn't Judge Turpin tell the Beadle about Sweeney being in cahoots with Anthony? It seems something the Judge would tell the Beadle (and everyone) so that they no longer patronize him, yet at the end, the Beadle does not indicate he has heard anything bad about Sweeney.
    • Turpin probably "forgave" Sweeney for informing him of Johanna escaping the asylum with Anthony.
      • They're probably alking about, why didn't the Judge talk to the Beadle in the months between the first Antony incident and Sweeney's note? Beadle came to the shop before the Judge even got the note, so he couldn't have known that Sweeney was going to rat Antony out.
    • The Judge was probably pissed off and focused on punishing Johanna. While he was certainly shown as petty and monstrous, most of his punishing actions were taken when his targets were directly in front of him... Anthony is punished the first time because he's right there in front of Turpin. Likely by the time he'd finished racing off and having Johanna committed he'd calmed down some and didn't feel like exerting himself to punish some random barber he probably considered beneath him anyway.

  • Sweeney tells the Judge to come to the shop to recapture Johanna, on the pretext that she'll be there that night. But she actually is going to be there that night, as Sweeney well knows. He also knows, having learned the hard way, exactly what Judge Turpin is capable of should he get hold of Johanna (and Anthony). What if their visits coincide? Why the hell does Sweeney do this? It makes no sense!
    • Added realism? Plus, the guy is crazy. Common sense need not apply.
    • It's possible Todd didn't think Anthony would succeed, or at least succeed so quickly. Plus the above answer probably figures in, he probably didn't think it through much more heavily than "Finally, a chance to get the Judge back under my razor!"
    • Also, whose to say he hasn't got a plan should their visits coincide? He's now got a perfect opportunity handed to him to get Johanna back. He knows the Judge hates Anthony and what better way to get the Judge to trust him completely than by dealing with him? Then, kill the Judge and for added bonus, Todd now has Johanna back. Or, the most likely explanation for it, the reason the Judge left the first time was because Anthony barged in unexpectedly and the Judge didn't know the two were "friends". Telling the Judge that Anthony would bring Johanna to his shop negates the possibility of that happening a second time just in case their visits did coincide.

  • Not really important, but it keeps bugging me. The first time that Todd meets and confronts Pirelli (in the shaving contest at the market), it's Thursday. Right after the contest, Bamford tells Todd that he'll visit his barber shop "before the end of the week". In the next scene, back in the barber shop, Todd is nervous that Bamford hasn't shown up yet, and Lovett tries to calm him down by saying: "He said before the end of the week, and it's only Tuesday". It can only be next week's Tuesday, so actually Bamford has failed to go to the barber shop before the end of the week, and Todd has a reason to be nervous.
    • Or it could be a joke? That they went to the market on Monday and so Todd's only been waiting for one day? Considering the sense of humour throughout the script and the fact that the exchange leads into a song about the virtues of being patient, it wouldn't surprise me that it is a joke, albeit a subtle one.
    • The contest took place on Thursday and Bamford said "before the week is out." Todd has (as I would have) taken this as "before the end of this week" (i.e. sometime before Monday morning). Mrs. Lovett is probably trying (unsuccessfully) to calm Todd down by interpreting it as "before a full week has passed" (i.e. on or before the Thursday after the contest).

  • Mrs. Lovett seems REALLY distraught at the sight of Lucy's corpse. Exactly how much did she have to do with the poor woman's fate? She has an excuse for her use of Exact Words about Lucy ("Would Sweeney really want to know that's how she ended up?"). Did she somehow have a hand in Lucy being sent to Bedlam instead of a hospital to Murder the Hypotenuse?
    • Her reaction when she sees Lucy's corpse is probably just due to panicking that Todd will recognise it. Still, I don't think it would surprise anyone if she did have a hand in Lucy being sent to Bedlam (but it's worth bearing in mind that Todd had been transported by that time and no one had any way of knowing that he'd come back).

  • What would Sweeney do if he had recognized his daughter?
    • Persuade her to wait in the shop until Anthony comes back, kill him, keep Johanna.
      • I doubt that. Todd was mad as all hell at Anthony for screwing up his initial murder attempt on Judge Turpin; if he didn't kill him then (or on any one of the multiple later occasions he'd later have), he wouldn't kill him in that instance either. Especially if Sweeney knew his daughter (who was already traumatized) was sweet on him. Todd was also grateful to Anthony for saving his life at sea. As far gone as Sweeney was by that point, I still find it extremely hard to believe he'd kill Anthony.
    • Once Johanna explains the situation, he probably would have run off with Johanna and Anthony and leave his serial killer life behind, Lovett and all.

  • Why was Sweeney so freaked out about Perrelli threatening to report him to Beadle Bamford? He had already served his sentence and it's not like using a pseudonym is terribly illegal. Did he think that the Beadle would have him jailed again or killed?

Alternative Title(s): Sweeney Todd


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