ByStephen Hampton, writer at
Lover of horror and 80's divas.
Stephen Hampton

One film that doesn’t get talked about enough is Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. When the film came out I saw it somewhere online (shh, don’t tell DreamWorks) with my sister and we were completely blown away. In fact we had to see it again within a week and from then on we were hooked. We’ve now seen the film a countless number of times (it’s got to be around 40 times) and it still never gets old. It’s one of those rare films that are pretty much perfect (I saw pretty much because I don’t think perfection exists). So why does no one talk about it? Is it because it’s a musical? Well I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest fan of musicals myself, yet the songs in this a wonderfully rousing and full of lyrics you’d never hear in the sound of music, “There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit and it’s filled with people who are full of shit...” as an example. So here are my reasons for why it’s one of the greatest films ever made.

P.S. This list isn’t in any particular order as all the elements are important.


Sweeney Todd boasts a stellar cast. Johnny Depp is perfect in his best role as our demon barber, Sweeney. He’s a man full of rage and only vengeance beats in his heart. He should be a man who the audience hates, however Johnny plays him with a strange likability and you can’t help but feel sorry for the man who has had his wife and child cruelly snatched away from him. He’s also not got a bad singing voice either. Leading lady, Helena Bonham Carter is also electrifying as Mrs. Lovett and also very darkly funny. She’s hopeless at hiding her love for Sweeney as she’s pretty much all over him as soon as he walks through her pie shop door. Tim is obviously well-known for putting Johnny and Helena in his films and whilst some might say it’s because Helena’s (pretty much) married to Tim and Johnny’s his best friend, it’s also because Johnny and Helena have wonderful chemistry together. The supporting cast is also rather strong with Alan Rickman beautifully hamming up the villainous Judge Turpin alongside a slimy Timothy Spall and let's not forget Sacha Baron Cohen as Aldofo Pirelli! None of the cast could be better.


It’s also the little things in Sweeney Todd that make it so special: The strip of white in Sweeney’s hair, the incredible dark and brooding cinematography, the Beagle’s camp cane, Mrs Lovett’s birds nest hair etc. Colleen Atwood’s costumes are also top notch. Sweeney’s jacket is perfect and the white hankie hanging from his trouser pocket is just the cherry on top. Mrs Lovett’s dress is also a feast for the eyes, almost as much as the gothic CGI background. A lot of people are against CGI but the effect it has on this film is spectacular. It’s nothing short of being the best CGI can be and also provides such a scrumptious back-drop for the action. The sets are also perfection, the main one being where Sweeney’s iconic chair is kept which features a wonderfully wide window where the pale moonlight drips off the set like the blood on Sweeney’s razor. Also, who could forget the “By the Sea” scene where everything is outrageously over-exposed. It’s a real treat for the eyes in blu-ray with the dream-like blue ocean sparkling and the bright orange sand jumping off the screen. It offers a rare glimpse of light in such a gloriously dark and gloomy film.


I won’t spoil the ending for those stupid people who haven’t seen the film (I joke ;) however I can promise you that delivers one of the greatest twists in cinema history. It’s an unforgettable tragic and melodramatic finale that may even make you release a small tear.


Tim may have lost his way recently with a slightly dodgy (but enjoyable) sequel/reboot of Alice in Wonderland and a heavily panned vampire comedy called, Dark Shadows but Sweeney Todd really shows Tim in his directional peak. It may be too in-your-face for some people, but I think it perfectly fits the film. There are some wonderful visual flourishes such as the high-speed walk around London and the flawless gothic style of the film. You’d also have to be inhuman to not get chills when Sweeney picks up his razor for the first time and bellows: “At last... My arm is complete again” which is followed by a rousingly loud orchestra as the camera tracks out of the window through London’s thick, black smog. Tim is the perfect director to direct such a dark melodrama like Sweeney Todd. He also proves that he’s not afraid to show some magnificent over-the-top violence, which isn’t gratuitous, but essential for the story.


I mentioned above that musicals aren’t really my thing, but Sweeney Todd really hits the mark with its strange and rousing songs about cannibalism and razors. There are some terrific numbers which you’ll sure to be humming the very next day. My favourites include: 'Epiphany', 'Johanna/Reprise', 'Little Priest', 'By the Sea' and 'My Friends'. However, that’s not to say that the others are bad because they’re anything but! Music is such a big thing throughout Sweeney Todd. There’s always some wonderful orchestra scoring in the background to send chills up your spine. Even the opening church organ is flawless and perfectly sets the tone for the film.

So there are my reasons. There are of course many more reasons, but I’d be writing all day otherwise! Sweeney Todd features some of the greatest scenes to hit the big screen and it really should get more recognition than it does. It also features the best opening titles EVER! So, even if you’re a musical-a-phobe please give Sweeney Todd a chance, even if you don’t like it at first it will grow on you. Please let me know if you’re a Sweeney Todd fan in the comment section below.


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