In the Nineteenth Century, in London, the barber Sweeney Todd invites lonely and wealthy costumers in the port to his barbershop on the nearby Fleet Street and murders them to take their money, while his associate Mrs. Lovatt and owner of a bakery below is barbershop gets rid off the bodies. Sweeney uses his fortune to help the fleet owner Stephen Oakley with the intention to force his daughter Joanna to marry him. However, the beloved Joanna's boyfriend Mark Ingerstreet returns rich from his last voyage and Sweeney decides to kill him and steal his fortune in pearl, making Mrs. Lovatt jealous with the situation. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When UK Channel 4 first showed this in the '80's I couldn't initially figure out what they were playing at with such a cheap creaker. But I quickly got sucked into its murky realms, more importantly got into the spirit of the thing and enjoyed it immensely. It's not essential but hissing, booing, stamping your feet and cheering in the right places would help too. Over the years they showed lots of Tod Slaughter's other barnstorming efforts for the Quota-Quickie (George) King, but none turned out as satisfying overall as this is. I'm glad to see it's out there on DVD just in case they never show it again.
Sweeney Todd is an avaricious lecherous conniving violent barber who thinks he is a "tender-hearted chicken" and who has two sidelines: polishing off his customers well and helping the next door shop's production of meat pies. First sensationalised in a play in Victorian times it was supposed to be based on fact; nowadays they're content just to rip you off and not to pieces. Hairy Bruce Seton was the goodie in love with the capitalist's lovely daughter whom Sweeny Todd also actively coveted. Slaughter's performance is a masterclass of Victorian melodrama, no one else ever intentionally equalled him on film if you let him he can replace any derision with admiration for such a marvellously over the top melodramatic performance and his razor-like wit. Same as with the cannibalism the moustache twirling was only implied. His was a style of acting that had died away with the Edwardians but was deliberately continued by him over the following decades, much to the delight of the many theatre audiences who saw him and who interacted with him accordingly. The sweetly melancholic and insistent background music reminds you that you are watching a nostalgic portrayal of a dead world, which would have provided an indescribable frisson to the older members of the original audience watching it at the cinema who perhaps might have first seen the play 50 years before. Slaughter managed to play Todd on stage over 4000 times, but died at age 71 in 1956 just after performing Maria Marten or the Murder In The Red Barn at the Derby Hippodrome now under threat of demolition. I won't ever be watching the new musical because the words "gruesome gory graphic violence" cropped up in reviews why waste my short time left on Earth being debased?
So: an ultra cheaply but lovingly made nostalgic tongue in cheek melodrama a unique priceless treasure indeed.
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