Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street can be found here.

After serving 15 years in an Australian penal colony, English barber Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) returns to London under the assumed name of Sweeney Todd. He sets up a barber shop with pie maker Mrs Eleanor 'Nellie' Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) and learns that his wife Lucy was raped by Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), the same corrupt judge who convicted him on trumped up charges, after which Lucy committed suicide. He also learns that his now teenaged daughter Johanna (Jayne Wisener) is being raised by Turpin as his ward. Full of rage against Turpin and his associate Beadle Bamford (Timothy Spall) Sweeney uses his position as barber to slit the throats of all who have wronged him, and Mrs Lovett then bakes them into her pies.

Yes, albeit indirectly. The film is adapted from the 1979 musical play, also titled Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, by American composer Stephen Sondheim and English playwright Hugh Wheeler. The musical play, in turn, was based on a 1973 play of the same name by British playwright Christopher Bond. However, the character Sweeney Todd first appeared in the Victorian penny dreadful The String of Pearls (1846-1847). The musical play was adapted for this film by American screenwriter John Logan.

The time frame is meant to be a purposefully unspecified part of the first half of the nineteenth century. (It can't take place earlier than 1803, as Mrs Lovett suggests that Barker/Todd was transported to Australia: even if he was part of the First Fleet of convicts, he would not have arrived until 1788.) The book "A String of Pearls" is set in 1785, but the version of Sweeney Todd seen there does not share the history of the musical's Sweeney. The play itself was set around 1846.

Lucy was raped by Judge Turpin. None of the other party goers came to her aid. Instead, they crowded around her and began laughing hysterically: "She wasn't no match for such craft, y'see, And everyone thought it so droll. They figured she had to be daft, y'see, So all of them stood there and laughed, y'see!"

From the beginning, we are aware that Sweeney plans to take revenge on Judge Turpin and his right hand, the Beadle, for sending him to prison and for keeping him away from his family. However, the first man who gets killed is Signor Pirelli (Sacha Baron Cohen) who pays Sweeney a visit to blackmail him. He recognized him "from the old days" and wanted half of his earnings.When Pirelli tells Sweeney this, he spontaneously smashes Pirelli's head with a teapot and later on slits his throat. The second attempt at killing is when Judge Turpin comes for a shave, but Sweeney fails because of the intrusion of Sweeney's friend Anthony (Jamie Campbell Bower). It's the moment when Sweeney's mind cracks, thinking that he will never have the opportunity to see the judge and his daughter Johanna again. His line between good and evil gets severely blurred. Sweeney realizes that everybody is bad and that everybody deserves to die: for the weak ones death will be a relief and for the strong ones a punishment, as stated in the song 'Epiphany'. It's the moment when he becomes a sociopath killer, being against everyone, even admitting that he, too, deserves to die.

What is a beadle?

A beadle is a Parish bailiff. They don't exist anymore. A parish is the administrative area around a church. A bailiff is the officer of the parish who deals with the practicalities of the local laws - this film is set prior to the formation of the British police.

Mrs. Lovett speaks about her husband a few times throughout the movie. She tells Sweeney that her "poor Albert" used to sit in the chair all day until his leg gave out because of gout. Gout is a disease that causes immense swelling of the arms and legs. Because of this statement we can assume that Mr. Lovett died. Some speculate that Mrs. Lovett killed her husband but she never actually killed any of Sweeney's victims. She just wants to bake them into pies to try to get Sweeney to fall in love with her. It is doubtful that she would have killed or even used human bodies in her pies if Sweeney was not in the picture.

What is a Gillyflower?

Encyclopedia Britannica says: also spelled gilliflower any of several scented flowering plants, especially the carnation, or clove pink (Dianthus caryophyllus), stock (Matthiola incana), and wallflower (Cheiranthus cheiri). The gillyflower of Chaucer, Spenser, and Shakespeare was the carnation. Other plants that utilize the word gillyflower are dame's gillyflower, also known as dame's violet (Hesperis matronalis); mock gillyflower, also known as soapwort or bouncing bet (Saponaria officinalis); feathered gillyflower, also known as the grass or garden pink (Dianthus plumarius); and sea gillyflower, also known as the thrift or sea pink (Armeria maritima).

What is a Bleeder?

It's a play on words. "Bleeder" is an old British term, used with the cockney language. A bleeder is a semi-insult/synonym for a person. E.g. "Where is the little bleeder?" It is comparable in meaning to "bastard". It can also be taken literally, as in, 'one who bleeds' - it's an old term for a hemophiliac, and is also used colloquially to refer to those who tend to bleed easily when nicked (perhaps while shaving).

Who Is Mrs. Mooney?

Ms. Mooney is a rival pie maker. Because she uses 'pussycats and toast' to make her pies, she gets a lot more publicity and customers than Mrs. Lovett. She is never shown, just referenced by Mrs. Lovett.

He never stops caring for her but, during the song Johanna, he starts to lose more and more interest in their possible encounter. Sweeney is afraid Johanna might resemble Lucy too much or too less. He wants Johanna pale and with yellow hair like Lucy, but in the same time he thinks that, were she to resemble his old wife, she would remind him too much of the past. However, were she NOT to look like Lucy, he couldn't associate her image with the face of a beloved one, making her a stranger to him. Consequently, there is no good option for Sweeney, so he prefers keeping in his memory the old image of Johanna, unmodified, the way he knew her, not like a grown-up. That's why even though he loves her, he doesn't want to see her again and focuses on his priority (vengeance).

In the movie it's a metaphor for the bad people in the world, which in the 19th Century were mostly all the people with money and power.

The note reads: ;Honorable Judge Turpin, I write this urgent note to warn you that the young sailor has abducted your ward Johanna. Hoping to earn your favor, I have persuaded the boy to bring her here tonight to my shop. Hurry after nightfall, and she will be waiting.

When the beggar woman (Laura Michelle Kelly) enters his shop, she asks Sweeney "Don't I know you, mister?" Having no time to take a good look at her face because the judge was on his way in, Sweeney quickly slits her throat and drops her down into the basement. The judge was his number one priority, and Sweeney being blinded by revenge, he could not let this opportunity go.

After killing Judge Turpin, he puts his razors to rest. You can see in his eyes exhaustion, tiredness. He doesn't care anymore about killing after he accomplished his purpose...killing the judge. When he realizes that Johanna, in disguise as a sailor, might be aware of everything that happened, he throws her on the chair, ready to slit her throat. Suddenly he hears Mrs Lovett screaming in the bakehouse, so he warns Johanna to "forget his face" (he was unaware that it was his daughter) and runs down to see what happened with Mrs Lovett.

How does the movie end?

Anthony arrives at the barber shop with Johanna, disguised as a sailor, and tells her to wait for him. Johanna hides when she hears the beggar woman approach the shop, searching for Beadle Bamford, Sweeney goes up into his shop and is surprised by the beggar woman, who seems to recognize him. Hearing Judge Turpin arriving and not wanting to miss his chance, Sweeney quickly slits the beggar woman's throat and drops her through the trapdoor. A few moments later the Judge enters looking for Johanna. Sweeney reassures him that Johanna is safe and offers him a shave before reuniting with her. Turpin agrees but, once he is seated, Sweeney reveals his true identity and brutally murders him, violently stabbing him in the neck repeatedly before finally slashing his throat. Sweeney then discovers Johanna hiding in the barbershop. Not recognizing her in men's clothing, he approaches to kill her but is interrupted by Mrs. Lovett's screams from the basement. He leaves Johanna unharmed, but warns her to forget his face and rushes down to the bakehouse. There, Mrs. Lovett explains that Turpin had briefly clutched onto her dress but then died after a few seconds. Sweeney orders Lovett to open the oven door. As she hesitantly does so, the fire illuminates the beggar woman's hair and face. Sweeney recognizes the corpse as his wife Lucy, whom he had believed long dead. Realizing that Lovett knew Lucy was alive but lied to him, Sweeney begins to waltz manically with Lovett around the bakehouse, reassuring her that he does not care about Lucy because the past is dead and that they can still be married. As he twirls her past the open oven, he suddenly hurls her into the blazing fire and locks her inside. He then returns to Lucy and cradles her dead body as an enraged Toby (Ed Sanders) emerges from the sewer, picks up Sweeney's discarded razor, and slits his throat. In the final scene, Sweeney dies, his blood spilling onto the face of his dead wife.

Probably. After killing Lucy, whom he thought was already dead, Sweeney realizes he has nothing else to live for. He hears Toby pick up the razor and lifts up his neck, allowing Toby to slit his throat.

While the movie never states clearly whether or not they wound up together. You are supposed to make the inference that yes, they do end up together. Anthony gets the coach and takes Johanna away. The play ends differently in that Toby becomes completely insane and his hair turns white from horror. He kills Sweeney after which Anthony, Johanna, and the police run into the bakehouse. Toby then drops the razor, walks over to the meat grinder, and continues to grind the meat, crooning nursery rhymes to himself. Consequently, in the play you know that Anthony and Johanna will get away safely. In the movie, though never said, you are supposed to draw the assumption that they fled together to live their lives together.

Opening instrumental arrangement of 'The Ballad of Sweeney Todd' - Sets the dark and somber mood for the film, and displays all the cast and crew credits.

No Place Like London - Introduces Sweeny Todd and Anthony, and allows the audience to learn of Sweeney's former life and false imprisonment.

The Worst Pies in London - Introduces Mrs. Lovett, and explains just why no one cares to visit her pie shop.

Poor Thing - Sweeney Todd learns from Mrs. Lovett the tragedies that have befallen his wife and daughter. We also learn that Mrs. Lovett has feelings for Sweeney Todd.

My Friends - Sweeney is reunited with his razors, and begins to slowly embrace his lust for vengeance.

Green Finch and Linnet Bird - Johanna wonders how the birds in her room are able to sing despite the fact that they, like her, are caged and shut away from the world.

Alms, Alms - Introduces the Beggar Woman, who asks for money/alms and tells Anthony of Johanna.

Johanna - Anthony professes his love for the yellow-haired beauty, Johanna.

Pirelli's Miracle Elixir - Introduces Toby and Signor Perelli, who is the "creator" of a hair-growing elixir, which Sweeney immediately denounces as a fraud.

The Contest - Sweeney faces off against Pirelli, who happily sings of his personal approach to shaving.

Wait - Mrs. Lovett tries to convince Sweeney to savor his revenge and not rush it, so that it might be that much sweeter when it is finally carried out.

Ladies In Their Sensitivities - Judge Turpin tells the Beadle of his marriage proposal to Johanna, and the Beadle suggests that he travel to Sweeney's shop to improve his looks so that Johanna might be more receptive to him.

Pretty Women - Sweeney uses the magic of women--the Judge's weakness--to distract him while he attempts to carry out his execution by "shaving" him.

Epiphany - Sweeney, having lost both his chance at revenge and what was left of his sanity, denounces the world and the people who live in it, and further expresses his wish to murder not only the Judge but all of mankind.

A Little Priest - Mrs. Lovett forsees a surprising business opportunity for her shop by baking corpses after they have been "shaved" by Sweeney, and they both rattle through the options on their "menu" which includes priests, poets, fops, and vicars.

Johanna (Reprise) - As Anthony searches for Johanna throughout London, Sweeney accepts that he will never see her again.

God, That's Good! - Toby advertises the grand re-opening of Mrs. Lovett Pie Shop and her delicious "new" meat pies, while Mrs. Lovett is plagued by the Beggar Woman, who seems to have a strange need to repeatedly enter and bother her customers.

By the Sea - With the booming success of her pie shop and meat pies, Mrs. Lovett begins to paint for Sweeney a lovely picture of their life as a married couple.

Not While I'm Around - Becoming more and more wary and suspicious of Sweeney, Toby promises Mrs. Lovett that he will never let any harm come to her.

Searching Parts 1 and 2:

The Judge's Return:

Final Scene Parts 1 and 2:

The Ballad serves as a "Greek chorus" providing back story for the stage show; yet, Burton has the luxury of showing us what happens to Benjamin Barker and his wife, so the chorus became obsolete.

Yes. The entire cast did their own singing. Laura Michelle Kelly (Beggar Woman) and Jayne Wisener (Johanna) are "trained" singers. Helena Bonham Carter (Mrs. Lovett) had been quoted as 'singing her butt off' in preparation. Though Johnny Depp was cast as Sweeney before any one ever heard him sing, he trained himself in the privacy of his own home. There is only one note in the movie that is not sung by the actors -- Sacha Baron Cohen (Signor Pirelli) got overdubbed for his final high note in the song "The Contest." While Cohen sang the entire rest of the song, the note is higher than Cohen's range (and most other people's).

Page last updated by bj_kuehl, 10 months ago
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