by Janine Ashbless
You might have thought that a musical about a 19th Century serial-killer could not be sufficiently sexy to warrant a mention in Lust Bites. But hold on; Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a movie that stars Johnny Depp and Alan Rickman! It's based on a stage musical by Stephen Sondheim! It's directed by Tim Burton! Honestly, I'm coming right now.
Okay, so Sondheim's work tends to be at the highbrow end of musical theatre, but Sweeney Todd is definitely one of his more accessible pieces. Welcome to filthy, dark, vicious London...
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...
Depp plays the eponymous barber who was Transported for Life on a trumped-up charge so that the evil Judge Turpin could have his wicked way with the innocent barber's wife. (The rape scene is implied, not depicted.) He sneaks back to London under a false name and sets out to revenge himself on those who destroyed his family. But so twisted is he by despair and pain that this soon turns into a quest to eliminate the entire male population ... one by one.
They all deserve to die
Tell you why, Mrs. Lovett, tell you why
Because in all of the whole human race Mrs. Lovett,
There are two kinds of men and only two:
There's the one staying put in his proper place
And one with his foot in the other one's face.
Look at me, Mrs Lovett! Look at you!
No, we all deserve to die.
Even you, Mrs Lovett!
This is Edward Scissorhands Gone Bad.
Having cut his victims' throats in the barber chair, Sweeney and Mrs Lovett dispose of the bodies by baking them into pies for her shop. Mrs Lovett's wares go from being the Worst Pies in London (cockroach seems to be a significant ingredient) to an overnight culinary sensation (allowing us vegetarians to smirk smugly). But Sweeney's thirst for vengeance is so strong he's even prepared to sacrifice his surviving daughter, and finally it destroys him.
This is of course a gleefully grisly film - though nothing like as grotesque as I was expecting from various snippets of pre-release footage. There are plenty of (not particularly realistic) throat-cutting scenes in the second half of the film, but audience sympathy is pinned firmly to the damaged, broken-hearted Sweeney.
Complaints? Only that the Chorus from the stage version of the musical has been eliminated, so there is a slight feeling of Things Missing if you know the original version - and the most memorable song has gone altogether. You'll just have to put up with me singing it from memory:
Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd:
He served a dark and awful God.
So what if none of their souls were saved? –
They went to their Maker impeccably shaved.