Many people think that Sweeney Todd was a historical character, despite there being little or no actual evidence to support the person, crimes or events portrayed in Tim Burton’s movie. But it’s a good yarn, and this version is based on the Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler musical adaptation of a play by Christopher Bond, which originally trod the blood soaked boards as The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. A Musical Thriller.
This ‘Steel Book’ Blu-ray is a normal Blu-ray plastic shell around which they’ve bent a thin piece of aluminium, and silk screen-printed the graphics. Doing this does make the product slightly classier looking, yet conveniently does nothing outlandish that won’t then fit into any Blu-ray storage system. Inside there is still only one disc, but then that’s the point of Blu-ray in having disc space to burn.
The movie, if you’ve not caught it, fails to really takeoff in the way the opening twenty minutes promises. Johnny Depp makes for a consummately consumed Todd, and Helena Bonham Carter is a sufficiently scheming Mrs. Lovett, but there is something lacking. After a number of viewings, I think it was a mistake on Burton’s part to make this a musical, as each generally unmemorable song slows the proceedings further. Had he taken the approach he did with Sleepy Hollow, making another Hammer Horror salute, it might have been more successful. I’ve seen some reviews where people loved it, but for me it never quite hits the mark.
But what the Blu-ray edition does beautifully is show off the sumptuous production look and feel, a distinctly gritty grimy and Burton-esque dark Georgian London. The sound is also sparkling Dolby TrueHD, and I’ll admit to some surprise at how well both Depp and Sacha Baron Cohen as the Italian barber Pirelli, can sing. Others are less impressive vocally, with Helena Bonham Carter’s caterwauling being painfully reproduced. Though, she does actually make up for this with some excellent acting.
But what of the disc extras? The bad, or good news depending how you receive these things is that they’re the same as those on the 2-disc DVD edition. They include a Burton commentary, and a series of featurettes about recreating Fleet Street and the Sondhiem musical origins. They also try somewhat unconvincingly to push the line that Sweeney Todd has a real history. This is total bunk although they keep plugging away with ‘experts’ that find examples of various unconnected events and then arguing they’re associated. It’s fluff, but no less entertaining. There’s also a really good featurette on how you simulate people having their throats cut on film.
But where Warner Brothers should really be congratulated is that all the featurettes are also in HD, and not DVD resolution cast-offs. Too many movies are doing that, and it’s not good enough.
Overall this is a high quality title, which demonstrates well what Blu-ray can bring to digital distribution. If any all movie releases where as good as this.
My only real objections to the disc is that it fires up and warns us that we could get five years in a Federal Prison and a $250,000 fine if we pirate the disc, like those threats actually apply to UK citizens.
In recent Blu-ray releases, Sweeney Todd is – yes! – a slice above the rest.
The Film The Disc