Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Andreas Petersen & Noor Razzak (27th July 2008).
The Film

Iím a huge fan of both gory movies and musicals. So long I desired a successful combination of the two, but alas, I would have to settle for watching "Hostel" (2005) and "Grease" (1978) on two separate occasions. That is until Tim Burton decided to bring "Sweeney Todd", the successful Broadway play, to the big screen. So what could go wrong? How could I not have been leaping out of my seat with joy at this very notion? Hereís how. Three out of Burtonís last four films, in my opinion, have been utter trash. I wonít beat down too much on his re-make of "Planet of the Apes", because whatís the point of beating a dead horse? But I absolutely hated "The Corpse Bride" (2005) and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (2005). After so many misses, Burton, whom I once loved, was dead to me. This is why my hopes for "Sweeney Todd" were below the Earthís crust to say the least. Luckily for me however, I gave it a chance, and discovered one of the biggest surprises to come my way in ages.

For those unacquainted with the story, Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp), is the titular character of the film. Once called Benjamin Barker, he has returned to London under a new name after serving 15 years in prison for committing no crime. In his absence, the evil Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) has raped and killed his wife, and adopted his daughter (Jayne Wisener), whom he plans to marry. Sweeney teams up with local pie-shop owner Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), to open a barber shop in which he kills people and she makes them into pies. This entirely over-simplified version of the plot should serve to portray just how deliciously demented this film is. Really, itís rare to see a film so unabashedly twisted get a mainstream release here in the states, let alone a star studded cast like this. The kills are completely ridiculous as well, as patronsí throats are slashed, spurting out more blood than I think the human body can hold.

The only thing sweeter than the kills in the film are the songs, which completely won me over. Every tune feels orchestrated with the highest skill, coupled along with a brilliant overbearing organ score, or soothing violins. Also, unlike most musical films, the cast recorded their own voices, giving it a very authentic feeling. This is helped along with the amazing acting all around, but specifically from Sacha Baron Cohen, playing Signor Adolfo Pirelli, a rival barber of sorts. His performance alone makes this movie worth a watch.

The thing I may appreciate most of all about this movie is how unique it is. It has the makings of a brilliant comedy, musical, and horror film, all wrapped up into one package. Seriously, what other movie can you see people sing whilst slitting throats? I thought so. While I havenít been impressed with Burtonís films as of late, I welcome him back into my trust with open arms after his huge success with "Sweeney Todd." Letís just hope heís gotten over a rough spot in his career, and can retain the magic heís seemed to capture with this flick.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 this transfer boasts an image in full HD 1080p 24/fps and has been created using VC-1 compression codec. The overall aesthetic for the film is rather dark, dreary and gritty and the transfer captures that tone very well. Detail is exceptional from the production design right down to subtle costume elements come out looking very good. I loved the colours in this film and the use of grays and blacks juxtaposed with the bright maroon blood that fills many scenes. The print is clean of dirt and is sharp, shadow detail remains consistent and I was virtually unable to detect any compression problems or other flaws. This is an excellent HD image that can certainly be called reference quality.

Audio

A whopping seven audio tracks are presented on this disc, we get an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track as well as standard Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in English, Castilian Spanish, French, German, Italian and Spanish. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its TrueHD track, while I've gotten used to uncompressed PCM tracks and DTS-HD tracks I'm also starting to favor the Dolby HD tracks as well, although it's not entirely uncompressed (we're talking lossless though which is very good) it's an impressive surround track that immerses and impresses. If you've got a Blu-ray player but not the full HD surround capability you really are missing something rather exceptional. The TrueHD track feels like it has more depth and range than the standard 5.1 tracks, it seems more open which works wonders for the music that soars through the sound space. Subtle ambient sounds are used effectively to place viewers within the environment, dialogue is clear and overall we've got a winner audio-wise.
Optional subtitles are included in Brazilian Portuguese, Castilian Spanish, Complex Chinese, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.

Extras

Warner Brothers has released this Blu-ray with a plethora of great extras, including many featurettes and a stills gallery. These are examined below:

Extras are in high definition (1080/60i), unless noted.

First up is the sole special feature on disc one. "Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd" featurette, running for 26 minutes and 7 seconds, is a great featurette that explores the professional relationship between these three artists, discussing why the three of them work with each other so commonly. Also, this feature goes into how Burton discovered "Sweeney Todd", as well as looking at the process of recording the singing voices for the film.

Next up is "Sweeney is Alive: The Real History of the Demon Barber" featurette, running for 20 minutes and 7 seconds. This feature examines the origins of the Sweeney Todd myth, dating back to the 1700's. Also, whether or not the story has any factual foundation is examined, coupled along with very charming pictures from old story books about Sweeney Todd.

"Musical Mayhem: Sondheimís Sweeney Todd" featurette, running for 12 minutes and 3 seconds, sits down with one of the playís original creators, Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim recounts discovering the tale of Sweeney Todd, and instantly identifying that it would make a great musical.

"Sweeneyís London" featurette, running for 16 minutes and 15 seconds, examines how Burtonís interpretation of the filmís setting came to be. This feature goes into a bit of Londonís history, examining a period of both poverty and decadence, and how that was translated into the film.

"Grand Guignol: A Theatrical Tradition" featurette, running for 19 minutes and 14 seconds, was my favorite feature offered in this 2 disc set. This feature examines an old French horror-theater style, making use of on-stage gore, organ music, and other morbid affairs, which influenced the production of "Sweeney Todd" greatly. I really had no idea that such a theater style existed, let alone in the 40's. A truly fascinating look at something Iím sure many people donít know about.

"Designs for a Demon Barber" featurette, running for 8 minutes and 55 seconds, goes behind the scenes to examine the filmís Academy Award winning art direction, and how it was influenced by 1940's Hollywood horror films.

"A Bloody Business" featurette, running for 8 minutes and 52 seconds, is an interesting feature on the filmís gory special effects, focusing mainly on the infamous throat slashings. This feature also explains how the FX team didnít want the gore of the film to look real, but rather ludicrous.

"The Making of Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street - HBO First Look" featurette presented in standard definition 480/60i, running for 24 minutes and 2 seconds, examines the actual production of the film. This is a decently entertaining behind the scenes look at how the movie came together, as you really get a sense that it was a blast to make.

"Sweeney Todd Press Conference November 2007" featurette presented in standard definition 480/60i, running for 19 minutes and 41 seconds. At this table-discussion, Burton and the actors are asked questions by the press, and they are all answered in a candid fashion. This feature reminded me of how personable Burton, as well as all the actors of the film, can be.

"The Razorís Refrain" featurette, running for 8 minutes and 40 seconds, is a series of still taken from the movie, set to the soundtrack.

Lastly, the disc also contains a photo gallery, full of conceptual art as well as behind the scenes stills. There are 52 stills in total.

Overall

The Film: A Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A+ Overall: A+

 


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