Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Sweeney Todd has fascinated the world since circa 1880


For 1936 that was a good English film? No embellishment, just the drama, the horror, the descent into hellish London when Fleet Street was really deserving its name when it was the disembarking entrance into London for all ships that still went up the Thames beyond Tower Bridge.

The Barber is Sweeney Todd and the pie-maker is Mrs. Lovatt. They are associates in crime to share the profits since it targets isolated travelers arriving on the ships mostly from the Indies, West or East, or even in-between Africa. The objective of their waiting for them and then on them is to rob them and make them disappear, though there is no real allusion to any cannibalism.

Johanna is the daughter of a shipmaster who sends a new ship at sea and has accepted to be associated to Sweeney Todd (12,000 pounds mind you). But the contract was probably not correct and the ship is announced as lost. Sweeney Todd will then bring the shipmaster down or if the latter wants to save his bones he can give the former his daughter in marriage. The father refuses.

It is then the arrival of the supposedly lost ship is announced and the captain is apparently Johanna’s lover. Be careful we are in the Victorian period. Lover only means that he expects to marry her one day, virginal and pure of course.

And that’s when the plot sickens without thickening too much. Rivalry between the pie-maker and the barber, greed on both sides and mishaps on all sides leads to the happy ending we are expecting. The evil ones are punished by death and the good ones are rewarded with marriage and the loot of the evil ones. Isn’t it moralistically pure?

It is classified as a horror film. It is in fact a rather bleak crime story from the 19th century sandwiched between an introduction and a conclusion in a barber’s shop of the 1930s. The “modern time” customer suddenly doesn’t fancy the razor..


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