Not to everyone’s taste – especially if you are squeamish – is this Grand Guignol song-story of revenge, murder and the worst meat-pies in London, splashed with blood the color of Chanel lipstick and dark humor. In fact the humor is pitch black, only slightly darker than grim and grimy London in some slightly pre-Victorian age. What Tim Burton has made of it may not be quite what this revengers’ tragedy was on stage and at full length. But it is original and lives up to what we have come to expect of any collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp… even if (as has been noted in other reviews) a large portion of Stephen Sondheim’s literate and witty lyrical numbers were sacrificed to the demands of a movie with a running time of about half the length of the full stage production.

The plot is whisper-thin, an urban legend or a melancholy ballad about a young man who once had a happy home, with a beautiful wife and a baby daughter. But a wicked and corrupt judge sentences him on false charges to transportation to Australia, and when he returns fifteen years later, it appears that his wife is dead, and his daughter is the ward of the judge. Determined on revenge, he sets up shop as a barber in his old home, upstairs from the cheerfully larcenous Mrs. Lovett. There is a small sub-plot, regarding his daughter Joanna, kept captive by the wicked judge – and a young sailor and shipboard comrade of Sweeney Todd’s – but mostly it is about Sweeney Todd’s implacable quest for vengeance. The bodies pile up through-out, dumped through a trapdoor into the cellar and efficiently transformed into meat pies by Mrs. Lovett… and there you have the most of it; almost too Edward Gorey-comical to be a horror movie, but almost too gory to fit into the musical comedy bracket. I would not allow pre-teens to watch this, by the way; it’s fairly guaranteed to be productive of screaming nightmares for those children sensitive to video violence.

Of the extras included on this disc, the most interesting of them was an examination of the origins of the ‘Sweeney Todd – Demon Barber of Fleet Street’; it appears that he was an urban legend, a creation of a writer for the most sensational 19th century broadsheets, somewhat akin to the stories of the hook-handed man who was supposed to haunt lovers lanes in the US.

Sweeney Todd is available Tuesday, April 1 from Amazon.com and other retail outlets

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her current book “To Truckee’s Trail” is available here. More about her books is at her website www.celiahayes.com.

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