Tragedy of Sweeney Todd


 When the movie came out I was pleased.  Although some of Johnny Depp’s notes  were painful to hear.  He shouldn’t sing.

I highly recommended it to everyone.  I was pleased with the show as a whole.  Some people were disinclined to view it as they were not Burton fan’s or Depp fans.

I informed them that I was not recommending as a Burton or Depp film.  I like some of their work and dislike some of their work.  But I am a big Sweeney Todd fan.  In college we had to watch the Angela Lansbury version of it.  Sweeney Todd was played by Len Cariou.

What people don’t realize is that the story of Sweeney Todd has been around for a long time.  The earliest print stories are from the mid 1840’s and may be one of the earliest know examples of Urban Myths as bits and pieces of the story may have been around since the 1700’s.  In the oldest stories, Todd is not a tragic figure who was framed and deported because someone wanted his wife.  The silent film version is one of the earliest horror movies.  The story evolved over the years into the musical we know now. 

Many of the characters in the modern version existed in the original story ‘The String of Pearls’ but have transformed into different rolls.  Tobias Ragg was originally Todd’s assistant who gets sent to a madhouse.  Johanna goes undercover as a boy to work for Todd find out what happened to a Lieutenant who was bringing her a pearl necklace from her lover who was lost at sea.  It turns out her lover was imprisoned and put to work in a pie shop as a cook.  ]

Prior to A String of Pearls being released, Dickens makes a reference to prepares of cannibalic pastry in one of his novels.  And even earlier story (1824) refers to a barber’s victims being made into meat pies.  So the idea had been around since the earliest part of the 19th century at the very least and maybe longer.

I nearly purchased a dvd of the 1928 silent film version but passed on it.  I went back a week or two later and there were no copies left and I’ve not been able to find it anywhere again.  Someone was releasing old old black and white talkies and silent films in very cheap cardboard cases with two movies on one dvd.  There were being sold in Walgreen’s.

Now back to the most current adaptation.  I think it was well done although listening to the two leads sing was a bit annoying.  Having purchased the cd and listened to it often I’ve come to the conclusion that even their less than ideal singing voices actually work in favor for their parts.  Carter’s voice does something odd at the highest notes.  Almost like her voice catches but not exactly.  But it works well with the accent and with the socioeconomic strata she is representing.  Depp actually goes off key which was more painful to hear at first.  Made me wonder, if that was the best take of his singing, what did the others sound like?


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