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  • This TV-movie ranks as one of the two best versions of the classic tale of Sweeney Todd, the other one being - of course - the 1936 black-&-white movie starring Tod Slaughter.Ben Kingsley and Joanna Lumley are terrific - and their approach of the famous characters is in the true spirit of horror melodrama: a perilous "exercice de style" between horror and comedy. All the other actors are excellent, the sets are wonderful in their creepiness, a touch of gore is added to good measure, and Schlesinger's direction is faultless. This TV-movie could be shown in movie theaters, as a "legitimate" picture - in fact, it's well above most of the current movies...

    Incidentally, this version is an Irish-British coproduction, certainly not "an American production" as wrongly mentioned in some posts.
  • By all accounts this was close to the mark, having read a few books on the subject - this adaptation seemed authentic, ben kingsley's performance was delightful - with joanna lumley as his foil - WOW,campbell scott providing the young deterrent on sweeney's tail, for a TV adaptation this was stellar work !! costumes and sets in which ye olde London were brought to life, making fleet street seem like it was someplace we all knew - i mean you could just imagine jack the ripper popping in for a special royal shave (ha ha )and gore - all top notch, not at all bad for a sky home premier. I'm just about to watch the BBC Ray winstone version, look forward to anybody's thoughts !!
  • I do not know if the story of Sweeney Todd is based upon fact, but it sure makes for an interesting blend of horror and comedy.

    One of the criticisms I have heard of the new Johnny Depp version is that you never really know why he becomes a mass murderer. Well, there is no mystery here and, if you take the time to find this film, you will know everything.

    John Schlesinger, who gave us Cold Comfort Farm, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Darling and Oscar winner Midnight Cowboy, does a great job of keeping us interested in the case of the missing businessman.

    Campbell Scott was riveting as the American come to London to find the property of his employers; property in the possession of said businessman when he disappeared.

    You will be fascinated in the streets of London, the costuming, the atmosphere, and you will see why someone could lose their heads for a few rings.

    Ben Kingsley is fabulous as the serial killer, and blends humor and horror into a role that has been described as one of the better versions of a half dozen that have been done. I think it will be hard to beat this one, but I am looking forward to examining the rest.

    Excellent support by Joanna Lumley ("Absolutely Fabulous") and Selina Boyack in her first film.
  • I started watching this one with no hopes that it'd be any good but, for my surprise, I enjoyed this classical story until the end. Acclaimed director John Schlesinger and Campbell Scott had worked together before in "The Innocent". Campbell Scott, by the way, defines his character in very positive way and he does look 'cool'. The costumes and art direction are excellent, especially since this is a TV movie (one of the best TV movies I've ever seen, because I don't usually watch them and, when I do, I usually hate it).

    Plus there's beautiful young English actress, Selina Boyack, she is one of the best things about this movie. I'd say she might turn out to be famous some time soon.

    And this movie is better than at least 70% or 80% of the movies we see around. If you get the chance, don't miss this one, I promise you that you'll like it.
  • waterkiller13 September 2002
    This is an excellent film with a good range of actors and actresses. Overall an excellent film that i will buy when it comes out on DVD, whenever that is. I recommend that anybody that enjoyes Joanna Lumley to watch this film next time it is on television.
  • Deranged wig-maker/barber/dentist/doctor (whew!) Sweeney Todd (Ben Kingsley) kills rich Londoners and keeps an abused, mute, pale orphan around as a slave. A hideous-looking, rotten-toothed Joanna Lumley (from the "Absolutely Fabulous" TV series) is his lover and partner in crime, who uses the dead bodies in her famous meat pies. A very bland Campbell Scott is the "American gentleman" trying to clear up a debt and instead stumbles onto the operation. It's all a grim, unpleasant, talky new version of the famous tale that could have used some more comedy, but just barely skims by on some good performances, gore and, especially, excellent costumes and sets that accurately capture rich 19th Century London atmosphere (although it was actually filmed in Dublin, Ireland). The original movie version (SWEENEY TODD, THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET, starring Tod Slaughter) of George Dibdin-Pitt's stage play came out in 1936 and was followed by the popular Stephen Sondheim musical and many inferior Z movie copies from the likes of Herschell Gordon Lewis and Andy Milligan. This one was backed by the Showtime cable network and there's nothing much to gain from watching it.
  • Another great rendition of Sweeney Todd. It's great to see stories that can be retold and remain interesting. This throws out the idea of Sweeney as a victim, or his looking for revenge. This is much more in keeping with the original tail. A man that murders for greed. The best part about this film is that is doesn't try to justify the actions or make us sympathise with Todd. He's a terrifying and grotesque creature. Cold, calculating and very deceptive. The investigation narrative is just as interesting as Todd's deeds. I'd still put it behind Winstone's Sweeney Todd, due to the sheer power of that production, but it stands above and shits upon Burton's misfire.
  • This is a mildly diverting take on the Sweeney Todd tale with good performances by Ben Kingsley in the title role, and Joanna Lumley as an enterprising Mrs. Lovett with rotten teeth. Those of you who have seen the recent Depp movie and/or the Broadway version will find that the back story has been changed completely. Not wanting to give anything away, I will only say that the Swiftian social satire element of the original Sondheim version has pretty much fallen by the wayside.

    Users here comment on the convincing 19th century atmosphere, but judging by the costumes and wigs, the setting is clearly late 18th century London and not 19th century Dublin although the movie was filmed there. There is even a small reference to the French Revolution so I would place it in about the 1790s. Having said that, costume, street scenes and general filth look very true to the late 1700s.

    Unfortunately, the anemic musical score is not a good one and it actually detracts from the horror and ghoulishness of the film. On the other hand, the film is a good deal less gory than the 2007 version which may make it more appealing to the squeamish.
  • I liked this more than did most of the reviewers, but mainly for the visual aspects of the film. First of all, I am not used to TV movies with production values, sets, costumes, and atmospherics on this plane. If this were a theatrical film, it would probably have received a few Academy Award nominations for those sets and costumes, but they are quickly forgotten (as are good performances) in most TV fare. Anyway, this entire film has a claustrophobic and rather dirty atmosphere. One looks at just about every scene, even those taking place a bit away from the general mayhem, and wonders how people could have brought themselves to get out of bed every morning to face another day of such filth, degradation, and mayhem. Even the clean-cut heroine of the film is a barmaid fully capable of twisting a tough man's arm behind his back and throwing him out of the pub in which she works. The people who work in Mrs. Lovett's pie emporium (well, we have to call it something) look like denizens of Hell, and that is no exaggeration, for to a large extent that is what they are. And there is a sense of pure horror that pervades just about every scene and location that is quite outside the secret horror that is going on thanks to Mr. Todd and Mrs. Lovett. Next to this, THE BEGGAR'S OPERA is a day at the seaside! Outside the atmospherics, there are the performances, and with Ben Kingsley, Joanna Lumley and Campbell Scott doing the honors, we are in good hands, even though one might not really wish to remember the first two as characters of this much reprehensibility. Will I ever see Ms. Lumley again without mental recourse to her decaying teeth? But they do their job well, and Mr. Scott, as a character of scant nobility who stands out as a paragon of virtue next to many of the other characters (he's the hero!) also does well in a role that could have been tailored for his dad in his earlier career (but George C. would also have done extremely well as Sweeney Todd at any time). Anyway, not a pleasant viewing experience by a long shot, but should a story about (even unwary) cannibalism be a pleasant viewing experience even under the best of circumstances?
  • bruce_sweeney6 January 2008
    This movie includes at least two exceptional actors in Ben Kingsley and Campbell Scott but together they cannot pull this period horror story beyond the doldrums of an unsurprising 18th century slash/horror flick. It's lame, slow, unsurprising and bland. It takes place in unjolly olde London of course, with Kingsley playing the nefarious Sweeney Todd and Campbell Scott, (son of George C. Scott) hot on his trail. Mr Todd is the famous barber that chops up people into hamburger after slitting their throats and selling said hamburg to a local meat pie shoppe.Some of the sets and street scenes seem solid and true to the period but the whole mess is overall (forgive me) ham-handed.
  • I wouldn't have watched this TV remake if it wasn't for Campbell Scott and Ben Kingsley. Knowing that they are both tremendous actors, I was not disappointed by this adaptation! The story is pertinent and clear from the beginning, without unnecessary details and without revealing too much from the very first scenes. The addition of dashing American inspector Ben Carlyle (Campbell Scott) adds a nice twist to the original tale, and satisfies the female romance-craving audience of this horror crime story. With Carlyle's presence and help, the story unravels more interestingly and naturally, whilst also maintaining a classic mystery-horror vibe. The blend of American, Irish, Scottish and English cast is a very fortunate one in this instance, and the American-British romance sub-plot brightens the tale a little bit. The 'justice prevails' positive ending clears the grey London clouds, and leaves the watchers satisfied for good Alice is in good hands.

    This version of 'The Tale of Sweeney Todd' reminds me a bit of the retelling of 'Dorian Gray' (2009) with Colin Firth, because of the addition of a subtle love story and the 'good prevails' ending.
  • A series of mysterious disappearances leads an American inspector in England to a charismatic barber and his helper who bake his victims into pies for the locals and try to stop their deadly game before it's too late.

    A somewhat decent effort of the story, which manages some good stuff here and there to make it interesting at least. The fact that there's several interesting and fairly entertaining mysteries built up that cross pollinate each other gives this one a pretty quick pace, with the mysterious murders leading him down one path, while the fact that he needs information from a previous victim to carry out his task which intersects with the vanished helpers from their shops, and overall this whole segment is quite good. There's even a grand finale that includes the Gothic trope of burning-down-the-location as well, as several of the preparation of the victim scenes get quite bloody, but this one does have some flaws. With several romantic subplots present, it doesn't offer up a lot of time on horror-specific subplots so this one doesn't really get up there in dealing out a body count, and overall this one has more of a period/drama feel rather than an out-and-out horror film so it misses a lot of chances to deliver some gruesome shocks. These lower it enough, but it's still pretty enjoyable.

    Rated R: Language, Graphic Violence and Brief Nudity.
  • I suppose I should not be too harsh, since this is an American TV movie, and neither a quality British product nor a feature film. But Sweeney Todd was ultimately a disappointment.

    On the plus side, the film was enthusiastic about the cannibalism and murder at the heart of the story. These subjects certainly weren't skirted around. Nor were the central characters made into heroes. There was never any doubt that the villainous Mr Todd and his butcher accomplice would pay for their crimes. There was only a faint echo of the modern idea that a criminal is the product of society, and that Todd's crimes were the product of a negligent military. But this was only hinted at.

    The major problem was lack of authenticity and a period feel. The Irish street scenes were physically right for early nineteenth century London, but the people were wrong. They were exaggerated characters, caricatures. Everything over over-acted, over directed, over-blown! Basically the director tried too hard to create a period feel.

    A good effort, but not good enough. A waste of acting talent
  • I bought this movie for 5 bucks at a pawn shop.. I wasted my cash! From the looks of the box I was expecting a little gore..I guess I was expecting a horror movie. Nowhere near it. The goriest thing was a "lady of the night" with rotten teeth...watching Ben Kingsley kiss her made me feel ill. Not to mention that this movie just dragged..I thought it would never end... Can't believe I passed up Plan Night from Outer Space for this!
  • Okay. Okay. I know the general STORY of Sweeney Todd is a tad bizarre. However, it's not the STORY to which my summary line above applies, but to this 1998, perverted Hollywood treatment of it. The 1982 filming of the Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical of this story was classy and a classic. THIS version, on the other hand, nauseated me - not by the nature of the plan the Mrs. Lovett and Mr. Todd cooked up (pardon the pun) to dispose of the bodies of the people Mr. Todd murdered, but because of the way it was presented to the viewers. In addition, the darkly humorous element of the play seemed absent. Unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately), it was more than a year ago that I saw this, and I cannot recall specific examples. Suffice it to say, fans of the Broadway version will probably be very disappointed with this version.
  • It's probably a bit unfair to compare this version of the Sweeney Todd story – as well as any other film version ever made before – with Tim Burton's film which came out in 2007, but at the same time also inevitable. Burton's movie is like the ultimate adaptation of the Sweeney Todd story, with the perfect cast (Johnny Depp, Alan Rickman, …), superior production values, dazzling music and breathtaking art-direction. Naturally all previously released versions pale in comparison, but that still doesn't mean they aren't interesting to watch. Despite being "just" a TV-production, talented names were involved in this movie as well, like director John Schlesinger ("Midnight Cowboy", "Day of the Locust") and veteran actor Ben Kingsley in the titular role. The plot details here differ with most other versions I've seen thus far and particularly Sweeney Todd's motivations to kill the customers that set foot in his barbershop aren't as convincing as usual. Here, Sweeney Todd is a downright merciless and malignant killer whereas in other versions he's more of a mentally tormented individual with pure vengeance on his mind. He kills random and seemingly lonely people in his barbershop and "donates" their bodies to his associate Mrs. Lovett; who processes the flesh in her acclaimed and world-famous London meat pies. Their morbid business finally raises suspicion when an American investigator arrives in London in search of a former partner. It turns out the missing person was last seen as a customer in Sweeney Todd's barber chair… "The Tale of Sweeney Todd" is reasonably entertaining throughout, although there are too many dull sequences and moments of substantial emptiness. The infamous lead character's profile is bleak this time around. You can't feel any empathy for him, but neither is he the intellectual and eloquent master villain that he pretends to be. Mostly surprising about this movie is the high amount of nasty make-up effects and grisly images. There are quite a lot of gruesome murders and their bloody aftermaths on display and some of the make up effects are even TOO repulsive, like for example Mrs. Lovett's dental hygiene. Kingsley's performance is far below his usual standards, but he nevertheless remains a professional chameleon actor. The best performance actually comes from the young Sean Flanagan as the mute barber assistant. It's certainly not a bad effort from the legendary director John Schlesinger, but I wouldn't go through too much trouble to purchase a copy.