3 February 2008 | gftbiloxi
Interesting But Somewhat Slow Variation On The Famous London Story
Although some have tried to argue that he was an actual person, it seems likely that the story of a throat-cutting barber named Sweeney Todd arose first as a bit of urban myth that was developed into an 1846 story titled THE STRING OF PEARLS by writer Thomas Prest. A year later the story was adapted to the stage as SWEENEY TODD, THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET. It proved a popular ticket, and in age that knew little of copyright law, versions of the play were soon springing up all over the place, each one tweaking the story a little bit in the process. Consequently, it is almost impossible to say that any one particular version is "more authentic" than any other.
In this particular version, filmed for BBC in 2006, Todd (Ray Winstone)is a barber who spent twenty years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Released, he finds himself shaving a prison guard and on sudden impulse slits the man's throat. One thing leads to another, as you might say, and he soon makes the acquaintance of bake-shop worker Mrs. Lovett (Essie Davis); his fondness for her not only leads him to set her up in her own business, but to supply the occasional cut of meat as well. The twist to this particular version of the story is in the relationship between Todd and Lovett, the latter of whom is more sinned against than sinning.
The script is quite clever, essentially winding most of Todd's motives (including his interest in Mrs. Lovett) around his own mistreatment while an inmate of the notorious Newgate prison, and both Winstone and Davis are extremely impressive in their performances. But for all the blood, and there is aplenty, and for all the sex, and there is some, the film looks exactly like what it is: a made-for-television movie. It is also rather slow and quite often a bit too "stiff upper lip" for its own good.
The DVD release offers a good transfer but, excepting cast credits, nothing in the way of bonus material. Those interested in the various directions the story has taken will find it intriguing, but most others will likely be only mildly interested.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer