Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Blu-ray Review

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by AVForums Oct 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM

  • Movies review

    Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £24.79


    Sweeney Todd rips its way onto BluRay at 1.78:1 ratio which whilst not it's original 1.85:1 I am led to believe this is open matte and not cropped, 1080p using the VC1 codec and from the off let me say that this will not be everyone's cup of tea. Initial scenes with Sweeney and Anthony returning to London via the Thames are well detailed with the rigging in the ship well rendered and the approaching dark shrouded cityscape detailed and showing apparent depth; there is a suitable level of grain apparent in these scenes and whilst there is a more subtle level of grain carried on throughout the rest of the feature it is not as apparent as these early scenes.

    Depth is incredible considering the source material and is one of the better films I have seen for that elusive 3-D factor; the quayside at which the ship docks, the bustling streets of London, the stairs outside Mrs Lovett's shop leading to Sweeney's cut throat establishment all jump off the screen at you. Detail is again apparent in the textures of the walls and floors of Sweeney's sparse shop, Judge Turpin's library, the filthy bricks and cobbled streets of London. Facial structure does suffer somewhat but more due to the make-up applied than any DNR that may have been implemented.

    Blacks are wonderfully rendered, deep and inky yet with sufficient contrast to ensure that the finer detail as mentioned above still stands out. At the other end of the scale whites are contrasted well against the cityscape with no blooming, enhancement or haloing to be found. Encoding is never an issue with no noise or blocking in those darker scenes. The colour palette is predominantly muted for artistic reasons almost being monochromatic and at times definitely employing sepia tones for effect. There are, however, some scenes of incredibly bright colour; usually in flashback or an imagined future. When on screen they are bold and vibrant with the flash back scene showing some excessive whites but again for artistic effect and not because of any problems with this transfer.

    A wonderfully presented disc.

    Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Picture


    The English disc this site covered some months ago offered both standard Dolby Digital and TrueHD tracks; the former has been removed from this US release leaving the only English track the TrueHD variety. This track exhibits the two Ls; Low and Loud and both of these should have the very prefix aplied because your sub will get an incredible workout, ornaments beware, and your neighbours will be asking you to turn the volume down somewhat. It's an incredibly bombastic track due in the main to Sondheim's rich orchestral score.

    First off is dialogue though and the spoken word does come across very well indeed, even through the controlled mayhem of the backing score, there's some panning at the fronts as characters wander from scene to scene, horse driven carriages driving from left to right or the swish of a cut throat razor. There's little steerage from the fronts to the rears, in all honesty it's never really required, but the rears do kick in to add some subtle ambiance to certain scenes. Specifically outdoor in the streets of London when voices and again horses hooves can be heard in your surround field. This ambiance is short lived though and at times a little weak.

    It is Sondheim's score and the vocals which are literally ripped from this disc and then inhabit your viewing space. Although there are no loud explosions, planes flying overhead or the thunderous stamp of hoards of horses on the battle field the LFE on this track is incredible and would put most others out there to shame. It is tight and well controlled from the bass and brass sections of the orchestra and really you must blu-tak those fine china ornaments down otherwise you will see them wandering across your mantlepiece. The LFE permeated this whole film and although there are quieter moments it's not before long that it kicks in again and gets you rallying to the cause. A superb implementation of LFE, not excessive but incredibly well used and controlled. The vocal numbers are an absolute joy to listen to with Depp and Carter's voices detailed and sharp. Set against the backdrop of that incredible score it might have been easy to lose something in this mix but it's still all there on screen for you to take in and wonder at. I know that whenever I have the place to myself I'll be cranking this one up a little and immersing myself in this wonderful audio offering.

    Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Sound


    • Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd. - 0:26:08 - 1080i/VC1

      This short featurette discusses taking the original musical to the silver screen with Steven Sondheim having ultimate casting decisions and essentially indicating he was never pleased with his musicals until this was finally realised. Depp's there mentioning that he did this film, or would do anything for that matter, for Burton. Both Carter and Depp discuss the singing they had to do for this, the training they went into and the fears they had. More than anything else this short covers the music and singing of Sweeney Todd

    • Sweeney Todd Press Conference, November 2007. - 0:19:42 - 480i/MPEG-2

      The press conference after an initial screening of this film. Questions are raised, Burton, Depp and Carter answer. It's a lively, funny affair, especially when Burton's mobile goes off unexpectedly. Questions such as how Burton and Depp are still working together and do they still get on, had Johnny shaved anyone in real life, does Tim just produce dark stories, does Alan Rickman just play cads and does Timothy Spall just play weasels? A must watch.

    • Sweeney Todd is Alive: The Real History of the Demon Barber. - 0:20:08 - 1080i/VC1

      A potted history of the real penny dreadful fictional Demon Barber of Fleet Street who first appeared in 1846 in a story entitled “The String of Pearls”, the original short story can still be found at victorianlondon.org. It is thought that the Scotsman Sawney Bean is the basis for some of the characteristics attributed to Sweeney Todd and this short documentary goes onto discuss real demon barbers through history, watch out next time you go for a short back and sides.

    • Musical Mayhem: Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. - 0:12:05 - 1080i/VC1

      How Sondheim took Chris Bond's stage play from 1973 to the stage, and from then how Burton took it onto film. The themes Sondheim enjoyed in the play and how he thought this would make a good musical piece.

    • Sweeney's London. - 0:16:17 - 1080i./VC1

      A short history lesson on London during the 18th and 19th Centuries. Its poverty, population statistics, its overcrowding, diseases and smells. Some of the people we saw earlier in the History of Sweeney Todd short reappear, and although there is some repetition with that earlier featurette most of the information is general in nature on the period in time.

    • The Making of Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. - 0:24:03 - 480i/MPEG-2

      The standard making of EPK, quick paced with fast edits and some short interviews. A short introduction to the story, the cast, locations and crew. There's really nothing new in here and unlike the rest of the features contained in this set a little disappointing.

    • Grand Guignol: A Theatrical Tradition. - 0:19:16 - 1080i/VC1

      An introduction to the French specialised horror theatre which was still operating up till 1962 and how it influenced modern day horror stories from novels to film, including Sweeney Todd. Its style is still very much in use today with theatre companies like Thrillpeddlers continuing these old traditions.

    • Designs for a Demon Barber. - 0:08:56 - 1080i/VC1

      Colleen Atwood, costume designer, Francessca Lo Schiavo, set decorator, and Dante Ferrettie (The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen), production designer, have their say on what Burton requested of them and how they brought his imagined visions to the big screen. Both Francessca and Dante speak in English with an Italian lilt but the powers that be felt they needed subtitles, can't say it was needed myself.

    • A Bloody Business. - 0:08:53 -1080i/VC1

      There's a massive amount of blood spilled during this film and here we get to go behind the scenes to see how all of this was realised, the amount of fake blood needed, the equipment needed to get it to spurt successfully. It's an enjoyable, light-hearted look at this gruesome side of special effects.

    • Moviefone Unscripted with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. - 0:11:36 - 480i/MPEG-2

      A quick question and answer session, originally filmed for a website, with these two answering questions submitted over the net. There's some interesting questions resulting in a free flowing, brief conversation and it still retains the level of humour shown in all of the extras contained on this disc.

    • The Razor's Refrain. - 0:08:40 - 1080i/VC1

      A slideshow of some still images from the film, mostly black and white. Set to some snippets of the songs from the film.

    • Photo Gallery. - 1080p/MPEG-2

      More photos from the film and production but this time you get to navigate through them yourself using the left and right arrow keys on your remote.

    • Theatrical Trailer. - 0:02:33 - 1080p/VC1

      As the name suggests, all in glorious full HD.

    An excellent set of extras perhaps only let down by a weak, but standard, EPK and no commentary. Each and everyone of these extras though really do deserve your attention and you'll have a good laugh viewing most. I've always been a fan of Burton and Depp, both when they have collaborated and on their own independent ventures. They always come across as fun people to work with and these extras as well as being interesting and informative, only cements that impression. Extra sets rarely get any better than this.
    Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Extras


    A musical from Burton and Depp was admittedly not something I thought that they would immediately sink their teeth into but they have taken Steven Sondheim's well received musical, done it great justice and produced a wonderfully tragic story set to music.

    Depp, Carter, Rickman, Spall and all others do show that they are not afraid to whip up a number or two and that is credit to their dedication and acting skills. The score is an absolute joy to behold and is backed up by deep detailed audio and imagery straight from Tim Burton's psyche. Audio and video are well rendered with no real faults to be found. The extras are a multitude of shorts and all bar the thin EPK are well worth a look, some of which have multiple viewing appeal; so as a set this disc cannot be faulted.

    I mentioned that I thought this was Burton's best film and I mean that. His story telling has matured somewhat over recent years and in this work he's produced an almost perfect Shakespearian tragedy. He's always been someone to look forward to, but even more so now I feel. This disc should sit on anyone's BluRay shelves and with straight nines across the board comes highly recommended.

    Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Verdict

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.79

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