Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

30 01 2008

The Demon Barber of Fleet StreetI was probably about four years old when my grandfather first told me the legend of Sweeney Todd, the crazed barber who slit his patrons’ throats before having their flesh baked into delicious meat pies. The tale, while more than likely apocryphal, touches on several fears close to most people’s hearts, not the least of which is unwittingly eating a fellow human being (and worse still, actually enjoying it).

Todd’s story was adapted countless times over the last couple of centuries, but the most notable in recent times was the 1979 Broadway musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler, itself based on a 1973 play by Christopher Bond. The play and musical added greater depth to the story by transforming it into a macabre tale of tragedy and revenge, and now director Tim Burton has adapted the musical into a Hollywood film.

Sweeney Todd (Burton-favourite Johnny Depp) was once Benjamin Barker, a meek and mild barber living in London with a beautiful wife and child. But when the slimy Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) coverts Barker’s wife, he frames the barber and has him transported to Australia; now, 15 years later, Barker returns to London as Todd, a man devoured by thoughts of revenge.
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Pink Floyd The Wall

4 12 2007

Pink Floyd The WallIn late 1979, Pink Floyd released their double-LP concept-album The Wall, a satire and diatribe that savaged the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle while including pot-shots aimed at a sadistic education system and the personal effects of war. This was bassist Roger Waters’ baby, being as he conceived of the project in isolation and wrote the bulk of the material on the album.

In tandem with the recording of The Wall were plans to create an elaborate stage show and concert film, and while the stage show went ahead, the film began to take on a different role. No longer would it be a concert film supplemented with additional dramatic footage starring Waters; instead, Bob Geldof was cast as the lead and the film would feature no actual footage of the band. Gerald Scarfe (who had illustrated the album and provided animations for the stage show) would remain the animation director, however.

The film itself, directed by Alan Parker (Fame, Midnight Express), is a pretty sombre affair. Geldof plays Pink, a rock star burnt out by excess and facing a gradual psychological meltdown, obviously still traumatised by the death of his father in World War II as well as possessing various other gripes. Pink eventually turns completely inwards, building a metaphorical wall as a defence mechanism and developing an utter contempt for the adulation of his fans.
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