Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Blu-ray) (2007)

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Released 5-Jun-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Featurette-Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd
Featurette-Sweeney Todd Is Alive: The Real History Of The Demon Barber
Featurette-Musical Mayhem: Sondheim's Sweeney Todd
Featurette-Sweeney's London
Featurette-Grand Guignol: A Theatrical Tradition
Featurette-Designs For A Demon Barber
Featurette-A Bloody Business
Featurette-HBO First Look: The Making Of Sweeney Todd
Featurette-London Press Conference
Featurette-Razor's Refrain
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 116:22
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Tim Burton
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Johnny Depp
Helena Bonham Carter
Alan Rickman
Timothy Spall
Sacha Baron Cohen
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $39.95 Music Stephen Sondheim


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
German
German for the Hearing Impaired
Italian
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Dutch
Chinese
Korean
Spanish
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Portuguese
Swedish
French
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Director Tim Burton is always at his best when the people financing his projects give him freedom to do things his way. Few better examples of this fact exist than Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street, an adaptation of the musical by Steven Sondheim. Although Sondheim is notoriously protective of his work, a better match between source material and director simply does not exist. Once Sondheim agreed to allow Burton to make the film according to Burton's vision, the only difficulty from Sondheim was his insistence on maintaining approval of the cast. Burton was insistent that longtime collaborator Johnny Depp came with the project, but other actors such as Helena Bonham Carter had to send Sondheim numerous audition tapes. Sondheim's insistence on approving the casting turned out to be a very good thing, as it is not often that actors seem so perfectly suited to the part they play.

The film begins with a ship sailing into a British port that the musical number tells us is London. A young sailor by the name of Anthony (Jamie Campbell Bower) sings of his time at sea and how there is no place like London. And in this much, he is correct, according to the lengthy interjection of a barber by the name of Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp). Looking very much like a younger Robert Smith in his present-day form, Barker goes to a pie shop and confers with its owner, a woman known through the course of the film only as Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter). From flashbacks in these two scenes, we learn that Barker was once a young, promising barber with a beautiful wife and small child. A Judge named Turpin (Alan Rickman), however, decides he wants the young Mrs. Barker for himself, and has Benjamin transported to the colonies on false charges.

Now that Barker is back, he is aggrieved to learn that his wife was assaulted at a party hosted by Turpin and has seemingly disappeared. Turpin, in a display of what could be called kindness, has adopted Barker's daughter, Johanna (Jayne Wisener). As luck would have it, Anthony takes a fancy to Johanna in one memorable sequence where he passes by the Turpin residence. Any doubt that Turpin is the kind of person the modern judicial system was partly designed to weed out comes when he warns Anthony off, with a hired thug by the name of Beadle (Timothy Spall) punctuating the admonishment through use of his fists. The last of the major players in the story is introduced in one memorable sequence with Sacha Baron Cohen as Pirelli, a seemingly Italian barber who has the reputation of being the absolute best in the world. Pirelli might be what writers call an extended cameo, but his influence over how the story unfolds makes him a major player indeed.

It is how Pirelli meets his end after threatening to expose Benjamin Barker for who he is, as opposed to the Sweeney Todd alias that Barker has adopted, that ultimately changes the character from Benjamin Barker, wronged barber who would be filing endless lawsuits in present-day America, into Sweeney Todd, homicidal maniac who has become part and parcel of nineteenth-century London folklore. This transformation is completed when Lovett devises a novel method of disposing of the corpses. Anyone who knows their London folk tales will not need to be told that Lovett grinds up the corpses and serves them in pies to the wealthy elite of the city. But not having seen the Sondheim musical on which the film is based in any shape or form before, I was surprised by some of the novel twists that the film takes in its final act.

Sweeney Todd also has the distinction of being the most adult-oriented of Tim Burton's works. Although it is a musical, a genre not normally noted for aiming for those above the age of twelve, it is very graphic and portrays the dinginess of nineteenth-century London with a disturbing accuracy. Numerous throat-slashings portrayed in loving detail make this a case where the MA rating should be taken seriously.

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Transfer Quality

Video

I originally attempted to review this disc a while back, about the time it started to appear in local stores. Unfortunately, the disc I received displayed a tendency to skip several seconds at a time in specific spots, and was returned to the retailer as being defective. The disc surface appeared to have "gaps" in the data, small spots where it appeared no information had been pressed. Whether this is a manufacturing defect or just an isolated case of bad luck is hard to tell, but I would welcome reports of anyone else having problems with this title.

The transfer is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window. This appears to be an opening of the mattes from the projected aspect ratio of 1.85:1, as nothing appears to actually be missing.

Having seen this film projected digitally, I was quite amazed at how sharp this disc appears by comparison. The make-up work applied to Johnny Depp in order to blacken his hair and whiten his skin really stands out in this transfer. The shadow detail is also quite exquisite. This is a very dark film, with numerous sequences taking place at night or in low lighting conditions, and the delineation from the brightest part of the picture to the darkest is immaculate. No low-level noise was evident.

Sweeney Todd was shipped to theatres with the codename Skunk. That should tell you everything you need to know about the intended colour scheme of the production. The only spot of brightness in the film is in the litres of blood spilled, which looks fake enough at times to actually seem real. No bleeding or misregistration is apparent, and flesh tones are quite accurate. That is, most of the cast look like they have not seen the sun in years, as was intended.

Compression artefacts were not noted in this transfer. Some grain or noise is evident in the opening shot of the boat pulling into the harbour, but this was also in the theatrical projection, and the rest of the film is quite amazingly clear. Film-to-video artefacts were nowhere to be seen. No noticeable film artefacts were found.

Subtitles are available in English for the Hearing Impaired. These are quite accurate to the spoken dialogue and sung vocals.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

A total of seven soundtracks are offered on this Blu-ray Disc.

The first and default is the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1, which I immediately passed over in favour of the second soundtrack, the original English dialogue in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, a lossless format as a musical like this truly deserves. The separation between dialogue/vocals, sound effects, and the music on the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack makes it difficult to fathom why one would have bothered including a soundtrack in the lossy Dolby Digital.

Dubs in French, German, Italian, and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 are also offered. For some odd reason, the Spanish dub appears twice, as soundtracks six and seven. The packaging states that one of these soundtracks is Castilian Spanish, and the other is Latin Spanish. The Pop-Up Menu only offers access to one of these Spanish dubs, for some odd reason.

The dialogue and singing is very clear and easy to understand in all soundtracks. In the dubs, the sung vocals are generally in English, with only the spoken dialogue being dubbed. As previously mentioned, the elements of the soundtrack seem better-separated from one another in the TrueHD soundtrack. No problems with audio sync were noted.

The music in the film consists entirely of numbers by Stephen Sondheim, and the vocals from these songs make up a good seventy-five percent of the dialogue. Since the music is pretty much the focus of the film, it is lovingly staged and works wonderfully in context with the onscreen action. Johnny Depp's vocals are a bit jarring at first, furthering the Young Robert Smith vibe that he has going. Jamie Campbell Bower's vocals come out the best, having a very operatic feel to them.

The surround channels are used consistently for elements of the music and the occasional sound effect. Since the music comprises the majority of the film, the soundstage follows a very musical design, with the vocals entirely in the front channels. The strings echo through the surrounds, but directional and split-surround effects are more or less absent. So long as one does not go in expecting the kind of multi-channel effects that we are used to hearing on other films of this recent vintage, one will be quite happy with this soundtrack.

The subwoofer was used to augment the bass in the music, the thud of bodies against the ground, and that furnace. The subwoofer is well-integrated with the rest of the soundtrack and does not call undue attention to itself.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Unless otherwise noted, all extras are in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 1080I, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Menu

As is the usual case with Warner Brothers discs, we are only given a fractional Top Menu offering access to the extras. Access to the soundtrack, subtitle, and chapter options is only available through the Pop-Up Menu, which is fortunately given a good response time. Unfortunately, it cannot be accessed during playback of the featurettes.

Feauturette - Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd

This twenty-six minute and eight second featurette details how Tim Burton approached making the film. What is surprising is the number of green-screen shots seen in this featurette that were not obvious in the finished product. The interviews with Tim Burton, Stephen Sondheim, Johnny Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter are quite insightful.

Featurette - Sweeney Todd Is Alive: The Real History Of The Demon Barber

This twenty minute and ten second featurette explores the legend the musical and the film is based upon. Apparently, there are a number of different stories that the character is based on, including a French barber who slit a customer's throat in a mistaken jealous rage and sold the corpse to a pie-maker. Archival footage of Tod Slaughter's performance in a 1936 production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street is presented in surprisingly high quality.

Featurette - Musical Mayhem: Sondheim's Sweeney Todd

A twelve minute and four second featurette in which composer Stephen Sondheim talks about how he wrote the musical on which the film was based.

Featurette - Sweeney's London

A sixteen minute and sixteen second featurette about the London in which the musical and the film are set. Illustrations of the London of the eighteenth and nineteenth century are contrasted with photography of the modern London. Aliasing is rife in some illustrations.

Featurette - Grand Guignol: A Theatrical Tradition

A nineteen minute and sixteen second featurette about the horror theatre tradition.

Featurette - Designs For A Demon Barber

An eight minute and fifty-five second featurette about the costume and set design.

Featurette - A Bloody Business

An eight minute and fifty-two second featurette about the special effects used in the numerous scenes where characters are murdered.

Featurette - HBO First Look: The Making Of Sweeney Todd

A twenty-four minute and two second featurette in standard definition.

Featurette - London Press Conference

A nineteen minute and forty second featurette, in which members of the cast and crew answer various questions. In standard definition.

Featurette - Razor's Refrain

An eight minute, forty-one second collection of stills with score music from the film.

Photo Gallery

A collection of stills that can be navigated with the directional buttons on the remote control.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

It appears that this disc is not available yet in Region A. Information regarding what specifications and content the Region A release will eventually have is scarce. The Region A disc will be distributed in America by Paramount, rather than Warner Brothers as is the case here. Whether this will make any difference remains to be seen.

Summary

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street is a great film based on a tale of horrible violence and a revenge plot that goes awry in many an interesting way. Fans of either Stephen Sondheim or Tim Burton ought to have it already.

The video transfer is excellent, and reflects the quirky production design of the source magnificently.

The audio transfer is excellent, and proves you do not need to have sounds whistling through every channel like a rocket to create an immersive experience.

The extras are numerous, but lose their interest factor in something of a hurry.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSharp AQUOS BD-HP20X, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic Viera TH-42PZ700A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Dolby True audio pop. - Sean.
re: Dolby True audio pop. - Roger T. Ward (Some say he's afraid of the Dutch, and that he's stumped by clouds. All we know, this is his bio.)
re: Dolby True HD "pop" - Anonymous
Dolby True audio pop. - Sean.
RE: Dolby True audio pop. - Sean - Rodda (This... is my *bioom* stick!)
Dolby true pop - Sean.