Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Source Google Video


Sweeney Todd is a character who first appeared as one of the protagonists of penny dreaful serial entitled string of pearls (1846-1847). Claims that Sweeney Todd was a real person are strongly disputed by scholars, although there are possible legendary prototypes, arguably making the story of Sweeney Todd an example of an urban legend.

In the original version of the tale he is a barber who murders wealthy customers by slitting their throats with a straight razor and letting the dead bodies fall through a secret trap door beneath his barber's chair, and into the basement below the first floor pie shop. After Todd has robbed his dead victims of their goods, Mrs. Lovett, his partner in crime (in some later versions, his friend who wants to become his lover), assists him in disposing of the bodies by having their flesh baked into meat pies, and selling them to the unsuspecting customers of her pie shop, because "times is hard" and she cannot afford the meat.
This is the 1936 film version of the Victorian melodrama starring Tod Slaughter as Sweeney Todd and Stella Rho as Mrs. Lovett. The very first film version of this story was a shot in 1926, but has been lost. Two years later, the first surviving film adaptation was made as a silent film starring Moore Marriott as Sweeney Todd. Tim Burton’s 2007 film version is actually based on Stephen Sondheim’s 1979 stage musical of Sweeney Todd.


In the Library:

  • Kaye, Marvin. Sweet Revenge : 10 Plays of Bloody Murder New York: Fireside Theater [ WorldCat]
  • Bordman, Gerald Martin. American operetta : from H.M.S. Pinafore to Sweeney Todd New York: Oxford University Press [WorldCat]
  • Rosenman, Ellen Bayuk. 'Mimic Sorrows': Masochism and the Gendering of Pain in Victorian Melodrama. Studies in the Novel Spring 2003, Vol. 35 Issue 1. [EBSCO]