Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Attend the tale...

Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m a bit quirky at times. Aren’t we all? Recently, I did a couple of quick reviews of films that I would rather not even admit that I sat through. I’m like that. I can be transfixed by the bizarre and rarely do I get so disgusted that I’ll just turn something off (or walk out of a theater). Generally, a film has to be extremely boring for me to consider that (with a few exceptions such as “ The Star Wars Holiday Special”). But there’s another, sordid, side to this pseudo sanctimonious saga. There are a select few presentations that I don’t speak of, much, around the family and good folks at my place of employ. Items that you might think I would rather avoid or, at the very least, be willing to hurl some insanely ponderous barbs at. But alas, no. Mostly because I thought they were pretty damn good. So, now, why don’t we…

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd…

His skin was pale and his eye was odd.
He shaved the faces of gentlemen ,
Who never thereafter were heard of again.
He trod a path that few have trod.
Did Sweeney Todd.
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

A while back, I paid a hefty $100 in a fierce bidding war on Ebay for an out of production VHS tape of this Stephen Sondheim classic stage presentation starring Tony Award winner Angela Lansbury and George Hearn. Recently, I came across a similar television presentation version that was almost identical (only the audience reactions were slightly different) on Netflix. It’s on DVD, of course, and the sound quality is amazingly better. The subject matter is quite grim and certainly not for everyone (especially if you happen to be partaking of a meal while viewing). But not only does this not bother me, in the least, I find myself humming the opening ballad at work. Yikes.

The story is loosely based on a series of murders committed in 18th century London by a barber who not only robbed his victims but also, along with his lover, used the victim’s remains as the chief ingredient for some rather popular meat pies they sold. The true story is pretty straightforward with no real romantic nuances to raise it above your common psychopathic rampage. Although it is quite curios to see how an obvious murdering maniac could escape justice for so long due to the ineffectual legal system in England, at the time. The play, however, changes things drastically by making Mr. Todd (his “real” name is Benjamin Barker in the play) an object of sympathy, as he was sent to Botany Bay on a trumped up charge so that a local judge could satisfy his lustful cravings for Sweeney’s wife. That ploy, having not been successful due to the faithfulness of Mrs. Barker (leading to an unfortunate fate for her), the judge ends up caring (and really imprisoning) Sweeney’s daughter.
Vowing his revenge, but not really knowing how to extract it (he has no money and is an escaped convict), he is assisted by one Mrs. Lovett. Mrs. Lovett owns a failing meat pie bakery located below Sweeney’s old residence. She remembers him from the days when he was the respectable barber Benjamin Barker and has always had an unrequited love for him that he was not even aware of. When the authorities arrested him, she saved the objects of his original trade – a lovely set of silver straight razors. Now Sweeney has a trade with which to, not only provide for an existence, but to move towards his ultimate goal – death to those who harmed him and his family – and anyone else who happened to need a shave at the wrong place and time. Mrs. Lovett also earns a bonus. She has Benjamin Barker as her companion – and a wonderful source of free, delectable filling ingredients for her, soon to very popular, meat pies.

The play is a masterpiece, with equal parts horror and humor. The vocal performances are absolutely captivating. I recommend it, highly – but be careful whom you plan to watch it with. You might find them looking at you rather strangely for quite some time.

8 Comments:

At 7:17 PM, Blogger Ken Begg said...

"[I]t is quite curious to see how an obvious murdering maniac could escape justice for so long due to the ineffectual legal system in England, at the time."

Henry, you've quite possibly read The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (and if you haven't, you should), which alternates the stories of the Chicago World Fair of 1893 and the contemporary murder spree of one of America's first serial killers, HH Holmes.

Holmes, too, remained at large for an amazingly long amount of time. And, of course, Jack the Ripper was never caught.

I suspect that English and American society at that time literally couldn't fathom the idea of a serial killer, and thus couldn't effectively respond to their presense.

 
At 1:32 AM, Blogger Henry Brennan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 1:34 AM, Blogger Henry Brennan said...

Actually, you're quite correct, Ken. Check out "The Alienist" by Caleb Carr

 
At 10:24 PM, Blogger BeckoningChasm said...

I keep checking here, every couple of days or so, to see if anything's new. This May 4th entry is like one of those stone heads on Easter Island--a comfort because of its immutability.

Now, if there's ever a NEW post, I may perish out of sheer fright. In which case...a NEW musical! Sweeney Todd, the Demon Poster of Fleet Street.

I should note that though this is sarcastic, it's meant as GENTLE sarcasm, supposed to spur some further thoughts here.

 
At 11:38 PM, Blogger Cullen M. M. Waters said...

I, too, come back here every now and then in the hopes of seeing new content. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, well, I can honestly say I enjoyed it while it lasted.

 
At 9:11 PM, Blogger BeckoningChasm said...

So, Cullen, read anything good lately? I just got A Voyage to Arcturus from Amazon. Sounded pretty good from the reviews I've read...hope it holds up to them.

 
At 1:17 AM, Blogger Cullen M. M. Waters said...

Henry - Thank you for the offer of help. Unfortunatly I recieved the message too late to ask. I'll do a write up at my blog in a day or two after I finish kicking myself.

beckoningchasm - I just finished The Knight, the first part of Gene Wolfe's The Wizard Knight and Ring, the novel the movies are based on. I enjoyed both a great deal. Either book might make its way to the blog, it may not. I'm trying to get back into the flow of things.

 
At 8:32 AM, Blogger BeckoningChasm said...

Okay, my followers, I've had us meet here because it is the perfect place to launch our invasion of Earth. It is completely hidden and we can stay here, unsuspected, until it is time to strike!

 

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