Sweeney Todd: Fleet Street’s Demon Barber is Stephen Sondheim’s magnum opus: a musical masterpiece spattered with gore.
From songs full of puns about people eating to near-shaves that end with slitting throats, when it comes to the macabre, the musical is a little over the top. Even, regardless of what it means, blood is a requirement – strip the blood out and remove the roots and dramatic intentions of the work.
In an interview with Female, Tim Burton – who made a film version of Sweeney Todd starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter – talked about the production. He explained why gore is an important part of everything, in all its bloody glory.
Tim Burton addresses “Sweeney Todd” and what happens when blood is “skimps” by a production.
Burton told Female that he recognizes the difficulty of fitting a musical with blood and aggression. It’s not exactly a recipe for success at the box office. Burton noted, however, that maintaining the artistic value and intent of the output is worth the risk.
“…I remember watching the show and right when Johana – these two very good British ladies – were sitting in front of me talking during the show and then when Johana came on and the blood began spurting across the stage, they both stopped and paused for a second and one lady leaned over to the other and said, “Is that really necessary?
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Burton clarified that the history of the show is rooted in “Grand Guignol” horror stories – a sensationalist and grotesque nature of entertainment that began with the opening of the Grand Guignol theater in Paris’s Pigalle district in 1897. But history is not the only force at play.
According to Burton, the blood in “Sweeney Todd” is all about “emotional release,”
“is true to the spirit of the show”is true to the spirit of the show.
In this film, it’s more of an emotional release [than]a reality thing and the studio was fine with it and they welcomed it because they understood what the show was, every movie is a threat, but it’s good to be able to do something like that that doesn’t fall into the musical or slasher movie categories. It’s in a group of its own.’
Sweeney Todd of Burton undoubtedly found his own place in musical film and slasher film and was lauded by fans and critics alike.