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"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…"

So begins Stephen Sondheim’s macabre musical masterpiece SWEENEY TODD- THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET ($25). This successful Tony Award winning musical is one of those rare Broadway shows that were wisely preserved on video, so future generations to enjoy an essence of their original theatrical production. Darkly comic and horrifying, with a brilliant score by Sondheim, SWEENEY TODD- THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET tells to story of a falsely imprisoned barber, whose unexpected return is marked by a hell bent revenge that leaves a trail of blood and bodies in his wake.

George Hearn is both horrible and heartbreaking as Sweeney Todd, who escapes from Botany Bay after a fifteen-year imprisonment. Returning to London to find that his silver barber implements are all that remain of the life he once knew, our good Mr. Todd picks up his straight razor and begins plying his former trade- dispatching a series of victims as he goes along. Opposite George Hearn is the delightful Angela Lansbury, who applies a light comic touch to the morally bankrupt Mrs. Lovett, whose "worst pies in London" suddenly become a taste sensation with the public, after she discovers a new source of meat for her baked goods. "What happened then- well that's the play, and he wouldn't want us to give it away..." The cast of SWEENEY TODD- THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET also includes Cris Groenendaal, Sara Woods, Edmund Lyndeck, Calvin Remsberg, Betsy Joslyn and Ken Jennings.

Warner Home Video has made SWEENEY TODD- THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET available on DVD in the proper 4:3 full screen aspect ratio of its original television broadcasts. Shot on video in 1982, the tape masters would appear to have been given a thorough going over, using whatever digital tools are available today to wring as much clarity and detail as one is likely to find in twenty-plus year old analog video source. There is still some softness and fuzziness to the image, but the presentation is commendable, considering its production history. Colors are generally strong and reasonably stable, although the garish stage lighting and makeup prevent the hues from appearing too natural. Blacks are accurate, whites are stable and the picture produces decent contrast and shadow detail, although the stage lighting does tend to squash things. The videotape source seems to be in good shape and relatively free from age related flaws. Digital compression artifacts are always well contained.

For this release the soundtrack has been remixed into 5.1 channels of Dolby Digital. Considering age, past recording technology and that this is a live performance, the sound quality is generally good and works quite well. The mix creates a theater-like environment, with the forward channels containing the orchestra pit and onstage performers. As for the rear channels, one will hear the sounds of the audience and a bit of musical reverb coming from the back of the theater. Fidelity is good, but it lacks the punchiness and lifelike quality of newer, all digital recordings- certainly; the bottom end could have been a little stronger. Both the singing and speaking voices sound quite pleasing, plus everything is completely understandable. No other soundtrack options are provided on the DVD, although English, French and Spanish subtitles have been included. Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection features. No supplemental materials have been included on the DVD.

SWEENEY TODD- THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET is undoubtedly one of the greatest achievements in musical theater, and it has been admirably preserved for future generations to enjoy. The DVD polishes the presentation as much as possible, providing very solid video and audio quality. If you are a fan, then SWEENEY TODD- THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET is a must have DVD. Recommended.



Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (1982)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2004 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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