''Unsuspecting wealthy customers have their pockets picked and their throats slit in Sweeney Todd's barber chair. His accomplice, Mrs. Lovatt, grinds the victims into the meat pies she sells in her pastry shop. Meanwhile, ... more »the mad barber has a romantic eye on a beautiful daughter of a business partner whom he is threatening to ruin financially. She, however, is in love with a handsome seaman who has embarked on a trip to earn the money he will need to wed her. When he returns as a wealthy man to his bride-to-be, he first stops for a shave at Sweeney's chamber of horrors. The demented barber sharpens his razor to make the young man his next victim!Tod Slaughter's remarkable talent for playing over-the-top maniacs in macabre Victorian settings in films like Murder In The Red Barn reached a pinnacle with Sweeney Todd. His delightful grin and maniacal glee after "polishing off" his victims is a trademark of the actor, who never gained quite the fame of his counterparts of the era, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Directed with a smart tongue-in-cheek flair by George King, who helmed the best of Slaughter's films, Sweeney Todd features sharp performances and witty dialogue that transcends the age of the film. The bizarre and gruesome subject matter gained renewed interest nearly four decades later when Stephen Sondheim adapted the story into an unlikely smash Broadway musical. Starring: Tod Slaughter & Stella Rho
Directed by: George King
Screenplay by: Frederick Hayward & H.F. Maltby DVD Details: Run Time: 68 minutesNumber of Discs: 1Originally Released in 1936Black & WhiteNo region encoding; For global distribution.
Packaging: DVD STYLE BOX Operating System: DVD MOVIE Weight: .450000 PLEASE BE SURE TO CHECK SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS AND COMPATABILITY PRIOR TO PURCHASING THIS ITEM. THERE ARE NO RETURNS OR EXCHANGES UNLESS IT IS DEFECTIVE.''« less
"Master character actor Tod Slaughter was a legend years before this, his most popular movie, was filmed. In the 1920's, Slaughter toured through his native England with an acting troop comprised mostly of mental patients Tod procured from various asylums, a la the Marquis De Sade. In the tradition of Grand Guignol, the company performed many ghoulish plays, including this one, which was written by George Dibdin-Pitt. In the 1930's and 40's, while Bela and Boris terrified American audiences, Tod Slaughter raised gooseflesh in Britain, with his rolling eyes and evil smile. This picture, made in 1936, follows Dibdin-Pitt's play (based on an actual series of murders that took place in Victorian England) to the letter. In Stephen Sondheim's glorious musical, the plot is totally different. Here, Sweeney Todd is pure evil, motivated by greed. Times are tough, lots of people are poor and out-of-work. Sweeney Todd has the perfect solution - using his charm and tonsorial skills, Todd lures wealthy, respectable customers into his Fleet Street barber shop, where his mechanical chair dumps them head-first down into the cellar Todd shares with his pal, meat-pie maker Mrs. Lovett. If the fall doesn't do the trick, Sweeney is happy to "polish off" the customer with his razor. Mrs. Lovett then grinds up what's left and uses it to make her famous meat pies, and they split the money from the customer's purse. The plan goes smooth as silk, leaving Sweeney free to work on seducing an aristocrat's daughter in hopes of marrying her for her family's money. The fun begins when Mrs. Lovett suspects that Sweeney is skimming their profits and Sweeney's 12-year-old apprentice Tobias begins to suspect the awful truth behind the meat pies he loves - so Sweeney must find a way to get rid of them both! As gruesome as it sounds, most of the horror takes place off-camera, which is what you'd expect from such an old film. You do get to see the customers dispatched by Sweeney's mechanical chair, and it's a hoot to see Todd crouch over the bodies, unfold his straightrazor and smile like the madman he is. More a dark comedy than a horror film, this movie was banned in the US for several years, thanks to the Production Code. This video version, produced by Rhino Video, is a fairly decent print, veering from a clear image to grainy to really scratched up. The sound quality is good, though inconsistent. With the advent of DVD, it's my sincere hope that all Tod Slaughter's movies are remastered and re-released on disc. He deserves it, and so do all serious movie collectors!"
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 02/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (produced and directed by the great George King in 1936) features Tod Slaughter in one of his most famous roles. In my mind, no one ever played a villain more ably than Slaughter, and even though I don't consider this film to be his best work, he is marvelous nonetheless. Sweeney Todd is not your everyday barber, but as he gleefully says several times, he loves his work. He especially loves wealthy customers just disembarking from foreign lands. He puts them in his favorite chair, sends his apprentice next door for a meat pie, and then proceeds to "polish off" his customer. A surreptitious pull of a switch is all it takes to flip the chair over and dump the unsuspecting victim head first into the cellar. The meat pie seller next door is in cahoots with him and the dastardly pair split whatever money they find (though not 50-50 if Todd can help it). It is pretty much assumed that the dead bodies are disposed of, to some degree, in the meat pies sold next door, but this is not made explicit in the film (just as we never get to see Todd use his razor to finish off any victim who may not have been killed by his fall). Although Todd is making a lot of money, he wants more. He concocts a business deal with a ship owner that eventually puts him in the position of blackmailing the man's daughter to marry him (Tod Slaughter's characters always go for the ladies), and he even manages to get his rival for the girl's affections in his chair after the man returns home a rich man. Alas, Todd's brilliant villainy cannot last. The ending of the movie was a little bit disappointing to me because the heroes' plans of exposing Todd are really pretty foolish and seemingly of little use, and Todd's own actions at the end seem to defy logic.This movie is really all about Tod Slaughter, whose remarkable performance more than makes up for some obvious weaknesses in the plot. Slaughter is, in my opinion, the benchmark by which all movie villains then and now should be judged. If you want to learn how to cackle with evil glee or wring your hands together greedily, just watch Tod Slaughter at work. I really loved the way Sweeney Todd told his customers he was going to "polish them off" just before sending them to their deaths. We see Todd's truly dark nature most clearly in his relationship with his new apprentice Tobias (his eighth apprentice in eight weeks, as the first seven have all disappeared mysteriously). His victims never see what's coming, but the poor child is terrorized by the evil barber. Todd, razor in hand, tells him how bad boys that see or say too much sometimes end up having their tongues cut out and other horrible things done to them. He is the perfect villain. Tod Slaughter's melodramatic style of acting is different from what you will find in modern movies. Some may be inclined to laugh at his performance as he hams it up. This is actually part of the magic of his performance; he encourages you to laugh along with him all the way to hell. No one enjoys villainy as much as he does himself. If you want to see villainy personified, you simply must see Tod Slaughter's work, and there is no better introduction to his unique genius than Sweeny Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."
Blast from the past
Richard | north lindenhurst, NY United States | 11/16/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The movie is a hoot, but the picture quality is poor, and the audio is just awful. But the movie is so off the wall, it's worth the $6.99 just as a history lesson, as they certainly don't make them like this anymore!"
MMM-MMM Meat Pies!
Bindy Sue Frřnkünschtein | under the rubble | 12/24/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Sweeney Todd (Tod Slaughter) and his accomplice Mrs. Lovatt have a strange business relationship. Todd brings the rich victims into his barbershop, where he throws the secret switch to his trick barber-chair, sending them into the basement for a throat-cutting and fleecing. Mrs. Lovatt then makes mince-meat out of the poor saps in her shop next door. Sort of an ancient forerunner to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, SWEENEY TODD is a perfectly gruesome little story. I especially like the new apprentice, Tobias, who goes next door for those tasty meat pies whenever his new master gets a new victim for his razor. Tobias is the eighth boy in eight weeks to fill the job. The other seven have all gone missing! It's a crime that this film has not gotten the notice it deserves. It's creepy, ghoulish, and humorous. Tod Slaughter is menacing, and no more silly in this than Bela is in DEVIL BAT for heaven's sake! Sheesh! Well worth owning..."
A "Quota Quickie" Of More Historic Interest Than Actual Ente
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 04/01/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Although some have tried to argue that he was an actual person, it seems likely that the story of a throat-cutting barber Sweeney Todd arose first as a bit of urban myth that was developed into an 1846 story titled THE STRING OF PEARLS by writer Thomas Prest. A year later the story was adapted to the stage as SWEENEY TODD, THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET. The story has remained popular into the 21st Century and is today best known as a musical by Stephen Sondheim.
The 1936 English film came about due to English laws which required film studios to produce a certain number of films for every film imported. George King was among the producer-directors who specialized in "quota quickies" and Tod Slaughter was his "star." Born in 1885, Slaughter was never among the great actors of his day--but he was a stage favorite with provicial audiences, most especially when he played villians, and most especially when he played Sweeney Todd.
This particular version of the story differs a great deal from later versions, but the basic story remains the same. Todd is a London barber who occasionally cuts a throat; Mrs. Lovatt (Stella Rho) is his partner in crime, who bakes the victims up into pies. Now, make no mistake about it: this version of SWEENEY TODD is essentially one made by a pack of hacks, so you'll find no art here. It really is a "quota quickie," badly written, badly filmed, with a cast that goes from adequate to inept. Even so, Slaughter and Rho are quite entertaining, playing so broadly and with melodramatic glee that offers a window onto the playing styles of a by-gone era. The whole thing is so over-the-top, ultra-Victorian, English-gothic that it really can be quite a bit of fun if approached in the right spirit.
It would, however, be quite a bit more fun if the DVD prints available today were good quality. They are not. Indeed they are so poor that the film is barely watchable, and it goes without saying that there are no bonuses of any kind. Recommended, but really only for those who are interested in tracing the history of Sweeney Tod in his various incarnations.