Xy and I went to see Sweeney Todd at a suburban cineplex last night. It’s a truly impressive film, masterful, the latest iteration of a story that goes back at least 160 years — and yet I had two major reservations.
For one thing, both Xy and I were somewhat squeamish with regard to the graphic throat-slittings. All told, these made up only a few seconds of film, but I could barely look at the screen during those moments.
However, the main thing that bugged me was the absence of the title song. Who could forget these lyrics?
Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd.
He served a dark and a hungry god.
To seek revenge may lead to hell,
But everyone does it, though seldom as well
As Sweeney Todd,
The demon barber of Fleet Street.
But you won’t hear them in this film. I understand they cut over an hour of music from Sondheim’s score. The cuts seem to have eliminated all the most “stagey” songs, so that the final result is a film that doesn’t seem like a stage musical but like a film where most of the dialog just happens to be sung. And I’ll grant that the title song is one of the stagiest numbers in the whole musical. So it makes sense that they cut it.
But, damn it, it’s also the best song in the musical — in fact, it’s my favorite songs from any musical. And they keep teasing us with it, instrumentally, throughout the film, so that you keep expecting the song to bust out. And it never does.
And that is an unforgivable sin. In fact, it robs the movie of a proper ending. I thought they’d at least run the song over the closing credits, but no, just the instrumental theme.
Although it appears to be a minority opinion, I’m glad to see I’m not alone in this.