Sweeney Todd Companion Book Review

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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. He trod a path that few have trod, did Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street."

With those words, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street's companion book opens. This book by Mark Salisbury is the official companion piece to the Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd film that I got in the mail from TitanBooks and One Potata Productions. A big thanks to them for sending me a copy of this to give you guys a better insight to this book.  I hope to provide a little in-depth insight to what this book has to offer for those who go out and enjoy seeing Sweeney Todd. This book is filled to the brim with great interviews, quotes, photos and concept art. It is a great book for any collector and has some great information that will make you laugh, sometimes surprise you, and overall intrigue you.

The book opened with a foreword written by Tim Burton himself. He mentions this as his all-time favorite musical and his vision being inspired by Hammer Horror films as well as some Universal horror classics. Not too bad a group to use as inspiration to a story such as this.

From here, the book spends the next 90 or so pages talking about how Sweeney Todd has made it to the big screen. It mentioned that Tim Burton flirted with the idea of adapting the musical back around the time he did Batman and said he could do it without a script. When DreamWorks acquired the rights, writer/producer John Logan demanded involvement and once he got in had to figure out how to adapt a 3 hour musical to a 2 hour film. Original musical writer Stephen Sondheim had final say over all the choices, which included changing song lyrics that "bugged him for 20 years."

While a lot went on preparing to adapt Sweeney Todd, the casting was just as important to make sure it fit the subject matter. Burton knew from the start he wanted Depp for this role, but the question then posed itself: can Johnny Depp sing. There is a great account from both Burton and Depp about trying if he could sing. Before anyone heard him sing a note, the movie was greenlit due to Depp's high popularity. Fortunately a month before production begins Burton got his first listen of Johnny singing and let out a sigh of relief.

Finding an actress to play Mrs Lovett gave Burton more troubles. Helena Bonham Carter has wanted this role since she was young, but how would it look if he gave his girlfriend the role? After an unbiased audition process, Burton truly thought Bonham Carter was the best. Stephen Sondheim had final say, so all the tapes were played for him and without knowing Burton wanted Bonham Carter, he chose her. She may not have been the best singer of the group, but she had the look, the feel, and enough vocal chops to win the part outright.

There is a lot more to this book but I dont want to ruin it. It truly is a great companion piece for a movie like this. There is much more to the casting of Depp and Bonham Carter in the book, but you get the idea. From there we learn a lot about how Burton wanted it to look and how the sets were done, as well as how the supporting cast was chosen and how the music came together with all the actors. The first part of the book really has a lot of great information on all of this. Some of it made me laugh, some of it surprised me. It was an interesting process and doesnt sound like it was the easiest film to get on track.

The second part of the book is considered an illustrated story. It is hundreds of photos from the movie and set with experts of the screenplay spliced within. This includes many original sketches and concept art for the film as well. The book doesnt skimp on the gore either as there are some good bloody photos as well as some faint blood splatter on some of the books pages itself.

Writer Mark Salisbury was a great choice for the book having done a few with Burton before. He captures Burton's passion for this project really well and tells everyone sides of the story to get a full perspective on it all.

All in all this book is really a must own for people who end up extremely enjoying the movie. Filled with great detail on how Sweeney Todd all came together combined with tons of great & memorable photos creates a book for any die hard fan. It is worth a flip through alone to see some of Burton's water color paintings he did for Sweeney Todd years ago(one of which I was able to find and attach at the end of this review). So for those of you who go out and see Sweeney Todd and enjoy it enough that you want to see more of it, go out and get Titan Books' and One Potata Production's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street companion book by Mark Salisbury. You wont be disappointed.


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