Near the docks, in the city of London was a barber shop owned by Sweeney Todd (Tod Slaughter). Todd would watch the ships come and go from the harbor. One day he sees Johanna Oakley (Eve Lister) with her sweetheart Mark (Bruce Seton). Mark is a poor sailor. Johanna is the daughter of the shipping magnet Stephen Oakley (D.J. Williams). Mark is shipping out on Oakley’s ship "The Golden Hope". Johanna and Mark are saying their goodbyes when Johanna’s father rides up in his carriage furious that his daughter is with a poor sailor. He sends Mark off to the ship and Johanna home. Seeing Sweeney Todd he thanks him for letting him know where Johanna was. Todd says he would like to talk to him about a business opportunity. Oakley is in need of money and so suggests they have dinner to discuss it.
Back at his shop Todd receives a new apprentice. The orphan’s name is Tobias (John Singer). He sends Tobias next door to the pie shop to get something to eat. The shop owner is Mrs. Lovatt (Stella Rho). Todd and Lovatt are sort of in business together.
Todd watches the ships as they dock. When he sees someone coming off a ship that looks like he has money he offers to give him a shave. Using his oily charm he convinces them that they will look more handsome all cleaned up. When he gets them into his shop he has them sit in his special chair. After Tobias lathers them up he sends the boy to get a pie and take a walk. He pulls a secret lever and the chair flips over dumping the patron into the hard cellar floor. He then goes downstairs and slits their throats. He steals their money and has Mrs. Lovatt help him get rid of the body. Sweeny has killed many men and has amassed a lot of money.
Now that The Golden Hope has left, and Mark with it, Sweeney can execute his biggest plan yet. With the money he has stashed away from killing customers he can invest in Oakley’s company. When it comes time to be reimbursed and The Golden Hope has not yet returned from sea Sweeney demands his money back. Since Oakley can’t pay him until the ship returns Sweeney has the upper hand.
Sweeney suggests that if he were to marry Oakley’s daughter than as Oakley’s son in law he would be a member of the family. Johanna is not thrilled with the prospect of marrying someone almost as old as her father. Unless something happens that will bring money to her father she may not have much choice.
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” was released in 1936 and was directed by George King. It is a British horror/drama with some slight comedic undertones.
Tod Slaughter did a lot of horror type movies in the thirties and forties. Slaughter is a ham. He is basically Snidely Whiplash without the handlebar mustache. I’m not the biggest Tod Slaughter fan but I do have to say that he does a great Sweeney Todd. As Todd he portrays a slimy monster and a letch. Since over acting is his forte, the part was made for him. I enjoyed the film a lot and Tod Slaughter was the reason why. Go figure.
The character of Sweeney Todd is based on a series of stories that appeared in nineteenth century magazines or paperback books called Penny Dreadfuls. Historians still debate on whether or not there really was a Sweeney Todd. Some maintain that the evil barber is an early form of an urban legend. This was the first talkie of Sweeney Todd. Two silent versions had been released in 1926 and 1928.