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!