1. We suffered a brief outage this morning when our host noticed that HTF needed to be moved to a different server due to a hardware failure. That work is now complete. Please post in the feedback area if you have any issues.
    Dismiss Notice

AT LAST! The REAL "SWEENEY TODD"!

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Roger Rollins, Apr 20, 2004.

  1. Roger Rollins

    Roger Rollins Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2001
    Messages:
    931
    Likes Received:
    0
    I was able to pick up a copy of Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece SWEENEY TODD last night, and I still haven't recovered from the mind-blowing experience of watching this wonderful production again on DVD. This new release is truly a DVD "event" worth celebrating.

    I've had both a VHS and Laserdisc version in the past, but the improvement in both picture and sound quality is astounding. Considering the original source was probably 2" videotape (I don't think 1" had come into use until about a year or two later) what Warner has achieved visually is mightily impressive. It's obvious they went back to the original production masters for their restoration, because the show bears a main title that says "THE ENTERTAINMENT CHANNEL" presents. (That was the long-defunct cablecaster that first premiered this production, before SHOWTIME or PBS!)

    Even more dramatic is the improvement in sound quality. The previous incarnations always had a thin, tinny sound to them. Now the new 5.1 mix provides an orchestral sound that is more vibrant and robust, with much clearer vocals, and a great sense of aural ambience from the surrounds.

    If you have the old "concert version" DVD, you can now sell it or trade it. You'll never want to watch it again now that you can have the real thing. Lansbury and Hearn are superb, and we should all be grateful not only that some wise-thinking person sought to preserve this great show on videotape, but also grateful to Warner Home Video for giving it such a first-class presentation.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  2. Peter McM

    Peter McM Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 1999
    Messages:
    952
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    Indianapolis, IN
    Real Name:
    Peter
    I remember when Showtime was less known for its soft-core porn and more known for airing wonderful stage productions. That's where I first saw Sweeny Todd. Being a student of music and theatre myself at that time, it and similar programs had a major impact on me. I may just have to pick up this DVD and reminisce.

    Now, if they would just resurrect a show called Perfectly Frank, a Frank Loesser musical review that also aired on Showtime around that same time.
     
  3. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Screenwriter
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2000
    Messages:
    1,927
    Likes Received:
    234
    Roger, I can now breathe a sigh of relief and bury my worn VHS copy.

    You are absolutely correct about the Hearn/Lansbury version blowing the pants off of the concert version. This is one of the treasures of Musical Theatre.

    Now if only they would digitally correct the woman who played Johanna's crossed eyes! [​IMG]

    Unfortunately, DVDTalk gave the disc a less-than-stellar review because it looked like what it is: a shot-on-video production from 1982. The guy seemed disappointed that it wasn't hi-def 3D DTS Superbit material. It kills me when reviewers don't take source material into consideration when reviewing a disc.
     
  4. Mark Bendiksen

    Mark Bendiksen Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 1999
    Messages:
    1,090
    Likes Received:
    0
    Ah, yes. Those were the days. How else would I ever have gotten to see Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin in Sunday in the Park with George?
     
  5. Peter McM

    Peter McM Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 1999
    Messages:
    952
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    Indianapolis, IN
    Real Name:
    Peter
    Mark:

    Yep--Sunday was another goodie...
     
  6. Conrad_SSS

    Conrad_SSS Second Unit

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2003
    Messages:
    370
    Likes Received:
    63
    I was at Virgin Megastore at 9 AM this morning so I could purchase SWEENEY A.S.A.P.

    I just finished watching it for the first time in years (my VHS tape deteriorated from overuse) and I was struck not only by the brilliance of Sondheim's work, but also by the stunning new remastering job that WB has pulled off on this treasure. Astounding!

    Make sure you get this release. It's a masterful presentation of one of the great musical works of our time.
     
  7. Brian PB

    Brian PB Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2003
    Messages:
    671
    Likes Received:
    0
    For my money, Sweeney Todd is the greatest of all Broadway musicals. While I prefer Len Cariou to George Hearn in the title role (though I have only heard the former on the Original Cast CD), there can be no doubt that Angela Lansbury owns the role of Mrs. Lovett. For those who know her only as Jessica Fletcher, this DVD will be a revelation.

    Can't wait to recieve my pre-ordered copy.
     
  8. Bob Graham

    Bob Graham Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    May 11, 2001
    Messages:
    509
    Likes Received:
    0
    Real Name:
    Bob Graham
    I'm with you Brian: Len Cariou is the definitive SWEENY TODD. I saw the original on Broadway (Len Carriou/Angela Lansbury) as well as the second cast (George Hearn/Dorothy Loudon). I would also have to say though, that I found Dorothy Loudon a much better Mrs Lovett than Angela Lansbury; at times I found Lansury's performance campy and almost "cute" or "sweet" and somewhat sympathetic, but Loudon was downright diabolical and sardonic, a true conniver.
     
  9. PaulEB

    PaulEB Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2002
    Messages:
    126
    Likes Received:
    0
    Can't wait to get this in the mail. Darn that slow free shipping!

    George Hearn rules!
     
  10. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 1999
    Messages:
    8,800
    Likes Received:
    3
    I love this musical. I saw it at the Kennedy Center in DC last year during the Sondheim festival, but the best production EVER of this show was at Signature Theater in Arlington VA a few years back. Simply Astounding. I look forward to the DVD of this performance as well.
     
  11. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2002
    Messages:
    1,683
    Likes Received:
    11
    David, LOL, I was just at Signature last month seeing Allegro.

    I didn't see the Signature Sweeney, but I did see the Kennedy Center version, and the original on Broadway two weeks after it opened. I can assure you, the original with Angela and Len Cariou was completely astounding, and this video of the tour isn't as good.

    But I am somewhat friends with Donna Migliacco!
     
  12. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 1999
    Messages:
    8,800
    Likes Received:
    3
    Dee, I saw Allegro at Signature too. LOVED it (cried like a baby). I was there the evening that Sondheim himself came to watch the performance (thanks to Raphael). Woohoo!

    Hey, next time you're in the (DC) area let me know and we'll get together for dinner and a movie or show!


    Isn't she FABULOUS!?! OMG, that woman just rocks. To see her in Sweeney Todd was AMAZING. She pretty much defined my Gypsy experience as well. I could talk about Donna's talent for days. Among the local show-goers here we have a saying... "I'm a friend of Donna." [​IMG]
    -dave
     
  13. Brian PB

    Brian PB Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2003
    Messages:
    671
    Likes Received:
    0

    I have heard others say the same thing, so you're not alone. To me, Lansbury sounds "perfect" to my ears, so it's hard to imagine someone better (I've only seen two other actresses interpret the role, and both were rather weak). Unfortunately, I don't think the late Ms. Loudon ever recorded her performance, so it will only live on in memory.
     
  14. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 1999
    Messages:
    10,887
    Likes Received:
    620
    Location:
    Florida
    Real Name:
    Aaron Silverman
    I didn't even know that this was *planned* for a DVD release until 2 days ago! Awesome!!!

    Another one to cross off the wish list. . .
     
  15. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2002
    Messages:
    1,683
    Likes Received:
    11
    I saw Angela Lansbury (with Len Cariou) and a year later, Dorothy Loudon (with George Hearn).

    Dorothy was a very different Mrs. Lovett, funnier and wickeder, and a little smarter. The scene with Tobie when she realizes that Sweeney is going to have to kill him, was truly chilling -- Mrs. Lovett shows real fright.

    But Angela's energy and rhythm in the role could hardly be bettered -- Dorothy seemed like an actress channeling another actress who really played the role.

    I couldn't like the second performance as much, for either actor. And George Hearn has never equalled Len Cariou, although I think his performance in the recent concert video was more measured and nuanced than this video -- he was older and more experienced, of course.

    This new DVD is irreplaceable as an artifact of the original show, with the sets and most of the original actors. It is Sondheim's crowning achievement, but also Harold Prince's and Angela Lansbury's and Jonathan Tunick's, and it's a milestone for television too -- how to effectively treat theatrical works, particularly musicals.

    And the DVD is unbelievably beautiful -- they must have found a supremely well-preserved copy. I note that The Entertainment Channel logo appears at the beginning -- this is a long defunct cable channel that originally showed the video (before Showtime and others). So, all of this, plus George Feltenstein as producer, is reason for an exemplary disk. Buy it! because this kind of project needs huge support, and there isn't a big group of buyers for these kinds of special shows.
     
  16. Erik_H

    Erik_H Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2004
    Messages:
    162
    Likes Received:
    35
    I agree with others in this thread that it's great to have "Sweeney" on DVD. I am a "Sweeney" fan of long standing, having seen the original with Lansbury/Cariou, the national touring company in Boston with Lansbury/Hearn, the 2002 Kennedy Center revival with Christine Baranski/Brian Stokes Mitchell and the recent NYC Opera staging with Elaine Paige/Timothy Nolen. It's an amazingly rich work that never ceases to impress.

    The DVD picture quality far surpasses the VHS and laser disc versions that have been out of print for years. Who knew that a 22 year old video could look so terrific?

    My one quibble is that the new Dolby Digital mix sharply reduces the sound of the audience (the mix is otherwise extremely impressive). There are times when the actors pause due to an audience response that is now barely discernible (such as laughter during the "A Little Priest" number)---the result is that at times the actors seem to be performing in a void. The sound of the audience was much more apparent in the VHS and laser editions.

    Sales of the DVD are off to a decent start; current position on Amazon is #19.
     
  17. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 1999
    Messages:
    2,393
    Likes Received:
    0
    Meat pie anyone?
     
  18. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2002
    Messages:
    1,683
    Likes Received:
    11
    Erik H, do you know me?

    I heard that audible reduction in the audience response. At first, I was a little disturbed, but after I got used to it, I thought it was fine.

    Overall, though, I wish the orchestra had more presence. The singers (center channel) are very loud and clear, and perhaps this was the intention.

    But when one listens to the original cast recording on LP or CD, the orchestra is much more present. Admittedly, this recording was made in a studio, not a theater.

    Overall, I'm very pleased with this DVD version.
     
  19. Tyler Ruggeri

    Tyler Ruggeri Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 1999
    Messages:
    74
    Likes Received:
    0
    Erik,

    I completely agree. When I watched my copy, I was extremely surprised to find the enthusiastic applause after the "Worst Pies in London" number barely audible. A look at my VHS version confirms that the applause was definitely louder there.

    Tyler Ruggeri
     
  20. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 1997
    Messages:
    5,547
    Likes Received:
    214
    Location:
    DFW
    Real Name:
    Steve Tannehill
    The video quality rates very high, even considering the source. Deep blacks, theatrical lighting, dirty costumes--and a good amount of detail.

    But the sound is very disappointing. Count me in the camp as one who had the laserdisc and still remembers the audience reactions. They are all but gone, except for the very artificial sounding surround sound applause.

    Yes, the vocals and instruments sound better than ever. But, a show so dark almost requires some context--a laugh-track, if you will--to show what people found funny. This DVD hardly preserves that context. The baby was thrown out with the bathwater...

    - Steve
     

Share This Page