is a villain who began as an urban legend sometime around 1800 and was,
a few decades later, the protagonist of a penny dreadful called The People's Periodical,
which was published in 1846. The issue was titled The String of Pearls: A Romance
written by Thomas Prest, a popular writer who also wrote Varney the Vampire,
which I've wanted to get a copy of ever since I was in third grade.
Another popular urban legend of Victorian London was that the unsuspecting victims ended up in meat pies.
There was no evidence of Sweeney Todd having been an actual character, nor that
anyone turned up in the popular takeaway dish, but when the story was turned into a play in 1847 the advertising claimed that it was "founded in fact."
Remember that lady that claimed to find a finger in her chili at Wendy's? Of course, she turned out to be a serial scam-artist and
got sentenced to nine years. I think if I found an identifiable piece of meat in my fast food chili it would actually be sort of comforting like, "Hey- at least it's not the pig's genitals!" ... but meat-eaters are a crazy bunch with all sorts of hang-ups about what species are good (chicken, cow, fish, lobster and pig) and what are bad (cat, dog, horse, cockroach or person). So picky!
Anyway, back to Sweeney Todd.
A Pathe "news" clip promoting Tod Slaughter
In 1936 the first sound film adaptation (following two silent versions) was produced in England. Most of the "ingredients" of subsequent adaptations are present here: a love interest named Johanna, a meat pie-making Mrs. Lovett and of course Todd, his mechanical barber's chair and straight razors. The film starred Tod Sl
aughter, an actor famous for his over-the-top p
erformances as murderous maniacs. As this clip above illustrates, his acting has pretty "hammy."
The next cinematic adaptation was 1970's Bloodthirsty Butchers.
In 1973 playwright Christopher Bond wrote a play version wherein new twists were added to the play. In his version Sweeney Todd was motivated by revenge, not greed. A judge wrongfully imprisons Todd and rapes his wife, which leads to her committing suicide.