|Quotes • Headscratchers • Playing With • Useful Notes • Analysis • Image Links • Haiku • Laconic|
Beadle Bamford: Your establishment is in Fleet Street, you say?Sweeney Todd: You are welcome, Beadle Bamford. And I guarantee to give you, without a penny's charge, the closest shave you will ever know.
Sweeney Todd: Yes sir.
Beadle Bamford: Then, Mr. Todd, you will surely see me there before the week is out.
There used to be a time when men sometimes went to the barber's for a shave. Judging from movies, it seems to have been a dangerous thing to do. Every so often, that straight razor would end up slicing the customer's throat.
A milder version of this trope involves the customer getting a nonlethal cut, either by accident or intentionally on the barber's part.
Anime and Manga
- In Akumetsu chapter 27, one of Akumetsu's victims gets killed this way.
- In Eastern Promises, a barber asks his nephew to shave a customer. Turns out it's code for slicing his throat open.
- In an early draft of Sherlock Holmes, Dredger (who wound up a silly French thug) was a razor-wielding psychopath who impaled himself on his own razor near the end. Holmes and Watson agree to never touch a razor again.
- The Big Red One. A woman working for La Résistance kills several German soldiers billeted in the madhouse by pretending to be one of the inmates, dancing among them in a red dress cutting their throats.
- This is the focus of "Lather and Nothing Else" by Hernando Tellez--the client is a general in a tyrannical regime, and the barber is secretly a rebel. The barber knows that if he kills the general, he'll be arrested and executed, but he's uncertain whether it would be worth it. He decides to simply shave the general and send him on his way. The general tells him he's known to be a rebel, and this was an experiment to see if he was really willing to kill. "It's not easy to kill a man. Believe me, I know."
- The ballad Der rechte Barbier (The Right Barber) by Franco-German poet and naturalist Adelbert von Chamisso (1781-1838): A man calls for a barber, offering a high price for taking off his beard and shaving him, only if the barber nicks him and spills one drop of blood, he'll kill him. The master barber is too scared, tells the journeyman to do it; the journeyman is too scared, sends for the apprentice. The apprentice does it and does a fine job. The client says: "Well done, and you didn't tremble, even though I'd have killed you if you had spilled one drop of blood." - "Sir, that wasn't a problem. I had you by the throat - if you had flinched and my knife had gone awry, I'd have cut your throat immediately."
- In the Discworld novel "Feet of Clay", Samuel Vimes invokes this as an excuse to shave himself - he claims he's had too many people try to kill him to be comfortable with anyone holding a blade near his throat. The real reason is that, having grown up in the gutter, he resents the aristocracy and hates having servants wait on him.
- In "The Iron Hand of Mars" Marcus Didius Falco finds himself accompanied to Germania by Nero's former barber, whom he fears might actually be an assassin sent to kill him. We don't find out if he is, but the barber does quite handily cut the throat of a mook who tries ambushing them. When questioned on his throat-slitting ability, the barber quietly points out that someone in his occupation is often open to abuse - he's had to learn how to defend himself.
- This is in the backstory of Garrett (formerly "George the Fiend") from Betsy the Vampire Queen - he was an actor who was supposed to play Tarzan, but when the movie was canceled (in favor of Gone with the Wind), the producer took him to the barber for a haircut and shave. The producer was the vampire Nostro, and he had the barber slit Garrett's throat so he could drink.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's novel Glory Road, Rufus is an accomplished barber with a straight razor but he can only do it while his "customer" is lying down. This is because he learned the skill while working as a mortician -- that is, shaving corpses. This phrase subsequently becomes a Running Gag between him and the protagonist, Oscar, as a Deadly Euphemism for killing.
- In recognition of this trope, in The Malloreon Belgarath criticized Kal Zakath for allowing a barber to shave him when he lived in constant danger of assassination.
- The original Sweeney Todd story was The String of Pearls, published in the 1840s. In that version, Todd did in his customers by opening a trapdoor under the chair, and only employed this trope if the fall into the cellar didn't kill them outright.
- In both the novel and movie of The Color Purple, Celie is required to shave Mister. Before she does it the first time, he threatens to hurt her if she ever "accidentally" cut him. Given the way he treats her, she certainly had reason to consider performing this trope on him.
Live Action TV
- Monty Python's Flying Circus has a few:
"CUT! CUTCUTCUTCUTCUTCUTBLOODSPURTARTERYMURDERHITCHCOCKPSYCHO DAMMIT!"
- Explicitly invoked, but averted (with tragic consequences for the scrupulous barber), in Le Barbier.
- The quintessential embodiment of this trope is of course Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, who murdered his customers and handed their bodies off to his partner Mrs. Lovett to be baked into meat pies.
- The Disney Theme Parks ABC Soundstage attraction "Sounds Dangerous" simulates Drew Carey getting one of these with audio.
- On Discworld MUD, there is an NPC who is a Shout-Out to Sweeney Todd, and even warns you beforehand that he'll slit your throat when you get a shave from him. But hey, dying this way gets you an achievement and a percentage of another achievement and creates pies that taste like you.
- One of the playable personas in Assassin's Creed Brotherhood's multiplayer is the Barber, a spy for the Templars who goes around cutting throats with a straightrazor.
- Lumpy from Happy Tree Friends ups the ante by shaving himself while driving. This being Happy Tree Friends, the results are messy.
- Happens in this Perry Bible Fellowship comic involving an automatic barber.
- This Nedroid comic has Reginald doing it to himself.
- In the Futurama episode "That's Lobstertainment", the gang watch an old film starring Zoidberg's uncle Harold Zoid, in which he's a barber who accidentally chops off a customer's head while shaving him with his claws.
- The Tex Avery short "The Car Of Tomorrow" has a gag about a car that shaves the driver, and what happens when the road is not smooth.
- Bart and Lisa plan a script for Itchy & Scratchy from The Simpsons involving Itchy decapitating Scratchy with a straight razor although the idea gets scrapped as too cliché.
Examples of nonlethal Dangerously Close Shaves:
- Al Capone in The Untouchables moved his head. Everyone in the room froze as they saw that the barber had cut him.
- In Mississippi Burning, the FBI agent played by Gene Hackman intimidates a KKK member who was getting a shave by replacing the barber.
- Celie at least contemplates some very dangerous thoughts while holding a razor in her hand in preparation to shave Mister in The Color Purple. She gets interrupted out of her thoughts (and the razor snatched out of her hand) before she can do anything rash.
- Narrowly averted in the movie Resurrection Man, where the cold-blooded psycho protagonist - who we've already seen viciously kill several people and beat countless others to a pulp - gives his disabled father a shave. From the looks on their faces and the building-up of dramatic tension, it really seems as though he's about to kill him. But he doesn't. It's still a massively eerie scene though.
- During the Baptism Scene of The Godfather, it certainly looks like this is about to happen to someone, but it turns out that The man getting a shave is a hitman for the Corleone family, and was getting a shave so he could sit and watch a door for his target without raising suspicion.
- In "The Man from Ironbark", by Australian bush poet Banjo Paterson, a barber plays a trick of this trope on a country yokel. The barber makes the man think his throat is cut by heating up the back of a barber's blade and drawing it across newly-shaven skin. The feeling that is left is as if the throat is cut. This ... doesn't go well.
Live Action TV
- In the Kolchak the Night Stalker episode "Bad Medicine", Kolchak talks to a former criminal gem cutter who now works as a barber. He gets lathered up but then decides not to get a shave after noticing how much the barber's hand shakes.
- In the Sci Fi Channel remake of Flash Gordon, Ming was nicked when being shaved mainly because he couldn't sit still. As punishment for the nick he cuts off the guilty barber's finger.
- In the Alcatraz episode "Cal Sweeney", the prison barber accidentally cuts Tiller while Tiller is demanding a cut of Sweeney's racket. The barber's reaction shows he expects some retribution from Tiller, but Tiller uses the cut as an opportunity to deliver a veiled threat to Sweeney about what happens if you shave against the grain.
- Lou Reed's song "Harry's Circumcision" is about a man who, while shaving, realises that he's turning into his parents... and promptly starts cutting up his face, ending by slashing his own throat.
There, you're nice and clean / although your face / looks like it might have gone through / a machine.
- As alluded to on the Quotes page, Courage the Cowardly Dog once encountered an unhinged barber named Freaky Fred who was a little... naaaaaaaughty.
- In Disney's version of Peter Pan, Smee (through a complicated series of misunderstandings) mistakenly believes he's accidentally cut off Captain Hook's head while shaving him.
Smee: Oh dear! I've never shaved him this close before!
- Donald Duck almost gets a lethal shave from an automated barber's chair in the Classic Disney Short Modern Inventions.