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USA 1953
Directed by
Roy Rowland
89 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
3.5 stars

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T

Synopsis: Like any kid, young Bart (Tommy Rettig) hates his piano lessons and more importantly his piano teacher, Dr. Terwilliker (Hans Conried). Made to practice by his mother he soon drifts off into dreamworld where an evil Dr. T is forcing all of the children in the world to practice piano forever on a never-ending, winding piano. It’s up to Bart to foil Dr T’s dastardly plan and save the children of the world from the dreary bore of piano practice.

Modern-day audiences may think that all there is to Dr Seuss is Mike Meyers’ dreadful Cat In The Hat (2003) or Ron Howard’s The Grinch That Stole Christmas (2000) starring Jim Carrey. Those two films did nothing to perpetuate the legend of Dr Seuss or Theodor Seuss Geisel as he was known to his friends. The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr T is the real deal, scripted and designed by the great man himself, the film is a surreal delight from beginning to end. From the happy fingers hats that the children wear to the winding, the world’s longest piano, to the rolling skating Siamese twins who share the same beard, the images jump straight out of the Dr Seuss books. This was back in the day when computer effects were a vision of the future. The sets are an eye-popping combination of model work, matt paintings and tricks of the light. Visually the film echoes the baroque imagery of a Mario Bava horror film, every angle is obtuse and every colour is bright and vibrant.

The horror connection is continued with the fabulous score by Frederick Hollander.Theremin-heavy, the eerie sounds are reminiscent of Forbidden Planet (1956) or any other 50s sci-fi thriller, further adding to the weird atmosphere in Bart’s dreamworld. Hans Conried, the voice of Captain Hook in Disney’s Peter Pan (1953) and innumerable television shows, is fabulous as the sinister Dr T. His wild wardrobe and outrageously camp dialogue is hilarious and is also highlighted in many of the films songs. In particular The Dressing Song is beautifully played.

Anyone brought up on Green Eggs and Ham and Cat In A Hat will lap this up. It’s fun for the child in all of us; the naïve innocence that runs throughout the whole film is refreshing compared to watching any of the films aimed at children today. The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr T harks back to an era when children were still allowed to be children rather than the media-targetted young adults of today.




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