The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T
Directed by Roy Roland
Written by Dr. Seuss
Starring Hans Conried
1952, Not Rated
Bart Collins’ dad is gone, and mom replaces him via lessons from the piano-obsessed Dr. Terwilliker. Bart hates lessons, and his occasional narcolepsy justifies the real plot of this gem, the dream world adventures designed by the good Doctor Seuss. Semi-evil Dr. T has built the world’s largest piano, and is capturing 500 little boys to play it at the opening of his nefarious Terwilliker Institute. Forced to wear the stupidest beanie in the known universe, Bart battles to convince Mr. Zabaduski, Master Sink Installer, to rescue his zombied mom from the evil clutches of the over dressed doctor. Surrealism never had it so good.
From the sinister modern dance troupe chasing Bart to the dueling hypnotists, the good doctor rules the evil one in this little known classic. The apex of this diffracted world is the concerto in the Non-Piano Only dungeon by Dr. T’s musician captives. The nearly atonal music LOOKS as if it should be played on these imaginary Seuss-a-phones, and danced by these Seussed-up refugees. Hans Conried as Dr. T rules his dream castle like a third world dictator, and makes a fine villain. In contrast, Bart’s plumbing buddy (Peter Haye) looks like he’d be doing anything other than lip synching this film, even miming a bass tournament.
No one could make this film today. It’s not sappy, it’s not silly, and it has a level of sophisticated humor now legally forbidden in children’s film. It’s not hard to entertain both child and parent, really, if you assume the child is a very small adult, and the parent is a very large child. Go find this movie. If you can’t — give up hope. Here and now.