The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953)

ROY ROWLAND

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5USA, 1953, Story and conception by , Screenplay by Dr. Seuss, Cinematography by Produced by Music by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by Academy Awards 1953.

A little boy named Bartholomew resents having to practice piano despite the fact that his mother is entirely on the side of his tyrannical piano teacher Dr. Terwilliker ().  Bart falls asleep at the keyboard and has a dream about a mythical land in which his teacher is actually a tyrant and has brainwashed his mother into being his leading lady, a world involving giant, colourful sets where Gestapo-like minions roam in search of rule-breakers, a place where up and down are relative and giant ladders lead to nowhere. Thankfully, the family plumber August Zabladowski is on hand to help save the day when it turns out that Dr. T. plans to make five hundred boys (including Bart) play piano non-stop for days on end on his giant, endless keyboard or else throw them in the dungeon. This is one of the few films written by Theodore Geisel (under the well-known pseudonym of Dr. Seuss) and the film’s look will be familiar to anyone who grew up reading his books. The whimsy of the story is at odds with its execution, the adventure is so gentle but with someone as sober and sincere as Stanley Kramer in the producer’s chair, it tries too hard to be a prestige picture, featuring expensive, complicated musical numbers in a movie meant to delight children. A major failure when first released, it has become a cultish curiosity whose influence is felt in many later projects (most obviously on The Simpsons) but it won’t be for everyone’s taste or patience.

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