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The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T

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VHS | SP | Slipcase
88 mins (NTSC)
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The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953)

Additional Information

Additional Information
Look Who's Talking Too! (1990)
The Wonder Musical of the Future!

Ted Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, wrote and helped design this eccentric fantasy about a young boy named Bart (Tommy Rettig) who, like most young boys, doesn't enjoy his piano lessons with the mean-spirited Dr. Terwilliker (Hans Conried). He figures his time would be better spent playing baseball with his friends or helping his grown-up buddy Arthur Zabladowski (Peter Lind Hayes), a plumber. One night, while fast asleep, Bart has a long and remarkable dream in which he's trapped in the kingdom of the fearsome Dr. T, who has enslaved hundreds of little boys, forcing them to practice on the world's largest piano until they drop. With the help of a friendly plumber, Bart plans a revolt that will topple Dr. T's evil empire once and for all. The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T also features several songs for which Geisel contributed lyrics.

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. (1953) is a musical fantasy film, the one feature film written by Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss), who was responsible for the story, screenplay and lyrics. It was directed by Roy Rowland, with many takes directed, uncredited, by producer Stanley Kramer. It earned a 1953 Academy Award nomination for "Best Scoring of a Musical Picture".[1]

Filmed in 1952,[2] before the transition to widescreen formats began, it was composed for the then-standard 1.37:1 Academy aspect ratio (1.33:1, when televised) and photographed by the three-strip Technicolor process. It was re-released in 1958 under the title Crazy Music.

Young Bart Collins (Tommy Rettig) lives with his widowed mother Heloise (Mary Healy). The blight of Bart's existence are the hated piano lessons he endures under the tutelage of the autocratic Dr. Terwilliker (Hans Conried). Bart feels that his mother has fallen under Terwilliker's influence, and gripes to plumber August Zabladowski (Peter Lind Hayes), without result. While hammering at his lessons, Bart dozes off and enters a musical dream, much as did Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz.

In the dream, Bart is trapped at the surreal Terwilliker Institute, where the piano teacher is a madman dictator who has imprisoned non-piano-playing musicians. He built a piano so large that it requires Bart and 499 other boys (hence, 5,000 fingers) to play it. Bart's mother has become Terwilliker's hypnotized assistant and bride-to-be, and Bart must dodge the Institute's guards as he scrambles to save his mother and himself. He tries to recruit Mr. Zabladowski, who was hired to install the Institute's lavatories ahead of a vital inspection, but only after skepticism and foot-dragging is the plumber convinced to help. The two construct a noise-sucking contraption which ruins the mega-piano's opening concert. The enslaved boys run riot, and the "atomic" noise-sucker explodes in spectacular fashion, bringing Bart out from his dream.

The movie ends on a hopeful note for Bart, when Mr. Zabladowski notices Heloise, and offers to drive her to town in his jeep. Bart escapes from the piano, and runs off to play.

Although he wrote the original treatment and the song lyrics, Geisel regarded the film as a "debaculous fiasco" and omitted mention of it in his official biography with Random House.[3]

At the Hollywood premiere, patrons walked out after 15 minutes, and box-office receipts were disappointing.[4] Nevertheless, the film gained a following, and has been compared to live-action adaptations of Seuss's works made since his death.


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