The 5000 Fingers of Dr T (1953) | Dr Seuss’ musical fantasy is a wild wonder indeed

The 5000 Fingers of Dr T

Over half a century after its original cinema release, this surreal 1953 musical fantasy – conceived and part-written by noted children’s author Dr Seuss – remains one of the most bizarre children’s films ever committed to celluloid.

5000 Fingers of Dr T

Little Bart Collins (future Lassie star Tommy Rettig) would rather play baseball than practice his piano scales. Falling asleep, he enters a nightmarish world in which a sinister piano teacher, Dr Terwilliker (Hans Conreid in splendid sinister form), has hypnotised Bart’s mum (Mary Healey) into becoming his assistant (and future bride); imprisoned non-piano-playing musicians in his dungeon; and constructed a gigantic piano to force 500 boys (including Bart) to play his latest composition for all eternity.

Bart’s only chance to free both his mother, himself and the other boys is to convince friendly plumber Mr. Zabladowski (Peter Lind Hayes) of Terwilliker’s maniacal plans…

5000 Fingers of Dr T

Although a flop at the box office, director Roy Rowland and producer Stanley Kramer’s bonkers film brilliantly captures the spirit of Dr Suess’ anarchic vision, especially in the fantastic production design featuring sets and matte paintings that look like an colourful mash up of weird Frank Gehry angles, Jean Cocteau fantasia, Fritz Lang expressionism and The Jetsons cartoon futurism.

The music, however, isn’t so memorable. 24 musical numbers were filmed, but 11 ended up being scrapped from the final cut (they were later included on a 2007 CD release). But despite the not-so-great music (except maybe the screwy Hypnotic Duel), this fantasy certainly deserves revisiting – and maybe one day, in right hands, even a musical stage adaptation.

5000 Fingers of Dr T

This limited edition dual format Powerhouse Films release (part of the Indicator series) presents a HD remaster of the film – for the first time in the UK – with the following special features:

• Audio commentary with film historians Glenn Kenny and Nick Pinkerton
Crazy Music: a 2017 interview with musician, singer and archivist Michael Feinstein on his obsession with the filme
Father Figure: a 2017 new interview with Steve Rowland, son of director Roy Rowland
• Karen Kramer introduction (2007)
Dr T. on Screen (2007): Cathy Lind Hayes, George Chakiris and others talk about the film
A Little Nightmare Music (2007): an examination of the film’s music score
• Original theatrical trailer
• Joe Dante trailer commentary (2013) WATCH BELOW
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• Booklet with a new essay by Peter Conheim, and extracts from the original press kit, advertising and promotion guide

5000 Fingers of Dr T

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About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on October 19, 2017, in Cult classic, Musical and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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