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Movie Review: The 5,000 Fingers Of Doctor T

August 26, 2007

I love Theodore Geisel (Doctor Seuss) and recently learned that he did a live-action movie in 1959.  Entitled The 5,000 Fingers Of Doctor T, it told the story of Bart Collins, a young boy tormented by a cultured but evil piano teacher named Robert Terwilliker.

(Waaaait a minute… there’s something awfully familiar about that.  Could there be an inspirational relationship to young Bart Simpson, and his cultured but evil nemesis, (Sideshow) Bob Terwilliger?  Hmmm…)

Bart apparently has some sleep disorder; he falls asleep at inopportune times, dreaming that his piano instructor Doctor T is after him.  In the dream that encompasses most of the movie, his instructor founds the “Terwilliker Institute” to enslave 500 young boys to play the world’s largest piano (and not incidentally run a gigantic and very profitable racket).

Producer Stanley Kramer pulled out all the stops to translate the surreal world of Doctor Suess to 3-dimensional reality.  I imagine that stratospheric costs prevented another live-action Suess flick from being made until special effects could be produced digitally. 

The sets, lighting, choreography, and musical numbers are simply astounding.  The orchestral number (performed in a dungeon with fanciful instruments that only Doctor Suess could possibly invent) is wonderful but impossible to describe.  The movie does run a bit slow for my Die Hard conditioned movie sensibilities but heck, it was made in 1959.

This movie was a lot of fun.  I’m going to have to watch it a couple more times to catch everything.  You can get your own copy on Amazon.

SPOILER ALERT below the fold

It would be difficult to get this story made into a children’s movie today.  Terwilliker offers cigars and tequila as a successful bribe to the other hero, a plumber named Zabladowski.  The one African-American operates the elevator down to a torture chamber.  Bart climbs into lots of dangerous places including the world’s most vertiginous ladder.  Young Bart rebels against authorities and actually uses an atomic weapon against his foe.  And if the movie were being made today, there would be a boring sub-plot about Bart’s sleeping disorder, and he would learn to love the piano instead of running off to play.

Categories: Movies, Reviews
  1. August 27, 2007 at 12:30 | #1

    And if the movie were being made today, there would be a boring sub-plot about Bart’s sleeping disorder, and he would learn to love the piano instead of running off to play.

    LOL, I never understood why Hollywood feels as though all stings must be attached.  Can I just watch a movie the keeps me thinking at the end or allows me to add my opinion as to what happened?

    The Prestige could have done that.  They didn’t have to show the end of the movie which was just ridiculously stupid.  But instead kept the audience guessing by throwing that scene out and adding it as a special ending in the DVD.  I would of really loved that.  But I must not be like everyone else.

  2. September 2, 2007 at 09:47 | #2

    Even worse was AI, the Steven Spielberg workup of Stanley Kubrik’s work-in-progress.  It was great, very SK, right up until the end when Spielberg had to try and dip everything in sweet gooey syrup.  ET to the rescue!!!

  3. Damn Quilty o Cue
    October 22, 2009 at 11:21 | #3

    I think the same…Spielberg ruined AI the ending with his ending. And Ill love to see a movie as The 5000… today. And not a cheesy-cliche-predictable ending as the ones or today.

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