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I Don't Think The Piano Is My Instrument!
on November 27, 2011
THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T was the only feature length, theatrically released film created and co-written by Theodor Geisel, best known as Dr. Seuss. When he saw the completed work he despised it, and he frequently commented that one of the children threw up on the giant piano and that the critics followed suit. It is true that critics disliked the film; audiences did too, and the film was not a success.
The story focuses on Bartholomew Collins (Tommy Rettig), son of widow Heloise Collins (Mary Healey), a woman who is determined that her son will learn to play the piano and who has engaged Dr. Terwilliker (Hans Conried)--to the disapproval of local plumber and handyman August Zabladowski (Peter Lind Hayes), who thinks "The Terwilliker Method" (Happy Fingers!) is a scam. Instructed by his mother to practice, Bart falls asleep instead, and has a bizarre dream in which he is trapped in a prison run by Terwilliker, who has his mother hypnotized, and who plans to force five hundred boys with five thousand fingers to practice day and night on a giant piano. Fortunately, Bart meets a helpful plumber who helps rescue his mother and help them escape.
Although the script and lyrics are ho-hum, the story, music, and art designs are quite good and the performances quite nice. Tommy Retting was a well regarded child actor of the day, Mary Healey and Peter Lind Hayes were a married couple who were a popular draw on the stage, and Hans Conried had a long and distinguished career as a character actor. You'd expect it all to add up to something. But it doesn't because the film has an extremely, extremely static quality. The camera never seems to move and every shot seems to last just a little too long. It is less than an hour and a half, but THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T feels an hour longer. If you are Seuss fan, you'll certainly want to see it, perhaps own it, but it's not really a good idea of what Seuss could and often did do.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer