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on February 5, 1999
This was one of my favorite films as a boy and its imagination and camp, crazy vision still enchants as an adult! Hans Conreid turns in the most wonderfully demented, camp villain performance since Ernest Thesiger's prim and fussy Dr. Pretorius in "Bride of Frankenstein"! "Do Me Do Duds" is a scream! The song of the Terwiliker Institute, "Hurray For Us!" is a riot! And, yes, the song, "You Have No Right," is touching and poignant. The one sure to give little ones nightmares will most likely be what I call "The Elevator Song." I don't know who the S&M Dungeon Master/Elevator Operator is, but BOY can he belt out a scary little ditty. One word of warning to those who care about the quality of the print of your films, the video reviewed here is an excellent restored print, apparently taken from the original negative. The Technicolors are vibrant and alive, BUT there's a clamshell packaged version floating around out there you should avoid at all costs. The print used for this version is washed out and lifeless and even turning the color control up on your TV won't compensate for a poor quality print. Apparently, when Columbia/Tristar labeled the film for their Family Collection, they figured most families must be color blind and wouldn't notice. So remember, if it says clamshell packaging, avoid it! The ONLY reason to buy the clamshell version would be if you needed the closed-caption feature, but what a rip off! The deaf are being cheated out of a great visual experience with this truly horrible print.
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on January 27, 2002
Hollywood could not do a better movie today if they tried, even with modern special effects technology and buckets of money, witness the live-action "Grinch" if you don't believe me. I first saw this movie as a child in the late 1970s where it was a staple of Saturday afternoon movies. What can be said? Hans Conried makes this movie as the campy, completely over the top and utterly mad Dr. Terwilliker.
The story and sets are wonderful, reflecting the fertile, and rather twisted, imagination of Theodore Seuss Geisel. Tommy Rettig is perfect, and never annoying as Bartholemew Cubbins, the precocious child star of the movie, Mary Healy plays his mother and Peter Lind Hayes plays the wise plumber, August Zabladowski.
This movie is billed as a musical, it's not much of one, the songs seem as if they were tacked on to the rest of the production, however the movie is so good that even this cannot detract from it.
The DVD transfer is very good, much better than the earlier VHS transfers, there isn't much in the way of special features, just a trailer and some photo stills, but given the fact that this movie was made 50 years ago this isn't surprising. My only complaint about the disk is that the sound seems somewhat muffled in places, although free of the more objectionable forms of distortion. The scene with Peter Lind Hayes and Hans Conreid attempting to put a whammy on each other is sheerly fantastic.
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VINE VOICEon December 12, 2000
One of the things I loved so much about the 5,000 Fingers of Dr T is I related to the Tommy Rettig character in that I also had to practice the piano every day. It's a wonderful window into the world of the child who is basically at the mercy of whatever his parents deem appropriate for him to do in his spare time. When I got older I appreciated being able to play the piano but I was not overly fond of it as a child. Tommy Rettig was one of the best child actors of the day, prior to Lassie. Hans Conreid makes a wonderful villain but the absolute best part of the movie is the incredible Seuss sets! There's a wonderful scene of an enormous piano, seemingly miles long, with acres of enslaved children feverishly pounding away on the keyboard...I still want a beanie with a hand coming out of the top, and I would love to have a room or two in my house designed just like the sets in the movie. From the first time I saw a Dali painting as a child I loved surrealism and there is an abundance of it in this movie. Totally unique from anything you've ever seen, a different excursion into the Seussian interpretation of a child's world trapped in a musical dictatorship. Although it was made in 1953 it translates beautifully into today by virtue of its fantasy; children still dwell in dreams part of the time!
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on July 8, 2004
"The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T" is a journey into the extraordinary, the unbelievable, and the entertaining. Albeit, it's wacky, but how else should the wonderful world of Dr. Seuss be? If you are up for a fantastic adventure into dreamland, than look no further!
Bart Collins is your average little boy--he loves his mom, he likes to play with his dog, and there is nothing he despises more than practicing the piano. No doubt his eccentric, but strangely captivating piano instructor, Dr. Terwilliker, has something to do with this. After a particularly trying lesson, Bart falls asleep at the ivories and is transported to the Terwilliker Institute, a prison-castle for tiny piano players like himself. He immediately attempts escape, but finds himself surrounded by a whole lot of bizarre characters, including some green-skinned musician-hostages who do not play the piano.
This colorful film may be a bit quirky, but beneath its oddity is a charming story that is sure to involve you and stimulate your imagination. Every aspect of "Fingers" is truly memorable, from the beautiful set to the catchy sing-along numbers to the original screenplay. This is a movie that the entire family will love--kids can identify with Bart and Dr. Seuss, adults can enjoy the music and choreography, and everyone will want to watch it again and again.
Once you watch "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T," you'll see why I went crazy when I was able to tape it on TV (and went crazy when someone taped over it!). I couldn't wait until this title appeared on DVD! Get it while it's hot! :)
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on December 30, 2014
I first saw this movie when I was a kid in the late 1950's on a b&w TV. I always thought this was an original b&w movie, but a couple weeks ago I caught the ending on a local movie channel and was surprised it was filmed in beautiful Technicolor. I found the DVD on Amazon and immediately purchased it. Hans Conried is wonderful as the villain Dr. Terwilliker. Tommy Rettig does a great job in this film; I love how he looks into the camera and explains to the audience how he feels about playing the piano. Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy also turn in great performances in this film. Technically, there is some red and blue color bleeding in some scenes on the transfer to DVD, I find it a little distracting, but not enough to knock off a full star, so I rate it 4 1/2 stars.
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on February 9, 2014
I love this movie, and saw it once when I was much younger, but much of it stuck with me. It is very underrated and hardly seen any more and it shouldn't be as it was the only live action picture featuring the work of Doctor Seuss. A young boy Bart Collins, is forced by his mother to take up the piano and it is easy to see that he has no interest in it at all. His piano tutor is none other than the mercurial Dr.Terwilliker who is constantly berating him for his inattention and the fact that he doesn't seem to get any better in his lessons. It is during one of these lessons that he falls asleep and enters a nightmare world where Dr. Terwilliker is a musical despot who has captured and hypnotized his mother into doing his bidding. It is Terwilliker's plan to build an institution that houses an enormous piano and recruit 500 boys and enslave them to play his greatest concert ever.
As he tries to free his mother and somehow thwart Dr. T's plans, he finds an unlikely and reluctant ally in Mr. Zabladowski, a plumber hired by Terwilliker to put in sinks. Hans Conried is delightful as the nefarious mercurial Dr. Terwilliker, Peter Lynd Hayes and Mary Healy round out some of the cast and Tommy Rettig is Bart, who gives the audience a tour through a crazy dream landscape and into the dungeons where we see even the prisoners are odd as can be as they play a symphonic piece on the strangest instruments imaginable. The dungeon master even has a creepy song as he announces the floors on the elevator. Some of the other denizens of this dream world are equally strange, such a the Twins, a pair of roller skaters attached to each other by their beards, a man locked inside a drum and the very guards who sing the praises of the Terwilliker institute, with "poison Ivy covered walls." All in all, a fun film well worth seeing.
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on March 1, 2016
This is a family favorite of 3 generations. My dad saw it as a kid, and used to tell us his memory of a movie where 500 boys were forced to play a giant piano--then came the glorious day he found it in Blockbuster on VHS. Now it's on DVD, and my kids love it too. The songs and sets are unforgettable, and Hans Conried is magnificent.
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on December 13, 2004
Let me start by saying that I don't really consider myself to be a fan of Dr. Seuss - especially since his death when his talents have been overshadowed by merciless overexposure, merchandising, and rotten live-action films (i.e. Cat in the Hat). When I sat down to watch this film I wasn't sure I was going to like it, but in the first few minutes any doubts I had were swept away. This is one of the best movies I've seen in... well, probably ever.

You can sense the touch of Dr. Seuss in the script, the sets, and the songs, but things don't get mired in the more nonsensical elements of some of his other work. You might say he dialed back his "seussiness" a little, and for me that was a good thing. Of course, there is still a strong undertone of weirdness, and wonderfully so. Most of the film takes place in a dream, and the narrative has that dreamy non-logic (it seems perfectly reasonable to have a cocktail of vintage pickle juice.) The sets are beautiful - sometimes austere, sometimes wildly surreal, with an excellent use of monotone and color to evoke mood. The songs are also very imaginative - Seuss' mastery of language shines without getting bogged down in made-up words. The "dressing song" has to be heard (and seen) to be believed.

The acting is top-notch, and some of the dance numbers are amazing (especially an incredible set-piece featuring all the captive non-pianists in Dr. T's dungeon). Some scenes may be a little off-putting to some viewers (a hooded executioner/elevator operator singing a song about the various tortures available in the dungeon, eyes bugging out through the holes in his mask, for example) but if you have a taste for the unusual, this movie is an absolute must.
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on May 17, 2014
Child star Tommy Rettig ("Lassie") stars as a boy who dreams a bizarre fantasy about his overbearing piano teacher, Dr. Terwilliker (Hans Conreid) and must enlist the aid of the family handyman, Mr. Zabladowski (Peter Lind Hayes) for help to escape from the clutches of Dr. T and the fantastical Terwilliker Institute, who is also keeping the boy's Mom (Mary Healy) a virtual prisoner as Dr. T's personal assistant.
Produced by famous producer Stanley Kramer, based on a classic Dr. Seuss story, with an outstanding musical score of wonderful songs, this excellent 1953 Technicolor production is top-notch family entertainment, like Disney movies or The Wizard of Oz.
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on July 7, 2015
My mother and father saw this in the theater while attending graduate school in Berkeley in 1960. It remains one of my mother's favorites. The wacky movie sets were designed by Suess and the nightmare story has a timeless quality. Great fun.
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