July 27, 2010

The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T

Theodore Geisel, more commonly known as Dr. Seuss, created words and images that seemed like a great fit for the silver screen. Yet strangely, the full cinematic potential of his work was rarely explored, and almost all of his adaptations were for TV. There are three theatrical features adapted from his books: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000, live action), The Cat in the Hat (2003, live action), and Horton Hears a Who! (2008, animated). The latter two were critical failures and caused Audrey Geisel, Seuss' widow and current holder of licensing rights, to forbid any future live-action adaptations of her husband's work. It's a shame, because there is a lot of great stuff in those books and the films ruined them with overacting and shoddy CGI. But there remains another, much more obscure film in Seuss' filmic canon...

In fact, it's not based on a book at all, but rather an original screenplay (his first and only) by Seuss. It's The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953) and it's just as wonderfully demented as it sounds. The plot is more or less that young Bart has to thwart his nefarious piano teacher from imprisoning 500 boys (x 10 fingers each = 5000 fingers) to play a giant piano in unison for all eternity. While the film is definitely uneven, it's certainly worth a watch to revisit your childhood days when every unlikable authority figure was an evil supervillain. But an even more compelling reason is that the imagery is incredible - it's what a Seuss film should look and move like. Instead of digitally grafting comedians' faces onto CG renderings, we get charmingly organic sets and costumes shot in the brightest, most glorious Technicolor. This is how Seuss' world moves in (non-animated) three dimensions. Oh and did I mention that it's also a musical with lyrics by the Doctor himself? I've included images below to whet your appetite for this wacky masterpiece...






There aren't a ton of stills from this online...so just watch it! (For as much as it sounds like a lost treasure, it's actually on a Region 1 DVD and available from Netflix and Amazon VOD. So you have no excuse!)

1 comment:

Nicola said...

I've never heard of this before! Sounds amazing though, I'll have to seek it out.