Friday, September 08, 2006

I pity the fool who don't practice his scales!

The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953, Roy Rowland)- I imagine that I would've loved this as a kid, given the Seussian touches of the whole thing- hallucinatory sets, funky wordplay, etc. I also think my parents would've regretted allowing me to watch it back then, since their tolerance for Dr. Seuss was fairly low (they didn't much like Pee Wee's Playhouse either, which I adored), and that they would have put their foot down around the 17th time I referred to my dress-up clothes as my "do-me-do duds." But susprisingly enough I'd never seen it before, though now it hardly matters, since I can appreciate the film differently than people who were exposed to it at a young and impressionable age. The film as structured as a dream of little Bartholomew Collins (Tommy Rettig, surprisingly un-cloying for a 50s kid actor), fantasizing that his autocratic Dr. Terwilliker (Hans Conreid) wants to enslave 500 boys to play a giant piano (hence the title). Strangely enough, the "it was all a dream" structure is more effective here since the film announces this from the beginning, not only saving us the grief of the almost-always-lame reveal scene at the end, but more importantly allowing us to bask in the imagery of it rather than interpreting the story on a literal level (not that we possibly could in this case, but never mind). Plus there are plenty of awesome moments that Seuss and Rowland could never have pulled off in a more literal-minded story- not just the musical interlude in the dungeon or the promenade-turned-barbershop-quartet, but the bizarre MusicFix plot device that pops up near the climax. Rating: ***1/2.

1 comment:

Gavin Elster said...

Seuss's live action feature film The 5000 Fingers of Doctor T represents the fullest elaboration of Seuss's conception of children as "thwarted people," struggling to find their own voice in a world dominated by dictatorial adult authorities. When we read through Seuss's notes and original drafts for the script, we see strong evidence that he was consciously mapping permissive child rearing doctrines over images associated with the Second World War.