Review: The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.

Blu-ray & DVD: The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. (1953)

Bart Collins (Tommy Rettig) hates the piano lessons which he takes under the stern eye of Dr Terwilliker (Hans Conried), while his widowed mother Heloise (Mary Healy) watches and encourages him to be even better. Bart’s only confidant is Mr Zabbladowski (Peter Lind Heyes), the families plumber who at least has some empathy for Bart’s disinterest in the piano due to the strict tutelage of Dr. T.

Bart’s only solace is his penchant for daydreaming, whereby he can escape the real world, and more importantly, escape his dreaded piano lessons. Unfortunately for Bart, one particular daydream takes him down a dark rabbit hole where Dr. T is now an evil tyrant in a mystical world where he is assembling 500 children to play his magnum opus on a huge winding piano. Heloise is 2nd in command to Dr. T. due to his use of hypnotism, and the only person who can help Bart escape and save the 500 children from their incarceration in this weird world is Mr Zabbladowski, who is installing sinks into every room.

So begins a crazy game of cat and mouse as Bart tries to avoid Dr. T. and his underlings, while formulating a plan to thwart the grand scheme that is afoot and free all of the children, his mother and himself.

I had never even heard of The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T when the review disc plopped through our letterbox just before we went off on our break the other month, and upon returning I read nothing of it when putting it into our Blu-ray player. I had no idea that it was even a Dr Seuss movie…the very first live action Dr Seuss movie no less! For the next hour and a half I was transfixed as a series of weird and wonderful images passed before my eyes, accompanied by intermittent song and dance routines that got more and more elaborate as the running time progressed. There is so much for the eye to see that it warrants multiple viewings to catch everything happening on screen, and also to fully appreciate the amazing set design that builds a world that is crafted in a mixture of Salvador Dali, German expressionism and your most bizarre fever dream.

The sets are sumptuous and colourful, everything asymmetrical and leading the eye off to various parts of the frame where there is always something else to catch your attention. The costume design is both lavish and borderline preposterous at times, non more so than when Dr. T. has a musical routine where he is dressed by his helpers in an ever more elaborate fashion. All of the song and dance routines are magical, especially one scene involving what can only be described as the love children of the incredible hulk and Louie Spence, all playing a variety of ever more weird and wonderful instruments while singing and going through a fantastically choreographed gymnastic routine. If you’re not already clicking on the order button below, then why the hell not after that!?

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. is a movie for the whole family, especially the younger and older end of the generations. It has a sense of fun and wonderment that flows through its entire running time and you never know what may be around that next off kilter-corner.

There are fantastic performances throughout, non more so than Hans Conried who chews the scenery with aplomb as the evil Dr. T.

Thanks once again to Powerhouse Films and their Indicator series of releases, I have now discovered another classic movie that will be a welcome friend when revisiting it again in the not too distant future.

INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES: 

• High Definition remaster
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary with film historians Glenn Kenny and Nick Pinkerton
• Crazy Music (2017, 17 mins): a new interview with musician, singer and archivist Michael Feinstein on his obsession with The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T
• Father Figure (2017, 19 mins): a new interview with Steve Rowland, son of director Roy Rowland
• Karen Kramer introduction (2007, 2 mins)
• Dr. T. on Screen (2007, 15 mins): Cathy Lind Hayes, George Chakiris and others talk about the film
• A Little Nightmare Music (2007, 12 mins): an examination of the film’s ground-breaking music score
• Original theatrical trailer
• Joe Dante trailer commentary (2013, 3 mins): a short critical appreciation
• Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Peter Conheim, and extracts from the original press kit, advertising and promotion guide
• UK Blu-ray and DVD premiere
• Limited Dual Format Edition of 3,000 copies

You can buy The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. by clicking HERE. ALL money raised by purchasing from Amazon via our website is given back to our listeners and followers in upcoming competition prizes. The more people buy, the bigger our prizes!

Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Powerhouse Films.