'The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.' [Blu-ray]
(Tommy Rettig, Mary Healy, Hans Conried, Peter Lind Hayes, Jack Heasley, et al / Blu-ray / G / (1953) 2016 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Young Bart Collins, lulled to sleep by the monotony of his piano lessons, dreams of a castle ruled by his piano teacher the eccentric Dr. Terwilliker. Dr. T is determined to prove that his Happy Fingers Method of teaching piano is the best method in the world.
Blu-ray Verdict: Basically put, as there is more to it than initally meets the eye, a small boy plots to upset the grand performance by 'THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T.' to be held in the sinister Terwilliker Institute.
The whimsical world of Dr. Seuss first saw expression in a Hollywood feature film in this fast-paced fantasy which examines a child's musical nightmare. Although it was a financial and critical disappointment when initially released, it has established itself comfortably as a nostalgic favorite for Baby Boomers who first discovered it decades ago.
Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel, 1904-1991) wrote the original story, co-authored the script and penned the lyrics in his own inimitable style. The action plays itself out over vast, curvaceous sets which will immediately seem familiar to readers of his books, while the brightly colored costumes make the players look like characters from the good Doctor's stories come to life.
Completely dominating the movie in the title role is the marvelous character actor Hans Conried (1917-1982), gleefully breathing life into the part of the mad piano teacher who schemes to force 500 little lads into performing his compositions at a gigantic keyboard. Conried is wonderfully funny, striding about, leering, snorting & chortling as he plots his nefarious plans. He attacks the role with relish, nasally enunciating every syllable with his unique diction, softening his villainy with a thin veneer of unctuous civility. This was Conried's finest on-camera performance, but 1953 would also present him in the part for which he is perhaps best remembered, voicing Captain Hook in Disney's animated PETER PAN.
The other three performers in the movie: Tommy Rettig as the much beleaguered boy attempting to thwart the evil Terwilliker; Mary Healy as his lovely, albeit mesmerized, Mom; and Peter Lind Hayes as a friendly, deadpanned plumber, all do very well with their roles, but their ordinariness, like that of Dorothy in Oz, make them pale in comparison beside Conried.
The film, which delivers perhaps an unnecessarily nasty knock to piano teachers, does come across with some fine songs, ranging from Rettig's plaintive 'Because We're Kids' to Conried's hilarious 'Dressing Song.' Also on view is the bizarre Dungeon Dance, in which kidnapped male orchestra members present one of the most unusual terpsichorean displays ever seen in a kiddie film! Luckily for all of us intrigued by this wondrous movie, the loopy classic has a nice message - mostly aimed at adults: take children more seriously, and let them be children. The last shot of the film has Bart running off to play sports. A perfect happy ending if ever there were one to be had! This is a 1080p HD Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.