Friday, April 27, 2007

5000 Fingers of Dr. T publicity photo

It's 1953, and the boys pictured above are standing on their school's front steps, posing and squinting in the sunlight while they shill for an odd movie just coming out. (click on photo to ENLARGE)

'The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T' was the first Dr.Seuss story created solely for the big screen.

If you've somehow managed to avoid it thus far, it's a very '50's, very Seussian musical. Simply put, it's the story of a boy falling in love with a plumber while trying to escape from a maximum-security piano camp. It's also the story of how movie-making can go awry.

As it turned out, Ted 'Dr. Seuss' Geisel hated the experience of being involved in the movie, and detested the final product. He forbade any other Seuss material to be adapted to the big screen during his life time. (Sound reasoning, as it turned out.)

In turn, Columbia Pictures lost faith in the film mid-production, yanked promotion, cut the budget, and cut huge portions out of the finished movie.The plans for an epic children's fantasy along the caliber of Wizard of Oz were dashed, and the film received tepid reviews upon release.

And yet there's still something there, and it's a movie that needs to be seen. Especially if you're a Seuss fan.

- - And I STILL want my own Terwilliker beanie!! The ones pictured up top are the promo versions with the name of the movie printed on them. I suppose I'd settle for one if I couldn't have an authentic 'Happy Fingers' beanie like the ones used in the film. Actually though, it looks like they don't hold up very well... Maybe it's better to do without and keep the dream, he said.

Enough dissertation, really I just wanted to share that publicity photo I found many years ago. But you know how I can go on...

...So here's just a quick Dr. T checklist: (click on links)

Here's details on the film at imdb...

...Here's a great tribute fansite. Lots of info, lots of photos, lots of fun.

You can head over to YouTube to watch the movie's trailer...

...And as long as you're there, you should also REALLY check out everyone's favorite musical number from the movie, featuring American national treasure,
Hans Conried.

ADDENDUM 8/13/07: An amazing promo still ganked from the visual and stunning
if charlie parker was a gunslinger... ☛ ☛ ☛

That's Tommy Rettig in the center.
Dig the shirts!
Click over for some background info!

ADDENDUM 3/28/08: Though it's been available on (Region 1) DVD here in the U.S. for a few years, die-hard 5000 Finger fans should be aware of the movie's recent inclusion in the 'Stanley Kramer Film Collection' DVD box set.

It's an interesting collection of 5 completely diverse (and classic) films produced by Kramer in the 1950's and '60's, a couple of them coming to DVD for the first time in this set.

As to Dr. T in the set, the print is certainly as good if not better than the previous stand-alone disc. The noteworthy additions are in the supplemental extras on the new edition. 'Labor of Love' would seem to be the catch-phrase for the effort put into a couple of interview segments.

Karen Kramer, Stanley's widow, gives some background on the production. The daughter of
Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy gives insights on her parents involvement. Actor George Chakiris (of all people!) relates his experience of working as a green-painted dancer in the memorable 'dungeon symphony' sequence. Michael Feinstein does a very cogent examination of the film's music and composer Frederick Hollander's score.

A few tantalizing allusions are made to music and sequences cut from the film, and the behind-the-scenes photos included are MAGNIFICENT.

Comparing the (pricy) box set to the previous stand alone release - - ? If you're a fanatic, there's great things to see in the newer version. If you don't care, - - why have you read this far??

The only thing I've noticed that you get on the previous single-disc release that's NOT on the Stanley Kramer Collection disc are a couple of those production photos that DIDN'T make the jump to the new 'bonus feature' mini-documentary, and a tacked-on vintage UPA 'Gerald McBoing Boing' cartoon.

Just an FYI...


Gavin Elster said...

One of my favorite films. The soundtrack album is on of my prized items, chocked full of tracks unused in the film.

Anonymous said...

5,000 Fingers of Dr. T scared the living crap out of me when I was a kid. Since it was Dr. Seuss, my progressive Berkeley (CA) parents figured it was fine to send me off alone to a matinee at about age 8. The truth about my feelings came out when the nightmares started, and then they went to see it themselves. Saw the light... Does anybody else think that Peter Lind Hayes (Zabladowski the plumber) looks distinctly uncomfortable during his "Dreamstuff" duet with young Tommy Rettig (the voice of Tony Butala, a future Letterman)? Kind of bordering on latent pederasty? Anyway, a totally weird and wonderful film. I've worked out my "issues" with it...

John Tenney
Lafayette CA

Anonymous said...

Has this been released on dvd?
This is one of those weird films that are mentally very "sticky" for kids. (The Incredible Mr Limpett is another w. Don Knotts as an animated fish fighting nazi u-boats.)

Dr. T had a number about a Dante/Dali-esque trip the kid takes down a flaming elevator shaft with a leatherman Robeson dude singing about the various dungeon "levels" that i will NEVER forget.

The In Crowd said...

Hey, Anonymous - -

Yes, it's in print on DVD (US-Region1)!

You can be creeped out by that elevator scene all over again...

Anonymous said...

Dear John Tenney:

I,too, was scared to death of this flick as a kid--although I would have been 3 when it hit the theaters, I must have seen it on TV at some point--I vividly remembered the beenies with the Happy Fingers logo--I could never figure out what the movie was called until I was watching TCM and saw the title. You may have worked out your isses with it, but, boy, it still creeps me
out. . .

Pat O'B., Tucson, Arizona

Anonymous said...

I saw this movie on TCM for the first time this year 2009. It would've scared me to death if not gone completely over my head as a child but as a senior I found this movie mezmerizing, fascinating, funny, especially comparing it to movie history thus far. Two of the songs were just deliciously hilarious, I believe the one sung by the professor while getting dressed for his big opening day for the piano school being one. I found this great fun and definately an archive keeper. All movie history buffs should make this a must see. Most importantly tho...I'd give quite alot for one of those hand-HATS. Does anyone have one for sale??? Bee.

Anonymous said...

I also saw this movie when I was around 3 and never forgot it. I was mezmerized by it and would love to see it again. I plan on buying the DVD.

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