The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.

(Roy V. Rowland, USA, 1953)


The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. has long been a cult favourite among a lucky few film buffs – and many lucky kids.

The famous children’s author Dr. Seuss collaborated on the screenplay of this magical fable, although he apparently despaired at the final result.

It concerns nine-year old Bart (Tommy Rettig), rather resistant to his daily piano lessons, who is miraculously transported to a nightmare world.

In this garish, Technicolour decor, the malicious Dr. T. (played by a wildly camp Hans Conreid) is gathering 500 children, under duress, to play his music on a giant piano – hence the 5,000 fingers.

Only Bart, with a little help from adult companions, can liberate his fellow children from this veritable Fascist regime.

As directed by Roy Rowland – an underrated Hollywood figure – the film is full of bizarre songs and extraordinary set pieces, such as when Bart whips up a contraption that sucks in people’s voices.

Best of all, it boasts an authentically anarchic, anti-social impulse worthy of Pee-wee Herman at his finest.

© Adrian Martin June 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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