The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953)

9 May

“Sometimes I think that Dr. Terwilliker has my mother hipmatized!”

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953)

I desperately want a Terwilliker Happy Fingers beanie, and writing this makes me want to figure out how to knit one…

Oh, this little movie. The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T will be on TCM Saturday, May 11 at 3:45 a.m. (technically early Sunday, but you know). Why can’t insomnia strike me on nights like that? All I ever get are prison show and Tosh.0 reruns. I’d sooner stare at the wall.

If you’ve never seen this, it’s the only real Dr. Seuss movie that exists. It would, it occurs to me as I type, make half of a splendid double feature alongside Night of the Hunter. I’m not sure which would be wiser to watch first, though…

This is not an expensive looking movie. The “realistic” parts (the house Bart & his mother share) look like the set of one of those Industrials of the era. There’s something Jam Handy about them. Let that be a lesson to all who follow. It’s what you do with what you got.

And the “dream” sets are just what you want a movie with production design by Dr. Seuss to be…but I will add that the more recent ill-considered feature length attempts to bring Seuss to the screen haven’t displayed one-kajillionteenth of the imagination of this design despite multiplying the budgets exponentially. And they’re sets! There’s not even much matte painting. My amazement hasn’t dimmed in all these years. And the dungeon sequence is …I have to stop for a minute and go watch that.

Hans Conried

Terwilliker, Thy Name We Praise!

If your heart doesn’t bubble a bit at the sound of Hans Conried’s voice, well, we had different childhoods. I’ve mentioned my phonographic memory before, and my weird ability to recognize voice actors is one of my sadder legacies, but it makes Conried a bit of a personal hero. Conried’s performance in this – particularly the melodramatic “Dream” Dr. T, is something I frankly aspire to.

Case in point: there’s a wizard battle in this that will erase McKellan and Lee from your mind. Erase.

He has this battle with a man you’ve never seen in anything else Peter Lind Hayes (though he was one of the guys who wasn’t Victor Mature in Seven Days’ Leave. See what I mean? That one’s worth seeking out mostly for the Lynn, Royce & Vanya comic apache dance routine near the end). But soon he’s half of, to me, the single most realistic- (I said it) looking romantic pairings in film history. To Heloise Collins and August Zabladowski (keep your name, though, Hel)! Thank goodness for Get-Together Weather.

I leave you with the good Dr’s (S, not T) lyrics to “Because We’re Kids,” which, if they don’t ring true for you, your life isn’t worth a pastoola.

“Now just because we’re kids,/ Because we’re sort of small, /Because we’re closer to the ground, /And you are bigger pound by pound, /You have no right, you have no right, /To push and shove us little kids around… /Now just because your throat has got a deeper voice, /And lots of wind to blow it out, /At little kids who dare not shout, /You have no right, you have no right, /To boss and beat us little kids about… /Just because you’ve whiskers on your face to shave, /You treat us like a slave… /So what? It’s only hair. /Just because you wear a wallet near your heart, /You think you’re twice as smart. /You know that isn’t fair… /But we’ll grow up someday, and when we do I pray, /We won’t just grow in size and sound, /And just be bigger pound by pound… /I’d hate to grow, like some I know, /Who push and shove us little kids around.”

I am such a sucker.

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3 Responses to “The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953)”

  1. Amy May 9, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    I’ve never seen this so I’ll have to set my dvr! I just clicked over to TCM to get some more info, and in a comment I read that Healy and Hays were married in real life (he was a composer.) So that mayhaps explains the chemistry!

    • baldmanwithacowlick May 10, 2013 at 3:41 am #

      That makes sense. It’s not even about chemistry, though; they just seem…like people. And once you see it, amidst the unbridled Seussity…it’s even moreso.

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