THE 5000 FINGERS OF DR T
At the time he contributed the script for this bizarre childrens fantasy, Dr Seusss greatest successes the likes of The Cat in the Hat books, Horton Hears a Who! (1954), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957) and Green Eggs and Ham would still be a few years ahead. Seuss however had had some Hollywood experience, having developed Wartime propaganda shorts under Frank Capra, as well as having written cartoon versions of Horton Hatches an Egg (1942), And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street (1944) and Gerald McBoing-Boing (1951). The 5000 Fingers of Dr T was produced by Stanley Kramer, several years before Kramer become well known for his big message films The Defiant Ones (1958), On the Beach (1959), Inherit the Wind (1960) and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961).
The 5000 Fingers of Dr T was not a financial success at the time of its release, nor was it readily available on video/dvd for a number of years. It is not hard to see why it wasnt a success it is rather subversive stuff with its anarchic, even Oedipal, childs revenge fantasy, and containing the kind of black humour that Roald Dahl would specialise in. In fact, The 5000 Fingers of Dr T was the first screen attempt, outside of occasional versions of Alice in Wonderland (1865), to convey the delirious absurdism of the childrens tale. The later adaptation of Dahls Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) draws much upon The 5000 Fingers of Dr T.
The production designers have gone completely wild at times, The 5000 Fingers of Dr T is like a giant Technicolor remake of a German silent film like The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919) with mazes of hallways all in sharp, white linear lines; giant red ladders that reach hundreds of feet up into thin air; and, of course, the huge twisting 500-seater super-piano. The choreography is equally dazzling, notably with the marvelous dungeon orchestra including the likes of antler bells that are rung by strangling the wearer, cymbals that are painted with targets and rung by being shot with air pistols, a horn that has three players blowing into one tube, maraca boxing gloves, violins built wrapped around their players necks, players encased inside tubas and drummers dancing on their drums. When it comes to the storytelling, the film is slightly more ponderous and the so-so musical numbers slow it down but whos complaining.
There have been a number of animated tv adaptations of Dr Seusss books over the years, most famously the Chuck Jones How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) and various animated tv adaptations of Gerald McBoing-Boing, The Cat in the Hat and Horton Hears a Who. The other feature-length theatrical Dr Seuss films have been the big-budget live-action adaptations of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) and The Cat in the Hat (2003), and the animated Horton Hears a Who! (2008) and The Lorax (2012).