Tuesday, March 07, 2006

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

Why didn't Dr. Seuss make more movies? This imaginative delight represents the author's only foray into feature filmmaking; would that we all could get to make a one-shot as good as this. Very obviously Seussian from its opening frames, with the kind of remarkable surreality that made his books so much fun and the odes to unfettered imagination (i.e. the fishing scene). Also very much a kid's film in the best senses, in that it not only provides fine family-safe entertainment but also credibly tells a story from a child's vantage point. This latter aspect is emphasized by the compositional vastness of the sets and the shot setups, which often place our undersized hero at the center of barren landscapes or near towering objects. The film also speaks to a number of childhood anxieties -- not only the lack of size (being smaller than everyone around you), but also the niggling idea that the adults won't listen to you and may even be against you, as well as the suspicion that character-building busywork (i.e. piano lessons) lead to nowhere and nothing. (The ladder that leads to nowhere is a nice expression of the last point.) Hampered a bit by stiff acting, but overall it's really quite something. Maybe that's why Dr. Seuss only wrote one film -- after creating something so singular, why would you need to make another?

Grade: B+


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