Friday, March 14, 2008

Now Hear THIS Whos

This week's release of Horton Hears a Who has been garnering some positive reviews in stating that it's superior to the manic and obnoxious live-action Seuss adaptations that have preceded it. Talk about damning a film with faint praise. Is it so impossible to create a feature length, live action Dr. Seuss film? Maybe, Seuss' simple but clever works succeed in short form, which is why the preferred Seuss adpatation have always been the Chuck Jones animated shorts. But what if, dear readers, what if they DID make a good live action Seuss adaptation?
Well what if I told you that Dr. Seuss WROTE a completely original movie? And what if I told you it was AWESOME?

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (a perfectly Seussian title if ever there was one) deals with some heady themes while retaining a charming innocence and timelessness found in all of Seuss works. The film is also LOADED with some truly awesome homo-erotic undertones as chronicled in THIS post which brought the film to my attention.
The story follows young Batholomew Collins who is stuck taking piano lessons under the tyrannical Dr. Terwiliker. His single (ooo single in the 50's) mom is insistent that young Bart practice but Bart wants to go out and play. Bart also pines for another bonding male influence in his life and takes to the burly plumber Mr. Zablodowski. During one boring solo practice Bart sleeps his way into a glorious surreal world where Dr. T plans on using 500 boys to play a MASSIVE piano to complete his masterpiece. His mother is under the hypnotic control of Dr. T so she's no help, so Bart calls upon Mr. Zablodowski (who's helping with the plumbing in the surreal world too) to free his mother, himself and the other boys. Mr. Z is reluctant and it's up to Bart to escape Dr. T and explore the incredibly strange and wonderful world filled with would-be helpers and henchmen.
Most notable of course are a pair of roller-skating twins connected by their BEARD! THEIR BIG BUSHY BEARD! AHHHHHHHHHH! GLORIOUS!
The film is a pretty wild-ride for a kids story and loaded with surreal touches. It's just so bizzare. Check it out:

There are some musical numbers and they're solid but ultimately forgettable. To my mind the film is about a boy trying to find and assert himself as a young man. For all his toughness Mr. Zablodowski is a bit of a push-over and only really acts when spurned on by Bart. It's an intriguing topic and the film never loses sight of it as we're constantly reminded of Bart's feelings of loneliness and isolation in the strange new world.

To my mind the performance to savor is Dr. T himself as essayed by Hans Conreid. Conreid's appearance is likely unfamiliar to many but his voice certainly is not as a veteran voice actor (probably best known for playing the original Disney Captain Hook). Conreid throws himself into his live-action work alternating between genuinely menacing to silly with ease reminding me of Jack Buchanan's similarly amusingly tyrannical director in The Band Wagon. He also gets to wear some outfits in this thing that Bjork would insist on keeping her dignity rather than wear. Yet Conreid never shows a hint of shame in his work. The film really is something special and just begging to be discovered en masse. It's available on netflix so fire up those q's people.

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