Or, How I Made a Misguided Kids-Flick and Poked Fun at the Fear of the BOMB
A multimedia examination of The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.—the only live-action film Dr. Seuss had a firsthand hand-in—with kid’s book artist/author Ted Enik
Date: Thursday, March 8
Time: 8:00 PM
Presented by the Hollow Earth Society
There are a few choice examples of pop cultural relics that reach such squirmingly exquisite depths that they—like the shaggy-dog “dig through the core of the planet to China”—improbably invert their critical standing and ascend to an unstable pinnacle of flashing-popping brilliance.
With its stream-of-consciousness plot, Escher and Dalí-influenced sets, and hands-down freaky musical numbers, Dr. Seuss’s The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. is the champeen.
Ted Geisel was inspired to write this (no other term for it) revenge fantasy by recalling the piano lessons he’d endured as a boy “from a man who rapped my knuckles with a pencil whenever I made a mistake… I made up my mind I would get even with that man.” Enter the foppish and maniacal Dr. Terwilliker, an authoritarian piano teacher who seduces willing moms to entrust their sons to him, imprisons them in his barb-wired “Institute,” then forces the boys to play his Seussian, snake-shaped piano—his “5,000 Fingers.”
As a dreamscape-essay on adolescent angst, Dr. T. is unsparingly incisive, foaming with Oedipal weirdness and dysfunctional gender-bending. The film is virtually pounding “Chopsticks” with subterranean, assbackwards sexual energy. As a “laugh till you get it” metaphor for Eisenhower’s America, the film mines the public’s hot-and-getting-hotter anxieties about a second Hitler, an aggressive Russia, and the omnipresent Bomb. It sneakily tickles the ivories with a Stravinsky-like darkness.
Miles from being an “innocent” fantasy romp, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. is a Cubist gene-splice of Never Never Land and internment camp. Tonight—employing stills and clips from the film, reviews, analysis, and primary colors—we’ll tour both terrifying alternate realities.
Ted Enik—of “Cutegsam!,” “Parallel Botany,” “Wonderland’s Cutest Couple,” and “Where’s Ahab?“—does a few credible impersonations: Hannibal Lecter, Tom Waits (singing), and the extraordinary Hans Conried—the actor who plays the fantasy-fascist Dr. Terwilliker (Dr. T). If you ask nicely, and the wine has been flowing amply, he might be persuaded to embarrass himself. Ted is a caramel-centered member of the Hollow Earth Society. You can find out more about his kid’s book work at tedenik.com.
With comments piquant and assessment Tabasco
Ted Enik will autopsy Seuss’s fiasco.
Its celluloid entrails—content and style—
Our boy will compare n contrast, all the while
Pointing out its extreme and assorted humdingers.
He’ll deconstruct Dr. T.’s 5,000 Fingers!