Wednesday, March 22, 2006

It’s Leave it to Beaver gone all wrong.
It’s Dr. Seuss’s only live-action movie (that he actually wrote.)
It’s on TCM TONIGHT! (Thursday):

The 5,000 Fingers of
Dr. T

When I was a kid, my elementary school would show movies on Saturday afternoons. For a dime, plus a couple of nickels for candy (which they sold right in the open in those days), we were treated to a string of grade-C westerns, grade-Z 3 Stooges flicks, and once, a Hammer-produced pirate flick which I remember mostly being about piranhas eating wenches, mostly. Only two movies they showed stand out in my memory as being any good – The Incredible Shrinking Man, featuring 50’s hunk Grant Williams, and "The 5K Fingers"...

Now the Shrinking Man was exciting stuff. The 5K Fingers was ... well ... LSD for those of us who weren't removed in the first 15 minutes. I remember thinking “cool!” when some kids started crying and their moms had to take them home. Hopped up on Sweetarts and Junior Mints, my “fragile little mind” eagerly scooped up this Hollywood accident of good intentions and subconscious boyhood trauma.

I wouldn’t see it again for almost thirty a now-defunct U-Street bar, the Andalusian Dog. Flying baguettes all along the ceiling, multiple video monitors throughout. The Washington Psychotronic Film Society programmed it and, along with the $1 Rolling Rocks and the festively attired crowd, I sat on a bar stool and the movie worked on me. Again.

I suspected the Dog’s patrons were ready that night to laugh post-modernly at the onscreen battle between Bart and his prissy piano teacher. They didn’t. They loved it.

The film is now considered “cult.” Some people even believe that the Bart Simpson/Sideshow Bob Terwilliker conflict owes its origins to this movie, although this has been disputed.

I own Dr. T now, and I usually watch it every third Christmas Eve.

Things to look for:
On top of Bart’s piano, at the beginning and end of the movie – notice the two framed pictures - of the roller-skating bearded guys.

Mrs. Collins criticizing the “beanie-makers” for producing a limp-wristed “Happy Fingers” skullcap.

Also her “half and half” outfit in the same scene.

The nonchalance with which the flick introduces its most bizarrely Freudian concoction – the “Lock-Me-Tight.”

The somewhat-shirtless boxing guys in the aforementioned dungeon dance.

The bear-ish guards who need to shave twice each day.

The pre-diva era snap-and-leap Dr. T’s impossibly broad-shouldered valets execute in the “Dress me, Dress Me, Dress Me” number.

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