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

Approved  |   |  Family, Fantasy, Music  |  1 July 1953 (USA)
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Reviews: 93 user | 34 critic

The bane of adolescent Bart Collins' existence is the piano lessons he is forced to take under the tutelage of Dr. Terwilliker, the only person he admits he detests because of his ... See full summary »



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Peter Lind Hayes ...
Heloise Collins
Jack Heasley ...
Uncle Whitney (as John Heasley)
Robert Heasley ...
Uncle Judson
Noel Cravat ...
Sgt. Lunk
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Dancer (as George Kerris)


The bane of adolescent Bart Collins' existence is the piano lessons he is forced to take under the tutelage of Dr. Terwilliker, the only person he admits he detests because of his dictatorial nature. Bart feels Dr. Terwilliker has undue influence for these lessons on his widowed mother, Heloise Collins. The one person who sympathizes with Bart, although quietly on the sidelines, is the Collins' plumber, August Zabladowski. Bart hates his life associated with the piano so much he often daydreams when he practices and even during his lessons. His latest dream has him imprisoned in the fantastical Terwilliker Institute in the day before its grand opening. Terwilliker's second in command at the Institute is his mother, although she has been hypnotized into her position, which will also soon be as Mrs. Dr. Terwilliker. Bart tries to convince Mr. Zabladowski, who is there to install the Institute's plumbing, to save his mother and himself from Terwilliker. Bart also hopes that Zabladowski ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Wonder Musical of the Future!


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

1 July 1953 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Five-Thousand Fingers of Dr. T.  »

Box Office


$1,600,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


When Bart and Mr. Zadlabowski are taken to the dungeon via elevator, there is no reference to a third floor dungeon by the Elevator Operator. The third stanza of the Elevator Operator's song was cut due to increasingly horrific lyrics referring to "household appliances". The complete deleted stanza went as follows: "Third floor dungeon/Household appliances/Spiked beds/Electric chairs/Gas chambers/ /Roasting pots/And scalping devices." (The reference to "gas chambers" was probably regarded as in bad taste since the film was made so soon after World War II and the Holocaust.) See more »


It is clear in some scenes that Bart is not really playing the piano: sometimes he misplaces his fingers, sometimes he does not move his fingers correctly, sometimes he even fails to press down the keys. See more »


Bart Collins: Say, I've gotta get out of here.
Mr. Zabladowski: Relax, don't take these little things so seriously. After all, seeing as how your mother's here...
Bart Collins: My mother's here?
Mr. Zabladowski: That's a silly question. You know perfectly well she's in the Number 2 spot.
Bart Collins: The Number 2 spot?
Mr. Zabladowski: Second in charge of the whole Happy Finger racket.
Bart Collins: My mom couldn't be mixed up in any racket!
Mr. Zabladowski: Look, partner: I hate to speak badly about mothers, after all, motherhood is the noblest institution in our land. But the fact remains that your ma is in the ...
See more »


Spoofs Hamlet (1948) See more »


Terwilliker Academy
Music by Friedrich Hollaender (as Frederick Hollander)
Lyrics by Dr. Seuss
Performed by Noel Cravat and cast
See more »

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User Reviews

The most underrated film of all time
15 April 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I saw this when I was about 5 years old and the images were burned into my brain. Images created by Dr. Seuss! I especially remember the Twilliker Institute, with it's electrified Barbed Wire Fence...

And the curved ladder into the sky... And all of he strange and wonderful musical instruments played by the prisoners in the dungeon. And the costumes that possibly inspired the makers of Star Trek, the hoods in this film look like the Original Klingons (Without the forehead makeup).

And the wonderful music and dancing and the insane lyrics written by Dr Seuss! Seeing this film at an early age definitely affected me... And it also made me afraid of music teachers. But it was not music teachers but Normality and Forced Peer Pressure I despised- The being told. HOW to dress, HOW to talk, HOW to walk, HOW to live! This film is, as Groucho Marx says: Is "Against That." What this film is for, is free musical expression, and free speech. This film teaches us, that not all people talk or look the same way. And the ever growing popularity of this film shows us a great deal about our societies: 30 years ago, freedom of expression was NOT encouraged, but now it is.

This film will forever be on the front lines of free speech, and it is probably one of the most important films ever made, due to the fact that a child can figure this out about the film, that it is about freedom.

And the biggest mistake regarding this film is by parents who insist that "This is a movie not intended for children" or that the film is not appropriate for children: I can say with 100% assurance that this is false, that I saw this film when I was a small child and I believe I benefited from the experience. This film should be shown to small children, but with discretion because some of the images can frighten a child: But because my parents were in the room I did not get frightened by the imagery.

The way this film is shown to a child can affect a child's creativity forever- And if the child is frightened, well then they can always watch it later. I was mortally afraid of Mr. Magoo cartoons until I was about 3 years old, the noise frightened me. But about 1 year after I was frightened by the introduction to a Mr. Magoo cartoon, I saw this, with my brother and parents, and we all loved it.

What is amazing was the almost 100% negative reaction to this film by the critics of the time, and we can thank whatever deities that they were 100% wrong.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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