Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hypnotic Mind Control in Cinema: The 5,000 Fingers of Dr T (1953)

We now turn from the topic of the use of rocket launch attempts as a mood elevator to a highly related topic, "hypnotic mind control" in cinema.

Hypnotic mind control is the process of forcing a person to do something against their nature under the commands of some, generally evil, person through the process of hypnotism. Hypnotic mind control is rarely used to have this person do something beneficial against their will, sadly, as that might be an interesting twist on this established but regrettably underutilized plot device. (1)

Of course, hypnotic mind control is a subgenre of a larger body of mind control techniques, including being enslaved by a vampire, demonic possession, the use of drugs to destroy the will of the victim, cult religion or voodoo, to name just a few of the most popular. Zombie films are a related but different genre, because although the personality and will of the victim is suppressed, the victim is not really controlled by anyone, except perhaps the compulsions of his own degraded brain, or what is left of it. Hypnotic mind control is distinguished from the others by being based on a process in which the subject is gradually placed into a receptive state in which ideas and compulsions are placed into the subconscious and keyed to various hand gestures and words, and yet the real personality is not destroyed, it is underneath, latent, and can be restored.

Of course this all has something to do with sex, but that will be the subject of another post.

Each of these different processes of mind control has a different mechanism from the others and has different methods of prevention and cure which become important plot points in their respective sub-genres.

"Cartoon Realism" is a term of art that I use to describe the use of live action, set design, costumes, animation and visual effects to create an apparently real, live action, cartoon world.   Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) is the poster child for this genre but there are others as well. 

Today we feature an important but little known film, Dr. Seuss' 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953).

Here is an excerpt from our featured movie in which the widowed mother of our protagonist and hypnotism victim is recaptured by the evil Dr. Terwilliker through the process of hypnotic mind control:

The work for the Happy Finger Method must go on!

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr T is the only feature length film written by Dr. Seuss. It is a comedy, of sorts, in which a little boy (played by a wretched child actor who I hope lived his life in shame because of his performance in this film) is being forced to learn to play piano. His piano teacher is played by one of my favorite comedic actors, Hans Conried, in the role of Mr. Terwilliker, aka Dr. Terwilliker. The boy is so bored with learning to play piano that he falls asleep at the keyboard and dreams the rest of the movie.

In his dream, his piano teacher becomes the evil Dr. Terwilliker of the Terwilliker Institute who is using hypnotic mind control to control the minds of mothers throughout the country to force their children to learn the "Happy Finger Method" to learn to play piano. The evil Dr. T has built a piano with 5000 keys which he will use to force 500 annoying little American boys to perform piano at the Grand Opening of the Terwilliker Institute, thus demonstrating even vindicating the Happy Finger Method.

As Dr. T himself admits, he is a villain who is executing a fraud on the mothers of America, he hypnotizes them and takes their money to pay for fraudulant piano learning technique. He keeps a dungeon for people who play other musical instruments and those who would oppose his evil plans. Here is the brief musical number with which the dungeon is introduced. There was originally a third floor, but the cowards who made this abomination of a movie were too spineless to leave it in.

Notice Hans Conried's  hand gesture instructing the executioner and elevator operator to go down a level.

How can a movie with such a great premise fail so badly? Well, since you asked: bad casting, performances, direction, characters and script.  The horrible direction and performances of all of these actors, except of course the brilliant Hans Conried, condemns this film to the dungeon of "Films that throw away their promise and will never be forgiven."

Nevertheless, Hans Conried is memorably over the top in his performance, and it is worth seeing for that.  Well, maybe not the entire film, which is dreadful, but a few scenes are worth seeing.

I think that we should give them credit for attempting to create a "cartoon realistic" world using set and costume design and only a very few what we would today call effects.   There are a few matte paintings or similar technology, but very few, I think.   Too bad the movie is so bad.

Which brings us to the point of this lesson: : "Interesting design, sets, costumes and effects will not save a bad movie."

Nevertheless, the work for the Happy Finger Method must go on.

The IMDB and Wikipedia page:

(1) I have a vague memory of there being some film or TV show in which someone is hypnotized to do something good against their will, but I do not recall what it might be. Perhaps some reader will remember and send me email.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all people you actually recognize what you are talking about! Hypnotic mind control