Richard’s Year of Movies — O Lucky Man! and The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T

This wasn’t an intentional double feature.  And in fact, the viewings were separated by about seven hours.  There is a loose connection:  both are surrealistic tales of young men in worlds that they don’t quite fit into.  And you could argue both are imaginary stories; Dr. T is literally the dream of a bored young piano student, but O Lucky Man!, which end with the main character being cast in the movie we just watched, could be every bit as imaginary.  But while Dr. T is firmly a kid’s film (although with some dark Seussian touches), O Lucky Man! is definitely not for the little ones.  Unless you want to explain why all those middle-aged women want to jump Malcolm McDowell every chance they get.

And Dr. T has an actual plot, which is something O Lucky Man! never comes close to considering.  I mean, there’s a loose structure, the idea of Mick Travis finding his way in the world as his luck takes him higher and higher in life only to ultimately lead to a fall, but the vignettes are pretty self-contained.  Still, it worked for me, and I actually found this a little more compelling than if….  It doesn’t hurt that McDowell is so insanely charismatic.  At this time in his career, he could have made the periodic table a tour de force.  He’s got this look about that not even he’s sure what he’s going to do next, and you want to stick around to see just what happens.

And the sight of a 28-year-old Helen Mirren is definitely worth sitting through the three-hour running time.  There’s a scene late in the film where her character is homeless and even then, hair disheveled and face smeared with dirt, she looks radiant.

Meanwhile, The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T is Dr. Seuss’ Wizard of Oz, only with a boy and Hand Conreid.  It’s definitely more a triumph of design than story, which is a fairly standard “And you and you and you were there!” plot where a strict piano teacher becomes an evil dictator.  But oh what a triumph of design.  It’s sometimes actually jarring to see Seuss’ trademark curves and swooshes done in three dimensions, but the film pulls it off.  But aside from that and some songs that feature the good Doctor’s loopy rhymes, the story itself doesn’t have that Seuss magic.  It’s definitely worth seeing for the visuals and for Conreid’s performance though.  He has such a great imposing voice and attitude, he’s perfect as the commandeering Dr. T.

So Netflix finally gets back O Lucky Man!, which had for almost a month, a result of trying to find an uninterrupted three-hour block in which to watch it.  Between Instant Watch and all the stuff on television, my actual disc subscription gets sorely neglected sometimes.  But next up is Connections, the absolutely fascinating PBS series which explains how everything is, well, connected.  Although I doubt it’ll link Malcolm McDowell to Dr. Seuss.  There I’ve got it beat.


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