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A young boy dreams that his piano teacher is a super-villain out to rule the world.
Ten-year-old Bart Collins is awakened from an unsettling dream by his domineering piano instructor, Dr. Terwilliker, who scolds him and wishes he would dream about practicing. Bart, whose father has died, plays the piano only to please his mother Heloise, but he secretly believes that the tyrannical instructor has hypnotized her into liking music. Dr. Terwilliker departs with further exhortations to practice, as August Zabladowski, the plumber, arrives to fix the sink. Mrs. Collins asks Bart to continue practicing while she goes out, but Bart soon falls asleep at the keyboard and begins dreaming: Bart sits at an enormous keyboard that stretches into infinity as Dr. Terwilliker stands high above him conducting.
He tells Bart that the next day marks the opening of the Terwilliker Institute, a fulfillment of his dream to have 500 boys and their 5,000 fingers play his enormous piano every day of the year. After Dr. Terwilliker leaves, Bart tries to run away, but gets lost before discovering Mr. Zabladowski, installing hundreds of sinks for the institute's opening. Mr. Zabladowski tells Bart that Mrs. Collins is in league with Dr. Terwilliker, but Bart refuses to believe it and insists on searching for his mother. Bart finds Mrs. Collins in a private apartment, dressed luxuriously and directing the opening activities of the institute. Mrs. Collins does not see Bart and falls into a reverie gazing at a framed picture of him until Dr. Terwilliker emerges and demands that she forget about Bart, as she is to marry him the day after the institute's opening.
Suddenly over a loudspeaker Bart is reported missing and Dr. Terwilliker orders the guard to locate him and place him in the dungeons. Bart manages to evade the guards and, crawling through the air ducts, finds Mr. Zabladowski, who shows little interest in Bart's description of Mrs. Collins' behavior. Bart fantasizes about having a wonderful, two-parent home and for a moment Mr. Zabladowski agrees with him, but then tells Bart that he has disturbed his work. When Bart pleads with Mr. Zabladowski to check on Mrs. Collins, he reluctantly agrees. They find Mrs. Collins so stunningly dressed that she mesmerizes Mr. Zabladowski until Dr. Terwilliker bursts in and tries to hypnotize the plumber. Mr. Zabladowski resists, however, and the two men engage in a battle of sorcery that ends in a draw. Mr. Zabladowski then refuses to continue installing the sinks, but Mrs. Collins pleads with him, revealing that the sink inspector will declare the institute unsanitary if there are not enough sinks. Dr. Terwilliker joins in the plea and they both continue to flatter and cajole Mr. Zabladowski, until at last he agrees to resume his work, to Bart's dismay. After Mr. Zabladowski leaves, Bart overhears Dr. Terwilliker give the order that once the sink installations are complete, the plumber is to be disintegrated, with as much pain as possible.
Bart slips away and Dr. Terwilliker, suspecting that his hypnotic powers over Mrs. Collins are fading, locks her into a cell. Bart follows Mr. Zabladowski, but the plumber only scolds and accuses Bart of lying about Dr. Terwilliker and refuses to believe in the execution order. Later, when Mr. Zabladowski overhears Bart lamenting about kids never being trusted, he apologizes, but still refuses to stop working, claiming that he needs his salary. Bart promises to get Mr. Zabladowski the money and rushes off to Dr. Terwilliker's room, where he steals the key to his gigantic safe and, leaving an IOU, takes $30 and the written execution order against Mr. Zabladowski. In escaping, Bart finds himself in the lowest dungeon, which as a man in tatters explains, is reserved for all musicians except pianists. After another broadcast declares that Bart is wanted dead or alive, Bart crawls back through the air vents to Mr. Zabladowski, who becomes convinced of Bart's story once he sees the execution order. When Mr. Zabladowski promises to always believe and care for Bart, he declares Mr. Zabladowski is as good as a father and as such, needs to rescue Mrs. Collins. Bart leads Mr. Zabladowski to his mother's cell, where the plumber burns off the lock and frees her. While escaping the three are cornered by the wicked skating twins, but Mr. Zabladowski outskates them and cuts their connecting beard, killing them.
Dr. Terwilliker vows revenge and after capturing Mrs. Collins, places her back in a trance while the guards take Mr. Zabladowski and Bart down to the lower dungeon. The next day several buses arrive carrying the 500 boys to the institute. Meanwhile, Mr. Zabladowski and Bart struggle to enhance the plumber's odor-absorbing bottle into a mix that might absorb all of the piano's notes. Nothing works until Bart adds a hearing aide lifted from a sleeping guard. Mr. Zabladowski warns Bart that their invention is revolutionary, possibly dangerous and may even be atomic. As Bart and the rest of the boys get seated at the piano, Dr. Terwilliker dresses in his finest clothes. He then officially declares the institute open, but when he directs the boys to begin playing, Bart opens his bottle and all the sound is absorbed. When Dr. Terwilliker and the guards threaten Bart, he reveals that the mixture is atomic and demands the release of his mother, Mr. Zabladowski and all the children. Dr. Terwilliker and the guards flee in a panic and Bart takes the conductor's stand until the bottle begins smoking. As the boys bolt, the building explodes. Bart then awakens and discovers Mr. Zabladowski standing over him. Mrs. Collins returns home and delightedly accepts a ride into town with the plumber. Content, Bart ignores the piano and gets his baseball and glove and, calling to his dog Sport, goes out to play.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||G||Premiere Info:||New York opening: 19 Jun 1953|
|Release Date:||1953||Production Date:||
UCLA has VHS P-A 2195M + 35mm Safety print (no individual viewing) R-A1-370-4; AFI Library; AFI
|Color/B&W:||Color (Technicolor)||Distributions Co:||Columbia Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Stanley Kramer Co., Inc.|
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