7 Faces of Dr. Lao

Year Of Release:
1963
Running Time: 100 Minutes
DVD Released By: Warner Brothers
Directed By: George Pal
Writing Credits: Charles G. Finney (Novel: The Circus of Dr. Lao), Charles Beaumont, Ben Hecht
Filming Location: Unknown

Starring: Tony Randal, Barbara Eden, Arthur O'Connell, John Ericson, Noah Beery Jr., Minerva Urecal, Frank Kreig

Tagline: Which face will the wily doctor reveal to you?

Alternate Titles:
Seven Faces Of Dr. Lao
The Secret World of Dr. Lao

Interesting Bits of Trivia:
Peter Sellers was the director's first choice to play Dr. Lao.




Cast Of Characters
Dr. Lao:
Merlin:
Pan:
Abominable Snowman:
Medusa:
Giant Serpent:
Apollonius of Tyana:
Audience Member
:
Tony Randall played all these characters brilliantly. I can't even imagine how much time he spent in the make-up chair during this movie, but the results of each sitting transformed him into someone completely different. I'm not even going to make a clever comment about the characters he portrays in this film because I respect him so much for pulling off such a difficult and varied collection of roles so brilliantly. The Dr. Lao character being the most brilliant of all, slipping in and out of his Chinese accent as he keeps the townspeople off balance and wondering. He plays this character to the hilt, like he just fell out of a fortune cookie or something.
Ed Cunningham:
Transformed Pan:
He's the local newspaper guy and, as is typical in these kinds of movies, he's honest, forthright, and an all around good guy. Clint Stark respects him but hates him at the same time because he's always trying to expose him for what he really is.
Angela Benedict: An uptight widow librarian prude who Ed's got the hots for. She won't give him the time of day even though he loves her kid and loves her as well. God she's uptight. Must have spent too much time in that genie bottle on another show. At least she finally loosens up towards the end of the movie. Oh, and she looks good in bloomers.
Clint Stark: Local rich guy who's trying to buy the town out from under it's people because he knows that there's a railroad planned to go through there in the future. He used to believe in people, but he lost that and now all he's concerned with is money. He's hoping that Ed will prove him wrong with regards to his feelings about the nature of people, but he doesn't believe that will happen.
Mayor James Sargent: He's a typical weasel of a politician who's letting Stark get away with murder just for his own monetary and political gain. How do these people get elected anyway? He should have stayed back in Hooterville running that general store where he belonged.
Mike Benedict: Angela's son from her now deceased husband. This kid's got a lot of spunk and he's all for Ed and his mamma gettin' hitched. Oh, and did I mention he's a good juggler too?



The Plot
When the mysterious Dr. Lao, an old, (7,322 years old to be precise), Chinese gentleman who runs a traveling circus brings his show to the dusty old Arizona town of Abalone, the townsfolk all turn out to see the wondrous marvels that he has brought. What the people of Abalone don't realize however, is that the show they're attending is really just in their own minds. The townsfolk are treated to reflections of their own greed, vanity, and pettiness, as the good Dr. Lao lets them see themselves from the other side of the mirror.



What The Hell???
1. Dr. Lao comes walking into town leading his donkey. Three of the four town drunks are all sitting in chairs leaning up along the wall of some building. When they spot Dr. Lao coming, one of them falls over backwards in the chair. I'm still trying to figure out why the hell he fell over backwards. It's not like Dr. Lao came walking into town leading a three ton purple elephant with bad breath or something.
2. Ed's printing press man can knock the crap out of a spittoon with a spit shot from five feet away. Now that's talent! What the heck's he doing working at a newspaper for when he's got talent like that? He should be working for Dr. Lao!
3. God Ed's cheesy when he's trying to get Angela to go out with him. It's great because it really irritated her.
4. WOO HOO!!! Barbara Eden in bloomers!!! She looks better with her hair this color too. I think it's probably her natural color.
5. Stark's henchmen are a couple of cheesy, bootlicking fools who think they're tough. They look more like a couple of ex-drunks that stark found in the gutter somewhere. See the town actually used to have six town drunks, but Mr. Stark, being the philanthropist that he is, hired a couple of them to act tough for him and sent them through rehab to get 'em cured off the "Wild Turkey".
6. After talking to Dr. Lao at his circus, Ed finally realizes that he's speaking perfect English with almost no accent. Dr. Lao explains that his accent comes and goes as the situation requires. It's cool because it really adds to the mystery of the character. Dr. Lao's accent is changing all through the movie.
7. When Mike meets Dr. Lao in town for the first time, he's putting up posters for his circus. This in and of itself is normal enough, but it's how he was putting up the posters that was slick. He had the tacks in his mouth and he was spitting them into the corners of the posters. I bet Dr. Lao could give that printing press guy a run for his money in the spittoon tipping competition.

8. When Mrs. Cassin visits Apollonius to get her fortune told, it's a very intense scene. He basically tells her that her whole life is a waste of time. She gets all upset and runs out crying. When asked by Angela what's wrong, she just makes up a bunch of stuff about how he told her that her life was gonna be great and that she was gonna marry Mr. Stark and be rich. It never ceases to amaze me how blind people can be and how even when given a second chance to do things differently, they always seem to just go back to living their life the same way as it was before.

9. When Mr. Stark meets the snake that looks like him and starts talking to it, he doesn't seem to find it even a little bit odd that he's talking to a snake, much less one that looks like him. I'd be freakin' out big time.
10. There sure are a lot of jerky people in this town. Merlin's doing all these cool tricks for the crowd and all they do is complain. He should have just made them all disappear. At least Mike still believes in him. He's a good kid.
11. After Stark's henchmen try to take the sea serpent out of the fishbowl and Dr. Lao stops them, they leave. As they're leaving, the sea serpent in the bowl farts at them and bubbles come shooting up in the water. It's quite funny.
12. When Kate Lindquist and her husband are at the Medusa showing, she just insists on being a complete shrew and exposing Dr. Lao as a fake. She walks around the curtain and looks at the medusa head on and turns to stone. So what does her husband do? He says, "It's ok. Pete come here and help me. It's just an arthritis attack. She's had them before." I wonder if she had spontaneously combusted, if he would have said, "It's ok. She's just having a hot flash. She's going through the change you know."
13. Merlin changes her back to normal and all of a sudden she's just Mrs. Sweety Pie. I guess getting turned to stone would give you an attitude adjustment.
14. Mike sneaks out and comes back to the circus to ask Dr. Lao for a job. Dr. Lao starts getting all philosophical on him after telling him that he can't use him in the show. During this little philosophy session, his accent disappears completely. Oh that Dr. Lao and his silly slipping accent. He's such a goofy guy.

15. When Ed returns to the newspaper office, he finds it destroyed. His big answer is to go out and get drunk. When he returns in the morning, everything is all fixed up and perfect. Man, I should go out and get drunk more often. My life would be great!

16. When Ed and Angela go to Dr. Lao's show the second night, they go together as a couple. He lays down a handkerchief for her to sit on. I hope it's not stuck to her butt when she gets up. There's nothing nastier than sitting on a used hanky.
17. Oh my god! There's a celebrity in the audience! Tony Randall came to see the show! Didn't seem like he was having a very good time though. I wonder what that shot was about.
18. Dr. Lao shows a movie to the crowd, who in the year this movie takes place didn't even have any clue what a movie was, and they don't even freak out about any of it. Then when they see themselves in the movie, they don't overly freak out about that either! They only freak out when it turns into a disaster movie. Now that's a pretty mellow group.
19. So the movie ends, and all of a sudden everyone is back in the city council chambers with their heads bowed. They don't have any clue how they got there, and no one even freaks out about this either! The mayor gets up and goes on with the business of voting on Mr. Stark's proposal. What the hell does it take to shock these people???
20. Stark's henchmen get drunk and go back to Dr. Lao's circus after dark. They start wreckin' the joint, and end up releasing the Loch Ness Monster. It grows huge and attacks them. They start shooting at it, which has no effect at all, but then when they run out of bullets, they do the classic thing...they throw a gun at it. Yeah, that helps.
21. Mike's a pretty damn good juggler for a kid his age. He finds three gold balls on the ground that Dr. Lao had left for him and he picks them up and starts juggling. Wish I had learned to juggle that easily. Took me a long time and a lot of work.



Best Quote
Ed: "I hate to tell you this Dr., but there aren't any fish in that river. In fact, there isn't any river."
Dr. Lao: "That's ok. Me no use bait."

- Ed talking to Dr. Lao as he's fishing in a dried up riverbed. - (Reviewer's Note: Right before Ed left, Dr. Lao caught a fish. Now that's a neat trick!)




Video Clip
When prompted, enter bmovie for the username and central for the password.

7 Faces of Dr. Lao
Dr. Lao chastises his pet cricket for not eating and then goes outside to have a little talk with Mike.



The Conclusion

What can I say? Tony Randall single handedly carried this movie to a "Five Bee" rating. I don't know if I've ever seen an actor handle a role more brilliantly than Randall does in this film. Compound that with the fact that he was actually playing eight roles in this movie, including the bit part as the spectator at the circus near the end, and you have what winds up being just an amazing performance.

I wish I could say the same about some of the rest of the people in this movie. While their performances were passable, I found it really difficult to actually care about anyone in this film except for the newspaper man Ed Cunningham and Angela's son Mike. I realize the whole point of this movie was for Dr. Lao's circus to show these people their bad points so that they would have a chance to change things, but frankly the people in this town were, for the most part, not worth saving.

One other bad aspect to the performances of the townspeople was the fact that they never seemed to be shocked or amazed by anything. Even after seeing a woman turned to stone by the medusa, they just pass it off as a bad arthritis attack. I sure hope none of these people are around if I ever have a medical emergency. So let me put it this way, this aspect of the movie is like someone farting while you're trying to eat an ice cream cone. Sure it's a little bit irritating, but after you get used to the smell, you just go on enjoying the ice cream cone.

If my ratings system went to "Six Bees" this movie would get six bees. It's just that good. If you've never seen this movie, then go right now, buy it, and watch it ASAP. If you have seen it, then you know what I'm talking about and you really need to go watch it again. Watch it with the intention of really focusing on Tony Randall's characters, and you'll actually see the screen start to shine with a golden glow. Thank you George Pal. Thank you for creating something that is truly beautiful, and thank you again for having the genius to hire Tony Randall for the starring role.  He took an already great film and made it absolutely amazing.

B-Movie Central's Rating: 5 Bees!

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