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7 Faces of Dr. Lao

A heady piece of fantastic fantasy.

Rod Lott October 18th, 2011

In a true tour-de-force performance, the late, great Tony Randall takes on seven roles in this long-beloved, charming 1964 fantasy from legendary sci-fi producer George Pal. After a too-long period of being out of print, it's back from Warner Archive.


Although Randall primarily stars as the Chinese circus owner Dr. Lao, he also appears as Medusa, The Abominable Snowman, a horned goat man, a blind fortune teller and — in one, don't-blink scene — a stupefied circusgoer.

Lao rolls into a Western town on the verge of collapse, thanks to a drought. His mysterious and magical traveling circus appears to be merely a distraction to the townspeople, but they all end up learning valuable life lessons. Fortunately for today's jaded viewers with built-in BS detectors, they are subtly and easy to swallow.

The film's
Oscar-winning makeup and special effects — the subject of a featurette on the disc — are all outstanding, particularly in an end scene in which a catfish morphs into the Loch Ness Monster. Randall helps balance the movie's senses of humor and whimsy, but I suppose many may be offended by his Lao guise in our PC times, but hey, at least it's not cringe-inducing like Mickey Rooney in "Breakfast at Tiffany's."  —Rod Lott

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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