7 Faces of Dr. Lao, The (1964)

(aka “Seven Faces of Dr. Lao”)

Tony Randall plays seven eccentric roles in George Pal’s “The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao,” a curious, original film that has its defenders and aficionados, as well as detractors.

The fantasy-fable was adapted by Charles G. Finney from his own novel

Randall, in the richest and most demanding role of his career, first appears as Dr. Lao, a Chinese medicine-show impresario. The doctor brings his travelling show into the frontier town of Abalone, which is ruled by the corrupt land-owner Clint Stark (Arthur O’Connell).

Meanwhile, the newspaper editor Ed Cunningham (John Ericson) is conducting a campaign against Stark, who has money, power, and henchmen. Nonetheless, Cunningham continues his fight, though still has time to romance the young widow Angela Benedict (Barbara Eden, who would become a big TV star).

Dr. Lao has established himself as a man of many talents and skills, which lead to the townspeople learning all kinds of truths when attend his circus.

In the course of the plot, Dr. Lao transforms into various persona, Merlin the Magician, Pan, Medusa, the Abominable Snowman, Apollonius of Tyana, and even Talking Serpent.

The combined talents of Randall, puppeteer Pal, and make-up wizard William J. Tuttle (who deservedly won the Oscar) resulted in this bizarrely entertaining, not entirely satisfying experience, sort of a curio item to use Variety’s jargon.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Special Visual Effects: Jim Danforth

Oscar Awards: 1

Honorary Oscar for William Tuttle for his MakeUp achievement (There was not a competitive Make-Up Oscar category in 1964).
This movie would be used as a strong argument for the need to establish a legit category in the early 1980s.

Oscar Context:

The winners of the Special Effects Oscar were Peter Ellenshaw, Hamilton Luske, and Eustace Lycett for “Mary Poppins.”

Credits

Running time: 100 Minutes.
Directed by George Pal
Written by Charles Beaumont, Ben Hecht

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