I have a pretty large DVD collection, but one of the discs
that I never got around to purchasing was the 1964 George Pal
fantasy/western The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao.
I figured I'd get it one day, but before I
could snag a copy it went OOP and the price of disc soared to over $50. Too rich for my blood. But
Warner Archives has come to the rescue,
rereleasing this great Tony Randal film at a very reasonable price. They even ported over all of the extras from
the original release. Needless to say I
snagged a copy as soon as I could and I'm happy to say it's just as fun
enjoyable as I remember it being.
The plot is pretty simple.
In the very small town of Abalone,
back in the old
west, a local businessman, Clint Stark, is trying to buy the entire
town for a
cheap price. The pipe that carried the
town's water is in poor repair and it'll give out altogether in six
unless repairs are made and that will cost over a quarter of a million
much more than the town can comfortably come up with.
The local newspaper editor doesn't trust
Stark however, and has been writing editorials urging the townspeople
Into this drama drifts a Chinaman, Dr. Lao (pronounced "Low"
played by Tony Randall). He rides into
town on a donkey with a bowl strapped to the saddle containing his pet
and seemingly nothing else. He buys a
full page ad in the paper for two days, paying in cash.
The circus coming to town is big news, of course, and Dr.
Lao's, billed as "the greatest show on this or any other planet" has
town talking. Everyone goes out to see the tent that's set up outside
town. There they encounter a wide
variety of curious creatures (all played by Tony Randall):
The snake-haired Medusa, Merlin the Magician,
the Roman god Pan, Apollonius of Tyana, the blind man who was gifted
seeing the future, but cursed with having to tell the absolute truth,
Abominable Snowman, a giant serpent, and his pet, the Loch Ness
Most of the movie takes place at the circus, where the
townspeople interact with the mythical beings and often learn a little
themselves in the process. Everyone
comes back on the second night for the grand finale, where Dr. Lau
audience with the tale of an ancient city that was corrupted by greed,
that hits more than a little close to home.
While the movie has a simple plot, it's filled with a sense
of magic and wonder. Penned by SF writer
Charles Beaumont who wrote several classic episodes of The
Twilight Zone (based on a book by Charles Finney), and directed
by George Pal, the film has one foot planted firmly in the world of
the other in reality. It's this mixture
of make believe and truth that gives the film its charm and impact. How can you not feel sorry for the pompous
Mrs. Cassin when she goes to the fortune-teller to see if she'll get
if a man will come into her life and is told "Tomorrow will be like
the day after tomorrow will be like the day before yesterday. I see
remaining days as a tedious collection of hours full of useless
will think no new thoughts. You will forget what little you have known.
you will become, but not wiser. Stiffer, but not more dignified.
are, and childless you will remain."
Of course Tony Randall really makes the film. He
really has to do a lot of acting in this
film, playing seven roles, and he does a magnificent job.
His Dr. Lau is hilarious but touching
too. He has the old fakir jump in and
out of accents rapidly, sometimes going through several in the same
conversation, and it works wonderfully.
He brings Apollonius to life, sad and defeated, as well as the
Randall's makeup was crafted by William Tuttle who won a
special Oscar for his work on the film.
It was simply amazing. As the
screen caps included with this review can attest, Tony Randall is
unrecognizable in the various roles. If
you didn't know it was him, you'd never be able to tell.
The Dolby Digital 1.0 audio track sounds good. There
the dialog is clean and clear. Nothing to
complain about here. There are subtitles in English and French.
I was very impressed with the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen
image. The colors are solid and bright,
and the level of detail is excellent.
The picture was excellent overall, only marred by some minor
damage, main some specks and dirt that popped up occasionally.
I'm happy to report that the extras from the original
release have all been ported over to this MOD disc.
There's an 8 minute look at makeup artist
William Tuttle who crafted the excellent disguises for Tony Randall in
film, a trailer, and a text piece on George Pal and star Tony Randall.
The last film that fantasist George Pal directed, The Circus
of Dr. Lao is a minor masterpiece. Tony
Randall gives a performance that will surprise most viewers and the
production is a wonderful, fantastic tale.
This Warner Archives release ports over the extras from the
and has a great looking picture. Go
ahead and snag a copy. Highly