Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (1964) - Rotten Tomatoes

Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)




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Movie Info

Tony Randall has the showcase of a lifetime in the marvelous George Pal production The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao. We first see Randall as Dr. Lao, an enigmatic Chinese medicine-show impresario. The doctor brings his travelling show into the frontier town of Abalone, which is chafing under the oppression of land-hungry Clint Stark (Arthur O'Connell). Newspaper editor Ed Cunningham (John Ericson) is conducting a campaign of words against Stark, but he is no match for the land baron's money, power, and hulking henchmen. Nonetheless, Cunningham continues his crusade, all the while attempting to romance icy young widow Angela Benedict (Barbara Eden). All of this is observed with bemusement by Dr. Lao, who has already established himself as a man of many talents by alternating between pidgin-English and eloquent articulation, depending on the circumstances. Each of the townspeople--including the three already mentioned--learn a great many truths about themselves when they attend Dr. Lao's unusual circus. In the course of straightening out everyone's problems, Lao metamorphoses into (1) Merlin the Magician, (2) Pan, (3) Medusa, (4) The Abominable Snowman, (5) Apollonius of Tyana and (6) a Talking Serpent. The combined talents of Randall, puppeteer Pal and make-up wizard William J. Tuttle (who won two Special Oscars) resulted in this captivatingly unique entertainment experience. Curiously, Tony Randall is not fond of Seven Faces of Dr.Lao, and refused to be interviewed on the subject. Perhaps he was unhappy that much of the philosophy dispensed in the original Charles G. Finney novel The Circus of Dr. Lao was weeded out of Charles Beaumont's script....or perhaps he just didn't like having his head shaved for the part.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Western, Mystery & Suspense, Classics, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By: Ben Hecht, Charles Beaumont
In Theaters:
On DVD: Oct 3, 2000


Tony Randall
as Dr. Lao/Merlin/Pan/A...
Barbara Eden
as Angela Benedict
Arthur O'Connell
as Clint Stark
John Ericson
as Ed Cunningham
Lee Patrick
as Mrs. Howard T. Cassa...
Noah Beery Jr.
as Tim Mitchell
Minerva Urecal
as Kate Lindquist
John Qualen
as Luther Lindquist
Frank Kreig
as Peter Ramsey
Peggy Rea
as Mrs. Peter Ramsey
Eddie Little Sky
as George G. George
Argentina Brunetti
as Sarah Benedict
Edward Little Sky
as George G. George
Dal McKennon
as Lean Cowboy
Frank Cady
as Mayor James Sargent
Chubby Johnson
as Fat Cowboy
Douglas Fowley
as Toothless Cowboy
Kevin Tate
as Mike Benedict
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Seven Faces of Dr. Lao

Critic Reviews for Seven Faces of Dr. Lao

All Critics (9) | Top Critics (2)

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

A strange, sporadically entertaining fantasy, which won the Honorary Oscar for Makeup: Tony Randall plays seven roles.

Full Review… | February 20, 2013

Tony Randall's best--a whimsical western

October 23, 2004
Kansas City Kansan

a delightful, imaginative curio

November 10, 2002
Kalamazoo Gazette

Mildly diverting, but no classic

August 21, 2002
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Audience Reviews for Seven Faces of Dr. Lao


Part western, part fantasy, this is the story of a strange Chinese man, played by Tony Randall, who drops in on a small town with his odd little "Circus of Dr. Lao". Arthur O'Connell plays a money-grubbing bastard who wants everyone to sell him their property so he can benefit from a railroad coming near town that only he knows about. There's also a budding romance between widow Barbara Eden and the new newspaper man in town, While the appearance of Dr. Lao seems coincidental, he and his circus help to resolve these issues.

Director/animator George Pal held the reins here, and it had a bit of a Harryhausen feel to some of the animated sequences. While all the cast is satisfactory, Tony Randall really impressed me with his performance...or should I say performances? All the characters in the circus -- a fortune teller, a talking serpent, Medusa, a Yeti -- are played by Randall. I'm curioius as to why he ended up playing fey mincing types or whiny Casper Milquetoasts when he was apparently capable of so much more. A nice film for the family on a snowy afternoon.

Cindy I

Super Reviewer

In the most remarkable role and performance of his career, Tony Randall stars in this delightful fable about a mysterious Chinese doctor and magical proprietor of a circus that comes to a dusty Arizona town and generates a wave of good happenings. Dr. Lao assumes different guises in order to teach his message of pride and self-reliance to the townsfolk. Fine supporting performances by Barbara Eden, Arthur O' Connell and John Ericson. But it's Randall's virtuoso turn where he plays all six roles as Dr. Lao, Merin, Pan, The Abominable Snowman, Medusa, Apollonius of Tyana with the aid of elaborate make-up that won a special Oscar for Outstanding Makeup Achievement that is the heart of the wonderous film. One of my favorite childhood films a total joy. Highly Recommended.

Danny Rovira

Super Reviewer


This movie is so memorable. rom the first time I saw it, i never forot it. Tony Randall plays an oriental man that changes his entire costume and facial to look like 7 different people, little bit of a magic movie. Really cute and fun movie.

Sandra Hemmes

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