George Pal’s enigmatic 1964’s 7 Faces of Dr Lao finds a Chinese circus coming to the small western town of Abalone, Arizona. The leader of the circus, Dr Lao (Tony Randall), holds many secrets but his main goal seems to be bring a revelation to the unsuspecting townsfolk.
Dr Lao is actually all the seven performers who make up his circus. He transforms into a Yeti, a snake, a magician, a seer and even a satyr. With each transformation Tony Randall becomes more and more unrecognizable. You lose Tony so much in each performance that your swear that seven actors are playing all the roles. It is an amazing job by makeup artist William Tuttle who actually won an honorary Oscar for this film.
I am sure there is alot of debate surrounding Tony Randall playing a Chinese man. He plays Dr Lao (or as he pronounces it Dr. Low) with a certain energy and intelligence. Today’s audience will have a hard time not seeing Dr Lao as a Chinese stereotype much in the same way we see Peter Ustinov’s Charlie Chan or even Chiun from Remo Williams. Come to think of it was there a good Charlie Chan version?
Despite Tony Randall being lost to the makeup his performance is dynamite. The way he embodies seven distinctly different characters in one sitting is a sight to behold just on that merit alone. No actor could ask for a juicer part than that.
He could boast, “You played twins? That’s nothing I played seven people all at once.” It is a great legacy part.
I am really glad that I saw the film just because it has become infamous for Tony Randall refusing to talk about it and well the legendary makeup.
3 out 5
So Says the Soothsayer