Thursday, November 20, 2014

Netflix Mail Day Movie Review: "7 Faces of Dr. Lao" (1964)

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Movie"7 Faces of Dr. Lao"
Director: George Pal
Year: 1964
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Abalone is a small town in Arizona on the verge of being bought up by a wealthy rancher named Clifford Stark (Arthur O'Connell). The local newspaper owner, Edward Cunningham (John Ericson), is trying to convince everyone not to sell to Stark. Right before the community was going to vote to sell the town to Stark, The Circus of Dr. Lao (Tony Randall) comes to Abolalone. Dr. Lao's circus holds strange wonders like the Abominable snowman, Apollonius of Tyana, Medusa, Merlin, Pan, and the Loch Ness Monster. The towns people go into the circus for a simple good time, but they may leave forever changed by the wonders they encounter.

When the film starts and we first saw Dr. Lao, especially once hearing him speak, our eyes widened and we were worried this would be "Breakfast at Tiffany's" all over again: a white actor in Asian makeup doing a comic book caricature of an Asian man for comedic purposes.  As the movie moves on, Lao changes his accent from one situation to the next. We quickly learn Lao only uses the over-the-top accent because that is what is expected of him in certain situations. The film is probably best classified as a comedy, but it does have its fair share of dark elements. In particular, the scene with Apollonius of Tyan reading a bleak future for a woman who comes to get her fortune told in especially grim. Also, the scene with Pan the God of Joy is quite artistically intense and sensual. Most of the comedy comes from the stereotypes that run throughout the film, whether it be when Dr. Lao is doing his ridiculously stereotypical Asian accent or one of the other stereotypical country bumpkins and drunks acting a fool. The character of Merlin is also primarily in the film for comic relief. The makeup is actually very well done, for then and for now. Though Tony Randall plays multiple roles in the film, including Dr. Lao and almost all of his attractions, he is hardly recognizable from one role to the next. The only attractions not played by Randall are created through stop-motion animation, and even one of the stop-motion creatures is voiced by Randall. Overall, the movie is enjoyable and quite the technical achievement in makeup for its day, even though the Abominable snowman is obviously wearing a fun fur suit with a clearly visible zipper seam.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 66%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "Escape Plan"

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