Today on Trailers from Hell, Alan Spencer unravels the many layers of 1964’s “The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao.”
“The Circus of Dr. Lao,” written by Charles G. Finney in 1935, was a cynical, trenchant satire of the small minds of small town people. George Pal, whose perennially sunny demeanor was in sharp contrast to Finney’s curdled comedy, kept his rose-colored glasses firmly in place when he directed his own version in 1964 from a screenplay by Charles Beaumont. Though the pungent atmosphere is missing from Pal’s adaptation, several memorable things remain including a bittersweet score from Leigh Harline (“Pinocchio”), an assortment of mythical monsters courtesy of William Tuttle and Wah Chang and, most importantly, a brilliant tour-de-force by Tony Randall as the mysterious ringmaster Lao. Randall possessed one of the most beautiful speaking voices in Hollywood and he uses it to full effect in “7 Faces,” inhabiting everything from a wistful Merlin the Magician to a spooky drag version of the snake-headed Medusa.