Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)

Genres - Fantasy, Western  |   Sub-Genres - Children's Fantasy, Fantasy Comedy, Hybrid Western, Satire  |   Run Time - 100 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

A film with a dedicated cult following, Seven Faces of Dr. Lao is a strange, bizarrely amusing and occasionally unsettling curio -- and yet one that is not quite as strange, bizarre or unsettling as one might wish. Although George Pal turns in some of his most sensitive direction, and although the film exerts an undeniable attraction, it doesn't quite go far enough to be totally successful; in particular, its rather mundane treatment of the characters played by Barbara Eden, John Ericson and Arthur O'Connell is disappointing, although the Pan sequence involving the first two is well done. Even with these flaws, however, there's more than enough to enjoy and admire, starting with Tony Randall's tour-de-force performance. Running the gamut from stereotypically inscrutable to insinuating evil, he makes the most of this rare showcase for his talents -- all while maintaining the strange charm and sure comedic timing for which he is noted. Despite the limitations of their roles, Eden and O'Connell come off very well, and there are delightful bits from much of the supporting cast. Make-up and special effects are top-notch for the period, and there's even a bit of animation in the Medusa sequence. An off-beat children's picture that adults can also enjoy, Dr. Lao's magic holds up well even years after its release.