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7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)

aka 7 Faces of Dr. Lao

Directed By: 
Details: 100 mins · English


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Small Dr. Lao / The Abominable Snowman / Merlin the Magician / Apollon
Small Angela Benedict
Small Clint Stark
Small Ed Cunningham / Transformed Pan
Small Tim Mitchell
Small Mrs. Howard Cassin
No_movie_poster Kate Lindquist
Small Luther Lindquist
No_movie_poster Peter Ramsey
No_movie_poster Mrs. Peter Ramsey
No_movie_poster George C. George
Small Carey
No_movie_poster Sarah Benedict
Small Lucas
No_movie_poster Lean Cowboy
No_movie_poster Mayor James Sargent
No_movie_poster Fat Cowboy
Small Toothless Cowboy
No_movie_poster Mike Benedict


No_movie_poster Ben Hecht Writer
Small George Pal Director
No_movie_poster Charles Beaumont Screenplay
No_movie_poster Charles G. Finney Writer
Small George Pal Production
No_movie_poster Charles G. Finney Story Contributor
No_movie_poster George Tomasini Editing


It is the dawn of the 20th century, and an elderly Chinese man rides a jackass into Abalone, Arizona, his only visible possession a fishbowl occupied by an innocuous-looking fish. This magical visitor, Dr. Lao (Tony Randall), visits Edward Cunningham's (John Ericson) newspaper and places a large ad for his traveling circus, which will play in Abalone for two nights only.

Though quiet, Abalone is not peaceful; wealthy rancher Clinton Stark (Arthur O'Connell) has inside information that a railroad is coming to town, and he is scheming to buy up the place while the land is cheap. Stark is opposed in this power grab by Cunningham, who is also romantically pursuing the town's librarian, Angela Benedict (Barbara Eden), a beautiful young widow still grieving the death of her husband.

After doing some research, Cunningham visits the circus site that has sprung up at the edge of town, and confronts Lao with the fact that Lao's alleged hometown vanished centuries ago. Lao deflects Cunningham's questions. However, as Lao puts up posters around town advertising his circus, he is assisted by Angela's young son Mike (Kevin Tate), who learns that the mysterious wanderer is 7,322 years old.

The circus opens its doors, and the townsfolk flock in. Along with the main cast, the gawkers include Luther Lindquist and his shrewish wife Kate, and Mrs. Cassan, a foolish widow who clings to her self-image of a young beauty. Lao uses his many faces to offer his wisdom to the visitors; only some of whom take heed of this advice. Mrs. Cassan has, to her dismay, her dark future pretold by Apollonius of Tyana, a blind prophet who is cursed to tell the absolute truth, no matter how cruel and shocking it may be. Appollonius tells her she will never be married and will live a lonely, meaningless existence, having accomplished so little she might as well have never lived at all. Stark has a disquieting meeting with the Great Serpent, Mike befriends the pathetic Merlin and Angela is aroused from her emotional repression by Pan's intoxicating music. After Medusa turns the disbelieving Kate Lindquist to stone, Lao calls an end to the proceedings and Merlin restores the now-reformed woman.

Mike visits Lao and tries to get a job, displaying his novice juggling and conjuring skills. Lao instead offers some advice and observations about the world ("... the whole world is a circus, if you know how to look at it ..."), which Mike doesn't understand, and Lao claims to not understand either.

Meanwhile, Stark's two thuggish henchmen destroy the newspaper office. Cunningham and his pressman discover the devastation, go drown their sorrows, then stagger back to learn that the damage has been magically repaired by Lao. They rush out an abbreviated edition of the paper, which Cunningham delivers in person to Stark.

The next night, Lao stages his grand finale, a magic lantern show in which the mythical city of "Woldercan," populated by doubles of the townfolk, is destroyed when it succumbs to temptation personified by Stark, (as a sort of devilish tempter). The show ends in explosions and darkness but as the house lights gradually come back up, the townsfolk find themselves now in a town meeting, voting on Stark's proposal. They reject it, and a redeemed Stark tells them about the coming railroad, while noting that they owe a debt of gratitude to Lao. A dust-storm blows up, and as the townsfolk scatter, Angela opens up to Ed, finally admitting that she is in love with him.

Stark's henchmen, confused by their boss' apparent change of character, in a drunken spree decide to trash Lao's circus. Unfortunately, they shoot at, and break, Lao's fishbowl. The inhabitant is revealed (to the accompanying sound of bagpipes) to indeed be the Loch Ness Monster, which balloons to enormous size when exposed to the open air. After it chases the two thugs into the storm (and temporarily grows seven heads to resemble the seven faces of the inhabitants of the circus), Mike alerts Dr. Lao and then helps conjure up a cloudburst to wet and thus shrink the beast back to its original size.

Morning comes and the circus is gone, leaving a red-colored circle on the desert floor. Mike chases after a dust plume, which he thinks is made by Lao, but only finds three wooden balls. He is able to juggle them expertly. The closing scene shows the "ghost" of Lao riding his donkey over a nearby rise as his voice-over says, "the whole world is a circus, if you look at it the right way ..."), reminding Mike that the Circus of Dr. Lao is life itself, and everything in it is a wonder.

Release Dates:

DVD : 2000-10-03