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7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)

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Reviews: 58 user | 19 critic

A mysterious circus comes to a western town bearing wonders and characters that entertain the inhabitants and teach valuable lessons.



(screen play), (based on the novel "The Circus of Dr. Lao" by), 1 more credit »
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Title: 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Dr. Lao / The Abominable Snowman / Merlin the Magician / Apollonius of Tyana / Pan / The Giant Serpent / Medusa
Angela Benedict
Clint Stark
John Ericson ...
Ed Cunningham / Transformed Pan
Tim Mitchell
Lee Patrick ...
Mrs. Howard Cassin
Minerva Urecal ...
Kate Lindquist
Luther Lindquist
Frank Kreig ...
Peter Ramsey
Peggy Rea ...
Mrs. Peter Ramsey
Eddie Little Sky ...
Sarah Benedict
Lean Cowboy


An old Chinese gentleman rides into the town of Abalone, Arizona and changes it forever, as the citizens see themselves reflected in the mirror of Lao's mysterious circus of mythical beasts. Written by Edward E. Pringle <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Which face will the wily doctor reveal to you? See more »


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

13 August 1964 (West Germany)  »

Also Known As:

Seven Faces of Dr. Lao  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


According to a story that appeared in "Life" magazine Tony Randall had his head shaved for the part of Dr. Lao. When it was decided to have him appear in the audience as himself during the second show they could not find a wig that looked like his natural hair so they took a woman's wig and cut and styled it enough to get by for the few seconds he would be on screen. See more »


When Merlin first appears to Ed outside the tent a pipe at the base of the tent emits a cloud of white smoke so Merlin can "magically" appear. It continues to give several little spurts of smoke after he appears and while he is talking to Ed. See more »


Merlin: Tricks? Gadzooks, Madam, these are not tricks! I do magic. I - I create, I transpose, I transubstantiate, I break up, I recombine - but I never trick!
See more »


Referenced in What's My Line?: Episode dated 16 August 1964 (1964) See more »


Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565
(1708) (uncredited)
Written by Johann Sebastian Bach
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

The Wisdom of the Good Doctor
18 May 2004 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

"This is the Circus of Dr. Lao. We show you things that you don't know. Oh, we spare no pains and we spare no dough, but we're going to give you one helluva show!"

And the Good Doctor certainly did, thanks to the boundless imagination of producer-director George Pal, the cutting-edge script from Twilight Zone veteran Charles Beaumont, and of course MGM's remarkably talented makeup wizard, William Tuttle, whose efforts for this film earned him a Special Achievement Oscar, long before Best Makeup ever became the more permanent category it is these days.

The story, based on the book by Charles Finney, takes place at the cusp of the early 1910's. The setting is a small Arizona town named Abilone, whose inhabitants are facing a crisis that threatens the overall future of the town. The greater crisis, however, lies in the townsfolk's own humanity, and the balance of our story follows Dr. Lao and his Circus as they transform that crisis into a better understanding.

At the heart of the town's battle to survive is the personal conflict pitting newsman Ed Cunningham (John Ericson) against town shyster Clinton Stark (Arthur O'Connell). Only the intervention of the Circus will permit them to come to terms with who they really are, as opposed to who they should become. Ed has also fallen in love with Angela Benedict, the town librarian (Barbara Eden), and must confront his own passions for her while covering Dr. Lao's Circus.

But when Angie's young son Mike (Kevin Tate) befriends Dr. Lao, the film is strengthened with its greatest wisdom, one that is best explored when the entire family watches this film. "The whole world is a circus if you learn to look at it the right way," the seven-millennia-old Dr. Lao reminds his new friend. "Every time you pick up a handful of dust, and see not the dust, but a mystery, a miracle, right there in your hands --- every time you stop to think, 'I'm alive, and being alive is fantastic!' --- every time such a thing happens, Mike, only then are you part of the Circus of Dr. Lao."

Even today, I still shed a tear when I see this film, especially during the scene in which Lao summons Merlin the Magician to perform for the good folks of Abilone. Most of them have pretty much lost their ability to believe in magic. But not Mike Benedict. How can you not be moved to tears when you see Merlin tenderly embracing the lad, to thank him for having believed in the wonder of Magic?

The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao is one of the few quintessential examples of the astounding range of Tony Randall's acting versatility.... a versatility we will most certainly miss.... and most certainly remember.

As my Wizardly alter ego Blackwolf will tell you, that one scene --- Merlin's magic show --- holds a special place in the hearts of all Magic-users. With the news of Tony Randall's death having just gone out over the wires, I think fans of Dr. Lao will want another look at this remarkable little film that reminds us all how important it is to take a look at ourselves and our future. This is Dr. Lao's greatest feat, and to accomplish it, he tells the tale of "The Fall of the City" to the townsfolk of Abilone. Using stock footage from George Pal's Atlantis: The Lost Continent, interspersed with new footage featuring the Dr. Lao adult cast performing double duty as various Atlantean inhabitants, and the awesome strains of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor booming in the background, "The Fall of the City" sequence is a masterpiece of drama, and an inspiring reminder that life is worth the battle so long as you learn something from it.

Overall, The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao is that rare curiosity of a movie, the kind that has something to say, and says it eloquently without preaching or sensationalizing its subject matter. We should all thank Tony Randall for having taken on this unique, one-of-a-kind filmmaking challenge. That, I think, is why we will miss him most of all.

59 of 62 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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