Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)

dr lao Tony Randall plays several parts in The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (1964).  The film is part fairy tale, part romance, part Western. Dr. Lao (Randall) is a “Chinese” medicine man who comes to a small Western town with his circus. We quickly see that he has magical powers when, coming to the newspaper office to place an ad, he is able to repair the balky printing press without laying a hand on it. Dr. Lao also deals out swift but merciful justice to some bullies who are harassing an Indian. Through the various characters in his circus (all played by Randall), he shows people the truth about themselves, enables the townsfolk to stand up to a rapacious land developer, and encourages the romance between the newspaper editor and the widowed librarian. At the end, Dr. Lao disappears into the sunset, leaving the good townspeople better off than he found them.

This would be a good movie for parents and kids to see together. Some things may warrant explanation in light of our modern sensibilities about ethnicity, but the film as a whole has plenty of action and special effects to keep the kids interested, and many ideas that can start some good discussions. Most of the comments and short reviews I’ve seen online were from people who saw the movie as children and have never forgotten it.

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