7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)

There’s a proverb somewhere that states that youth is wasted on the young.One might similarly feel that the wisdom of fairy tales,folklore,and fantasy are wasted on children.While I,for one would hesitate to go that far,I feel that the messages contained in this film,like so many other classic children’s stories,are best understood in an articulate fashion by adults.Kids will unconsciously and intuitively pick up the meanings,but it requires more maturity and life experience to fully appreciate what’s going on here.So,here ends my pontificating,and begin the review.The plot with Arthur O’Connell trying to take over the town is a simple,relatively benign framework to introduce the real story;the necessity of looking at ourselves,our flaws,our foibles,and the illusions we need to protect ourselves,and to keep on living.And the circus of Dr.Lao does provide that chance,in a gentle and compassionate way.We can complain about the dated quality of the special effects,but don’t forget,this was 14 years before Star Wars.The villains are a couple of stupid oafs who are easily disposed of in a benevolent fashion,and the other characters are shown the ways in which they stunt their own development,and then are given the chance to change IF THEY CHOOSE TO DO SO!(Let’s face it,some of them decide to stay the same.)Randall gives a tour de force performance as the circus cast(although I believe that stuntman Janos Prohaska actually did the Abominable Snowman)and the true development of Merlin,from doddering has-been to capable miracle worker is am impressive display of character creation and sustenance.(I’ve always wondered if the bagpipes accompanying the growth of the Loch Ness Monster was some sort of inside joke.)This is the kind of film that the entire family should see together;everyone could get something out of it.