The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)

The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao is based on Charles G. Finney's The Circus of Dr. Lao. While filming The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, George had asked Charles Beaumont, the screenwriter, if he had any projets he had been unable to sell. Beaumont responded with Dr. Lao. Pal was intriguesd and asked to read the novel. Beaumont did better by bringing George a threatment he had already written for it.

" So, I read the threatment and flipped It was great, absolutely great and that's the way it all began."
—George Pal

Beaumont finished the final script and sent iot to Pal while still filmingin Germany. Pal hoped to get Peter Sellers to play the lead and stopped in London before returning to Hollywood to pitch the idea to Sellers. Sellers was currently filming and woudn't be able to rewad the script for a few days. Pal had to return to Hollywood also so Sellers would contact Pal there after he had a chance to read it.

"So I left. Then an hour later he called me at my hotel, saying 'George, can I come over?' He rushed right over and said, "I strated to read your script and just couldn't put it down. May I read the parts for you?' And he read all the parts. His interpretation of the characters was very exciting...So I thought, 'This is great. It's all set. We'll have Peter Sellers. No one can resist this package."

But M.G.M. wanted Tony Randall, and so...

William Tuttle again was called in, this time to transform Randall into the multitude of characters.

"All of my preconceived notions on how I would play the characters vanished. As soon as Tuttle applied his makeup magic, I felt myself actually become these strange paople. I didn't recognize myself, so I felt as much at home in one make-believe character as another."
—Tony Randall

Dr. Lao



William Tuttles makeup prompted the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences to award a special Academy Award for makeup.

"Tony is an incredible actor. I had a great time working with him. He would begin to become the particular part the moment Bill Tuttle began to put the makeup on. For instance, when he had Dr. Lao's makeup on he would gradually become Chinese. He wopuld talk and act Chinese. When he had on Merlin's makeup gadually he would become a very old man. So that when he came onto the sound stage he was the character, even when the camera was not running. People would have to open doors for him because he was too old to do it for himself."
George Pal

For the visual effects, Pal returned once again to Project Unlimited. The most labor intesive effect was the Loch Ness Monster. The filming of twenty different models to show the monster grow from a small minnow to a large Sea Serpent took three months to film and resulted in 9 minutes of footage. The sequence was animated by Jim Danforth and earned him an Oscar nomination.

Although Dr. Lao didn't do well at the box office, George Pal had hopes of making it into a series for television starring Alan Young. Unfortunately another project which did not become reality.

The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao is available on dvd through Amazon.com

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