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Trailers from Hell Unmasks 'The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao'

Photo of Trailers From Hell By Trailers From Hell | Thompson on Hollywood June 13, 2014 at 1:45PM

Today on Trailers from Hell, Alan Spencer unravels the many layers of 1964's "The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao."

Today on Trailers from Hell, Alan Spencer unravels the many layers of 1964's "The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao."

"The Circus of Dr. Lao," written by Charles G. Finney in 1935, was a cynical, trenchant satire of the small minds of small town people.  George Pal, whose perennially sunny demeanor was in sharp contrast to Finney's curdled comedy, kept his rose-colored glasses firmly in place when he directed his own version in 1964 from a screenplay by Charles Beaumont. Though the pungent atmosphere is missing from Pal's adaptation, several memorable things remain including a bittersweet score from Leigh Harline ("Pinocchio"), an assortment of mythical monsters courtesy of William Tuttle and Wah Chang and, most importantly, a brilliant tour-de-force by Tony Randall as the mysterious ringmaster Lao. Randall possessed one of the most beautiful speaking voices in Hollywood and he uses it to full effect in "7 Faces," inhabiting everything from a wistful Merlin the Magician to a spooky drag version of the snake-headed Medusa. 

This article is related to: Trailers, Trailers from Hell

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.