You can read extensive excerpts from The Bigfoot Filmography on Amazon.
Excerpt from The Bigfoot Filmography:
7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964) (Cameo)
AKA: Seven Faces of Dr. Lao; The Secret World of Dr. Lao. Starring Tony Randall, Barbara Eden, Arthur O’Connell, John Ericson, Noah Beery Jr., Lee Patrick, Chubby Johnson & Péter Pál. Produced by George Pal. Written by Charles Beaumont & Ben Hecht. Based on the novel The Circus of Dr. Lao by Charles G. Finney. Directed by George Pal. USA. Metrocolor. Mono. 100 Minutes.
Overview: In the American Old West, a traveling carnival
arrives in a small town to help relieve the boredom of local residents. The mysterious owner and solo operator of the carnival is known as Dr. Lao, an elderly albeit spry Asian gentleman. His fantastical sideshow of attractions holds up a mirror darkly to the various townspeople who venture into the circus; all are shown distorted versions of themselves in an apparent warning of their various failings and vanities. Amongst the menagerie of ‘monsters’ is an Abominable Snowman, elusive as it is shy.
During the circus’ stay in town, Dr. Lao befriends a fatherless young boy and through patient counseling and displays of kindness help the child come to understand where there is love in life, magic is always sure to follow. As he departs, Dr. Lao leaves the boy – and indeed the entire citizenry – better off than when he arrived, having taught all who will open their hearts and minds to an undeniably better moral code of existence that stresses balance, fairness, and concern for your fellow living being – be they human, hominid, or animal.
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George Pal’s delightful visualization of the Yeti in 7 Faces of Dr. Lao is admittedly brief in screen time but long in impact. And none can saw the famed director and/or producer of such beloved fantasy fare as The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds didn’t literally and figuratively have his very essence invested in the Abominable Snowman he cameos – the part is portrayed by his son Péter Pál! As a mute, voyeuristic Yeti, the cryptid depicted is more human-like than many other Cine du Sasquatch appearances, a curious-natured cross between the classic image of the reclusive Himalayan Snowman mixed with the more fearsome aspects of Pal’s earlier Morlocks in his own screen adaptation of Well’s The Time Machine.
While Tony Randall steals the overall show with his Peter Sellers-like ability to flawlessly portray multiple roles, the Yeti is an adroit scene stealer in its two highlighted scenes, as well. Much credit is due to make-up effects artist William Tuttle, who won a well-deserved Academy Award for his efforts, which was given to the long-time MGM in-house artist a full 17 years before the Oscar was annually awarded for Best Makeup. Tuttle was no stranger to fantasy cinema and television, having worked on The Twilight Zone, Forbidden Planet and Pal’s The Time Machine, as well as non-fantasy efforts such as Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and musicals such as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and An American in Paris. With such credentials, it is no small exaggeration to suggest that along with Rick Baker’s later contribution to the Cine du Sasquatch genre with Harry and the Hendersons, William Tuttle was one of the most renowned make-up artists to ever create a filmic cryptid.
The character of the Yeti is also compelling: rather than the usual ‘monster out to devour’ portrayal, this likeable (though fearsome-looking) Abominable Snowman is quite the opposite. It hides from human contact as much as possible, a benign helper rather than a center stage attraction of the circus. This is much more in line with the real-life descriptions of the Yeti as being ‘passive unless threatened’ in nature than many earlier genre incarnations such as Man Beast, The Snow Creature and The Monster of the Volcano. Indeed, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao ranks with The Abominable Snowman in terms of empathetic cryptid depiction.
As the film makes abundantly clear, the real ‘villains’ of 7 Faces of Dr. Lao are never the sideshow oddities, but the sleepwalking townspeople themselves. The humans all succumb to various foibles – greed, intolerance, desire and violence – when faced with their Jungian ‘Animus’ selves in the shadowy forms Dr. Lao mocks them with so well. Much like Gene Wilder as the titular hero in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, the good doctor forces the reluctant residents to realize that the real ‘freaks’ are always themselves, because they alone possess the power and therefore responsibility to affect social change and render justice.
This is clearly within the thematic core of earlier Cine du Sasquatch entries, wherein humans are nearly always presented as intruders into the world of the Yeti and who little realize they bring with them all too often the worst – not the best – of human nature. Only after they face the purer “savagery” of the Abominable Snowman and its instinctive fight for survival against the invaders with their superior technologies (along with the humans’ inevitable need to exploit either the cryptid’s resources or its very existence in and of itself), do any human survivors reach an understanding: the Abominable is located more deeply within their own souls than within any external projection they render upon the cryptid they face down.
A sobering conclusion and perhaps unexpectedly rendered all the more poignant because it is so gently but convincingly illustrated in a so-called “kiddy movie” such as 7 Faces of Dr. Lao. But as classic fairy tales and seemingly simple myths reveal upon closer introspection, the deeper truths are often encoded within sugar-coated lumps of candy and sweets where human truths are concerned. As such, Pal’s film represents a continuation of the themes ever-present in Cine du Sasquatch to this very date; all the more remarkable given the Yeti has only two fleeting scenes in the entire film!