Although Randall primarily stars as the Chinese circus owner Dr. Lao, he also appears as Medusa, The Abominable Snowman, a horned goat man, a blind fortune teller and — in one, don’t-blink scene — a stupefied circusgoer.
Lao rolls into a Western town on the verge of collapse, thanks to a drought. His mysterious and magical traveling circus appears to be merely a distraction to the townspeople, but they all end up learning valuable life lessons. Fortunately for today’s jaded viewers with built-in BS detectors, they are subtly and easy to swallow.
The film’s Oscar-winning makeup and special effects — the subject of a featurette on the disc — are all outstanding, particularly in an end scene in which a catfish morphs into the Loch Ness Monster. Randall helps balance the movie’s senses of humor and whimsy, but I suppose many may be offended by his Lao guise in our PC times, but hey, at least it’s not cringe-inducing like Mickey Rooney in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” —Rod Lott