Thursday, January 08, 2015
The Circus of Dr. Lau by Charles G. Finney
(pb; 1935, 1964)
From the back cover:
"Do you dare enter the circus of Dr. Lau?
"See the werewolf turn into a real flesh-and-blood woman right before your very eyes!
"See the bloody sacrifice of one live virgin to a pagan god (you yourself select the lucky lady)!
"Eerie! Terrifying! Stupendous!
"The most amazing circus the world has ever known!
"See the famous Gorgon - one look and she can turn you to stone (just imagine the amazement of the three sailors who tried to rape her)!"
"Plus thousands more!
"Chimeras! Unicorns! Genuine Greek Satyrs!
"The Circus of Dr. Lau"
Circus is an excellent, vividly cinematic, unsettling and phantasmagorical novel, where the so-called freaks are not the freaks, but rather the small town braggarts and gawpers are, with their religious, societal judgmental attitudes and petty concerns. Dr. Lau's flowery-on-the-surface speeches to the all-Caucasian tourists are canny and subversive in their stinging, effective assessments: he knows the latent racism and other just-below-the-surface arrogance that underlies the "American Dream," and he's not afraid to rub his patrons' faces in it even as he takes their money.
Politically correct and other easily offended readers who like PG-rated writing should not read this, as many of the phrases and for-mature-readers-only scenes could be considered off-putting (remember Circus was published in 1935, when certain phrases and attitudes were deemed publicly acceptable).
Circus - a welcome, fantastical rebuttal to generic, stale writing - is not only worth owning, it's worth re-reading at a later date, perhaps in a few years. Own this, already.
The resulting film, 7 Faces of Dr. Lau, premiered stateside on March 18, 1964 (in Denver, Colorado). It received a wide stateside release on July 22 of that year.
George Pal directed the film, from a script by Charles Beaumont and an uncredited Ben Hecht.
Tony Randall played a variety of roles in the film: Dr. Lau, The Abominable Snowman, Merlin the Magician, Apollonius of Tyana, Pan, The Giant Serpent and Medusa.
Barbara Eden played Angela Benedict. Arthur O'Connell played Clint Stark. John Ericson played Ed Cunningham, as well as the "Transformed Pan." Noah Beery Jr. played Tim Mitchell.
Lee Patrick played Mrs. Howard Cassin. Minerva Urecal played Kate Lindquist. Frank Kreig played Peter Ramsey. Peggy Rea played Mrs. Peter Ramsey. Royal Dano played Carey. Argentina Brunetti played Sarah Benedict.
John Doucette played Lucas. Dal McKennon played "Lean Cowboy." Frank Cady played Mayor James Sargent. Douglas Fowley played "Toothless Cowboy."