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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Do you answer every question with a question?"
Way back in the day legendary martial artist/cinematic icon Bruce Lee set out, along with fellow actor and student James Coburn, to create a film with the intent of displaying the spiritual side of martial arts along with imparting some of their philosophical Zen beliefs. Brought in to assist the men was screenwriter Stirling Silliphant, also one of Lee's students, whose...
Published on July 19, 2005 by cookieman108

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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Extras and All Around Amusing Movie Worth a Glance
This cult film starring David Carradine and Jeff Cooper is a fantasy/martial arts adventure trying to mix Eastern philosophy, particularly Zen Buddhism, into a film that enlightens and entertains. This is a strength in the film and a weakness. First, David Carradine does a fine job playing four different parts originally written for Bruce Lee (Lee co-wrote the story)...
Published on October 19, 2004 by K.H.


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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Do you answer every question with a question?", July 19, 2005
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This review is from: Circle of Iron (DVD)
Way back in the day legendary martial artist/cinematic icon Bruce Lee set out, along with fellow actor and student James Coburn, to create a film with the intent of displaying the spiritual side of martial arts along with imparting some of their philosophical Zen beliefs. Brought in to assist the men was screenwriter Stirling Silliphant, also one of Lee's students, whose other works include In the Heat of the Night (1967), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), and The Towering Inferno (1974). Anyway, the treatment, titled The Silent Flute, was finished, but apparently there was some difficulty in getting it made into a film, until about 5 years after Lee passed away, when producer Sandy Howard (A Man Called Horse, The Island of Dr. Moreau) took interest, bringing on director Richard Moore (The Wild Angels, Devil's Angels, Wild in the Streets) who claimed the original treatment `unfilmable', to which Howard hired screenwriter Stanley Mann (Damien: Omen II, Conan the Destroyer). Mann punched it up a bit, removed some of the more graphic material (both in terms of sex and violence, which, if kept in, would have resulted in an X rating for the film), tossed in a little humor, and eventually became this film titled Circle or Iron (1978), for better or worse. Starring in the film is David Carradine (Death Race 2000, Cannonball) and Jeff Cooper, whose previous gig had him playing Derek Thurston #1 on the TV soap `The Young and the Restless'. Also appearing is an interesting list of cinematic dignitaries including Christopher Lee (Dr. Terror's House of Horrors), Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes), and Eli Wallach (The Magnificent Seven).

As the movie opens we are watching some sort of martial arts tournament, and the focus is on a character named Cord (Cooper), who looks a little like beefed up Peter Frampton, shaggy mane and all. The purpose of this tournament is to choose a champion, one who would have to endure three trials on a path to find a wondrous book, possessed by one called Zetan, which contains all the wisdom in the world. Anyway, Cord, who isn't affiliated with any school or restricted to any particular fighting style, easily makes it into the final match, but is ultimately disqualified due to not following the rules...if you're familiar with Bruce Lee, you might begin to see the similarities between the character of Cord and Lee as far as where they both were coming from, figuratively speaking, and their difficulties in working within the `establishment', hindered by those who need to pigeonhole people and concepts for their own sake of understanding and acceptance. Undeterred, Cord decides to go after the book despite his not being declared champion, and has a number of adventures, encountering all kinds of interesting individuals and groups including a blind flute player who generally answers questions with more questions (he also uses his three foot flute as a weapon, causing it to make interesting sounds when he fights), a tribe of monkey men, their leader (played by Carradine) garbed in Joseph's Technicolor dream coat, a nomadic troupe/tribe, who specialize in bacchanalian delights, led by Chang-Sha, played by an an Arab-y looking Carradine, a man purposely boiling his privates in oil, a band of gypsy horseback riding desperadoes, and even death itself in the form of a puma man (also played by Carradine). Will Cord find the strength, wisdom, and perseverance needed to confront Zetan for the ultimate prize? What the heck is in the book that makes it so sought after? I'm guessing secret recipes or perhaps the answer to why, when a piece of toast is dropped on the floor, it is always the buttered side that lands face down...

I'm curious as to why the title of this film was changed from The Silent Flute to Circle of Iron...I think Carradine talks about it a little in his interview piece, as those who finally made the movie decided the original title was too confusing, so they opted for a more generic, less fitting, in my opinion, title for the film. Overall I thought this was an entertaining movie, one that stayed relatively true to Lee's original intent of focusing on the transcendental and philosophical aspects inherent within martial artistry, although I couldn't help get the sense it may have gotten watered down a little in the process, perhaps in a effort to make it more accessible to mass audiences. It's interesting that Carradine, who plays four, separate roles, was chosen to appear, since he also took on the lead in the 1972 television series Kung Fu, a vehicle created by Lee with the intent that Lee also star, but prevailing prejudices at the time chose to go with the Caucasian Carradine, making him appear Asian, rather than going with a real Asian in Lee himself. I thought Carradine, who was originally sought to play the part of Cord, but felt he had since 'graduated' from the role as the student, did very well, creating four, distinct characters, and nicely offset the awkwardness in Jeff Cooper's performance. Cooper has the physique, but lacked the required acting range, in my opinion, to properly portray his character , especially in terms of being an arrogant, naïve individual whose quest for a material object turns into a often dangerous journey of learning and self discovery. There are a number of interesting locations used, and the anamorphous fighting sequences were kept realistically within reason. I thought director Moore did very well keeping what was probably a difficult story to film on track and paced well. I did like the somewhat humorous revelation in terms of the book and the character of Zetan, played by Christopher Lee, even though the revelation itself was obvious, especially to anyone who's seen a number of chop socky films.

The picture quality on this Blue Underground DVD release looks sharp, clean, and generally excellent, and is presented in wide screen (1.76:1), enhanced for 16 X 9 televisions. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono comes through well enough, and I had no complaints. There are a number of worthy extras including a newly recorded interview with David Carradine titled Playing the Silent Flute (13:55), an audio commentary track with director Richard Moore, a sort of dissertation titled Bruce Lee's The Silent Flute: A History by Davis Miller and Klae Moore, an alternative title sequence, a theatrical trailer, three 30 second TV spots, a poster & still gallery, and a DVD-ROM feature containing the first draft script by Bruce Lee, James Coburn, and Stirling Silliphant.

Cookieman108

By the way, did anyone understand the significance of the sequence with Eli Wallach as the man in the oil? Was it just a humorous interlude, or sort of representational allegory representative of some abstract concept?
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great 70's Gem, November 21, 2005
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This review is from: Circle of Iron (DVD)
Circle of Iron (originally titled "The Silent Flute") was an attempt to capitalize on the wild popularity of Bruce Lee and the Television show "Kung Fu" starring David Carradine. The script had been sketched together by Bruce Lee, Stirling Silliphant and James Coburn shortly after the Green Hornet was cancelled and just before Lee left Hollywood to make his fortune in China. It had been mothballed and then re-written after the death of Lee and stands as a testament to the "Little Dragon's" personal philosphy on life and death. Those who have read "The Tao of Jeet Kune Do" by Bruce Lee will recognize Bruce' fighting philosophy taken to the macrocosm of life in this film.

As other reviewers have mentioned, the martial arts fight scenes are certainly not Bruce Lee, however, the "odd" fighting styles of the actors sort of add to the surreal almost magical atmosphere of this film. The movies strength does not come from its martial arts, but rather its beautiful philosphy, wonderful cinematography and breathtaking locations. The movie was filmed entirely on location in India.

The story revolves around Cord the Seeker, who is really sort of an "everyman" that attempts to find a Book of Enlightenment by defeating one master warrior after another (ala 'Game of Death'). David Carradine plays several roles in this film, each one using different styles. Though Carradine at the time was a beginner martial artist, his physical presense and movement is interesting to say the least and makes for an entertaining fight scene. Carradine also plays a blind martial arts/Zen master that helps to guide Cord. For fans of the 70's tv series, Kung Fu it's enjoyable to see Carradine finally take his place as the heir of Master Po. One can almost imagine Kwai Chang Caine fully realized as this master.

I for one found great spiritual truth in Circle of Iron and would recommend it to anyone interested, not only in the late Bruce Lee's personal beliefs, but for anyone interested in looking deeply within themselves.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Extras and All Around Amusing Movie Worth a Glance, October 19, 2004
This review is from: Circle of Iron (DVD)
This cult film starring David Carradine and Jeff Cooper is a fantasy/martial arts adventure trying to mix Eastern philosophy, particularly Zen Buddhism, into a film that enlightens and entertains. This is a strength in the film and a weakness. First, David Carradine does a fine job playing four different parts originally written for Bruce Lee (Lee co-wrote the story). As the flute player Carradine is great, delivering his lines well and being a believable character. The other parts he is not so believable, but all in all, enjoyable enough for the movie.

Jeff Cooper (Cord), however, is not a very good "seeker." Besides a couple one liners here and there, he just is not believable as the seeker. This in part due to average acting ability and his martial arts skills, or the lack there off, are extremely noticeable. This is not to say Carradine is a great martial artists, he is not, but he is able to pull it off - Cooper is not. Lastly, Cooper got the role when it was first casted for karate legend Joe Lewis(as least rumored so). Lewis would have been a much better fit and it would have naturally brought up the martial arts fight scenes to an acceptable and more enjoyable level.

The film quality is good, the sound track a little too much 70s TV sounding, but the sights are great, while the martial arts sequences are lacking technique and excitement. The movie, however, is a good guilty pleasure. It has enough fortune cookie philosophy to instruct, but not to be taken too seriously (after all, the movie's thesis, discovered at the end of the movie, logically fails). The movie has much of Bruce Lee's fighting philosophy (good) and Zen philosophy (muddled at best) and the movie is escapists enough to bring about a learning, yet, entertaining evening.

The three stars largely ride on the extras. The interviewed David Carradine is nice as well as the history in the development of the movie. Lastly, though the movie is advertised as "Circle of Iron" because that was its release title in the US, it was nice to see the producers of the film, open the movie with its original title, "The Silent Flute": the title Bruce Lee intended. The story was written by Bruce Lee, James Coburn, and Stirling Silliphant.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You Get To See David Carradine As A Monkeyman!, December 4, 2004
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This review is from: Circle of Iron (DVD)
Just a few years ago when dvd just started getting big in the market, I, like many other people was excited. I was worried however that many obscure, older films would never get the dvd treatment. Coz at that time, only the big blockbuster snoozefests like Armageddon were coming out on dvd. Over the years I've been proven wrong however, and it's the fault of companies like Blue Underground. It's nice to know there are people in high places who like these kinds of films too. And because of them I get to see long lost favorites of mine like Shock Waves and Conquest get first class dvd treatments-even if the films aren't first class. Circle Of Iron is one of the newest of this bunch. I was surprised to see this come out. Even the vhs had been long out of print, but hey, if if Breakin' 2-Electric Bugaloo can be released, anything's possible. If Bruce Lee could see how his idea turned out, I'm not sure how impressed he would be(having yet another of his roles taken by David Carradine!), but I like this movie. "Cord" sets out on some quest to find this famous bigshot(Christopher Lee) who guards a sacred book that everyone wants to look at. The book is supposed to bring higher enlightenment or something, it's never clearly defined. Lee's character is assumed by Cord to be some kind of ultimate martial arts expert that Cord will have to fight in order to check out this book. As he sets out on this quest(he doesn't even earn the privilege to go on the quest, he kinda cheats his way into it) he must go through a set of "trials"-all of which include David Carradine in one way or another. Carradine's in Dr. Stangelove mode here, playing four different roles-a flute playing blind man(who Tarantino obviously modeled "Bill" after), a bizarre monkey/human fighter, a warrior playboy type and Death himself(a character that should have had more than one scene. He's actually kinda creepy). There's an awful lot of Zen philosophy that obviously reflects Bruce Lee's personal philosophies. These are considered merely "riddles" by our open-minded hero, Cord. I don't believe I've seen this Jeff Cooper guy in any other film. He spends the entire film with Robert Plant hair, topless, and just thoroughly arrogant. A great time capsule of a movie, it's just too bad Lee had to die before he could make his dream project the way he wanted. The extras consist of all the regular stuff like galleries and trailers, plus a 13+ minute interview with Carradine and an essay on Bruce Lee and his ideas for the film. Apparently Carradine enjoyed making this film more than any other. It shows. Thanks again to Blue Underground for realizing there are people out there who aren't interested in buying Armageddon on dvd.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well plotted but fairly long storyline., September 26, 2004
This review is from: Circle of Iron (DVD)
Back in the eighties, when I first saw the movie, I was stunned that a fairly unknown actor was playing the main character of Cord while David Carradine was seen more of a supporting role, but then I began to understand the underlining msg that Carradine's characters brought forth. The most memoriable sub-story was when Cord and the Blind Man entered a village that honored a young and handsome boy as a prince based only on his physical beauty and the outcome after Carradine's intervention. This scence was a very astute perciption of how our society, as a whole, deal with the young and beautiful. While the Pink Floydd movie The Wall is considered to be a must see for true rockers, the Circle of Iron should be a must see for serious martial artists that are on the journey towards enlightenment versus martial artists that only journey for competition thropies.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Mythical Martial Art Film, February 13, 2008
This review is from: Circle of Iron (DVD)
It's hard to kill a horse with a flute--The Blind man

Circle of Iron (or the Silent Flute) is an acting tout de Force for actor David Carradine. This is not KUNG FU the movie. This film he plays four different roles in Cord (the seeker's) Journey. The character of the Blind man, in my opinion, reminds me of Master Po from the Kung Fu TV show

The script originally was written by James (Our Man Flint) Colburn, Bruce (Enter The Dragon) Lee and Stirling (In the Heat of the Night, Route 66) Silliphant. On the DVD, you can read their original script in a DVD-ROM format. Lee was to play Cord, In my opinion, I wish he had

This mythical tale is a journey and quest for both the actors and the viewers alike. It is a challedge to watch and think about. Combining martial art ideals with Zen styling will leave the viewer either intrigued of baffled---or both!

They say a film is as good as its weakest link, Jeff Cooper is buffed for this role as Cord. However in my opinion, he has limited acting chops to handle the role is his solo scenes, including the romantic scene with Erica Creer. Thank goodness, for most of the film , he is flanked by cameos by veteran actors Christopher Lee, Roddy McDowell and Eli Wallach, who helps move to the story until Carradine character shows up again.

This film was Director Richard Moore solo film effort and it shows in someways. His audio commentary track is interesting and gives insights into the film unknown to many other than film buffs

This 30 year old film is still good today to enjoy
Bennet Pomerantz, AUDIOWORLD
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tribute to Bruce Lee's Genus, August 15, 2004
This review is from: Circle of Iron (DVD)
I own the VHS version of this film. Now I am going to be able to enjoy the movie without the degradation. THANK YOU to whoever finally made this possible.

Taken from the Back Cover of the VHS copy.

"Bruce Lee inspired and co-wrote this martial arts epic of savage action, beauty and fantasy.

David Carradine stars as a mysterious blind man (the role originally intended for Lee before his tragic death) who leads a young fighter on a quest for Truth.

Martial arts expert Jeff Cooper is outstanding as Carradine"s young disciple who must face several dangerous combats and sensual temptations before ending his journey.

The international cast aslo includes Eli Wallach, Roddy McDowell, Christopher Lee and beautiful Erica Creer, one of the most celebrated models.

It's a triumphant adventure and a lasting tribute to the genus of Bruce Lee."
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Silent Flute, April 6, 2007
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This review is from: Circle of Iron (DVD)
"Circle of Iron" is either a whimsical martial arts movie or a profound exploration of the nature of man, depending on how seriously the viewer takes the philosophical side of martial arts. Based on a story by Bruce Lee, the movie features a quest by a young martial artist named Cord (played by game good humor by Jeff Cooper), who is in search of a mysterious book of knowledge. He is sometimes accompanied on his journey by a blind seer (played by David Carradine) who alternately teaches and challenges young Cord. The seer seems to materialize almost at random along the journey, announcing himself by playing a "silent flute' that only Cord can hear. In a remarkably versatile performance, David Carradine also plays a series of opponents Cord must confront in his journey to the book. The solid supporting cast includes Christopher Lee, Eli Wallach, and Roddy McDowell.

The movie alternates between the mythic landscape over which Cord travels, and the various set-piece but not always obvious obstacles he must overcome. Cord starts out believing that fighting is the solution to every challenge, but comes to understand that more subtle arts must be learned. At the heart of the movie is Cord's slow journey to self-knowledge, one finally fulfilled at his destination on a distant island presided over by a order of monks who guard the book of knowledge

This movie is recommended to fans of the early days of the martial arts genre, of which this movie is a better than average example. Both the humor and the philosophy are gentle, and the fighting sequences are more rhythmic than brutal. Be sure to watch an included interview with David Carradine for some insights on the making of the movie.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the greatest martial arts film?, January 10, 2007
By 
Amazon Customer (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Circle of Iron (DVD)
The plot - Cord must undertake a series of martial arts challenges to find the Keeper of the Book and find a vision of the world as it truly is. This is a journey to self-discovery. The final answer, when Cord achieves his goal, is pretty good and no disappointment at all. But don't expect any great insights!

If you follow martial arts (or any other path) as a spiritual development you should like this film. If you like dramatic fights and nice scenery you may also like it. But in particular you must have a good sense of humour!

This film is a classic. A lot of people will watch it because Bruce Lee and James Coburn scripted it, and that is enough. In fact the script is great - philosophical but amusing, a nice balance of content and entertainment. At the end of the film Christopher Lee begs Cord to take on his role as 'Keeper of the Book' and enjoy the peace and tranquillity, his facing expressing horror at having to put up with any more of this peace!

The disappointment is that Bruce Lee did not live to act in this film. The acting is OK, but the martial arts action is variable in quality and never great; at best acceptable. David Carradine is just not quick or strong enough. Jeff Cooper is OK but he is not Bruce Lee.

But another plus is the scenery - beautifully filmed amongst desert, mountains and by the sea. It is a nice film to watch.

I've seen it a lot of times, I intend to enjoy it many times more. I hope you do too.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Find, March 21, 2007
This review is from: Circle of Iron (DVD)
I found this film at a video store, it was a special $.99 rental. It was the first time I have ever seen this film. I was draw to it with the mention of Bruce Lee and David Carradine.

Now that I have watched the film and found out a little of its back story, I find the film passable at best and frankly wouldn't mind seeing it remade. David Carradine himself is great but as you watch the film you find that you wish he either took the role of Cord for himself, or he just added it to the other 4 he was already playing. Cooper is practically unwatchable. Though I did enjoy some of the notable stars in the film, I could have done without the scene involving Eli Wallach as it was a silly addition that was not needed.

The martial arts in the film are enjoyable though at times slowly paced, David does well seperating each of his characters even during the fight scenes.

I would also like to note, though Lee may have developed this story, he himself did not possess the acting chops to play the roles Carradine played, at least not as well as David did. Now the seeker, Lee could have done alot with that role. It is a shame he did not live long enough to have been involved.

I do reccomend this film to all those that enjoy martial arts in general and Carradine in particular.
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Circle of Iron [Blu-ray]
Circle of Iron [Blu-ray] by Richard Moore (Blu-ray - 2009)
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