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Category:    Home > Reviews > Martial Arts Cycle > Fantasy > Circle Of Iron – 2-Disc Special Edition (aka The Silent Flute/DVD-Video)

Circle Of Iron – 2-Disc Special Edition (aka The Silent Flute/DVD-Video)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: C     Film: C



Bruce Lee had developed the TV series Kung-Fu as a star-vehicle for himself, but the network and studio thought he was “too Chinese” to play Chinese and David Carradine became Caine instead.  Fortunately for Lee, he started making feature films and became a sensation.  As his former TV series became a hit, he was making among the best and most remembered of the first Martial Arts cycle of films in the 1970s like Enter The Dragon.  He was working on a project called The Silent Flute when his untimely death shocked the world.


Eventually made to capitalize on a Lee craze that followed his loss, the film (also known as Circle Of Iron, the title this new DVD set from Blue Underground is being issued under) was finally made in 1978 and Carradine was hired to play multiple roles ala Peter Sellers in Kubrick’s 1965 classic Dr. Strangelove.  It does not work, making this more confusing than coherent and never works itself out.  Did Lee really plan to do all these roles?


Jeff Cooper runs around as Cord, the Beastmaster-looking protagonist who goes on a so-so quest for truth and enlightenment.  This includes philosophy that might make sense if it was more thought out, but is half-witted, screwy, suspect and incomplete.  Even the first draft has issues in that respect, but it gets worse with the final film.  Many post-Lee Martial Arts films tried this on a yellow pulp book level, but this film really thinks it knows what it is talking about when it definitely does not.


Cooper is forgettable and even appearances from Roddy McDowall, Christopher Lee and Eli Wallach make this nothing more than a curio.  However, it is the kind of alternate cinema Blue Underground specializes in, especially now that Anchor Bay has become Starz with their self-productions on an upswing.  Blue Underground expects a cult rediscovery of the film and even if this critic does not like the film which is possible considering how they have gone all out for this set.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.66 X 1 image has its share of grain and shows its age at times, but it is also often colorful, clean and nicely shot by Ronnie Taylor, fresh off of Ken Russell’s film of The Who’s Rock Opera Tommy (1975) and does a nice job of shooting the film with a certain energy that helps it out.  The case claims a new High Definition transfer and we believe them, which means we look forward to its release in either HD format.  The original theatrical monophonic sound is here in Dolby Digital 2.0 English and French, but the upgraded Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and especially DTS ES 6.1 showing off Bruce Smenton’s score and preserving the spirit of the sound mix by not tampering with the dialogue or sound stems.


Extras include a full length audio commentary hosted by director Richard Moore, theatrical trailers and TV Spots on DVD 1, while DVD 2 has Playing The Silent Flute - Interview with Carradine, The Producer - Interview with Co-Producer Paul Maslansky, Karate Master - Interview with Martial Arts Coordinator Joe Lewis, audio interview with co-writer Stirling Silliphant, Bruce Lee's The Silent Flute: A History by Davis Miller & Klae Moore, Poster/Still Gallery and a DVD-ROM of the first draft script by Lee, James Coburn & Silliphant.  At least this is interesting.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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