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The Asian ApertureCircle of Iron
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, November 29, 2013    Share

Throughout the seventies Bruce Lee electrified audiences with his high charged action movies that forever changed the martial arts movie genre at an international level. If Lee had lived, he would have made a movie that was outside the action movie norm. Enter the Dragon wowed the movie loving public with fantastic fights and flashy colors and that was one side to Bruce Lee’s personality as a true martial art showman. However, Bruce was at heart a philosopher and he collaborated with two of his students, James Coburn and Hollywood screen writer Stirling Siliphant to create a philosophical martial arts movie called The Silent Flute.

This had never been done before and was years before the Kung Fu TV series became popular and generated increased interest in Asian philosophy. Lee had dreamed of making an action movie with a philosophical focus that would still be entertaining to the general public.

It would be educational to audiences outside of Asian, who grew up with Western thinking by introducing Eastern philosophy. The Silent Flute would have been Bruce Lee’s most personal and perhaps best movie. Unfortunately Lee died at 32 and all plans to make The Silent Flute a reality ceased.

Years later, after the Kung Fu TV series became a hit and America was experiencing the Kung Fu craze, David Carradine bought Lee’s script and rewrote it. It is interesting to speculate what Lee’s original vision would have been. Robert Clouse ruined Lee’s last movie, Game of Death by disregarding Lee’s vision.

As it exists, Circle of Iron is an interesting movie and a great introduction to Zen. Set in a distant land, Circle of Iron represents a martial arts fantasy that begins with a martial arts tournament already in progress. Various fighters compete with each other for the right to go on a quest to find a mysterious person known as Zetan.

Jeff Cooper plays Cord and after knocking down his opponent Morthond and hitting him when he is down, is disqualified. Morthond becomes the seeker who is selected to find and defeat Zetan. Cord argues with the judge and decides to find Zetan on his own. Just as the real Bruce Lee pushed buttons and upset the martial arts community with his dismissing of traditional arts in favor of his street fighting approach in Jeet Kune Do. Lee was a rebel in the 60’s counter culture movement because he didn’t go along with the rules of the martial arts community. He placed the individual above the system or school of fighting. Cord shares this same attitude that Lee had, in that, he refuses to go along with the judge’s decision and followed Morthond on his journey.

Cord goes on his quest alone and quickly his sees the Blind Man, played by David Carradine. After seeing the Blind Man use a flute to defend himself against multiple opponents, Cord is so impressed with the Blind Man’s skills that he says he will become his student. The Blind Man becomes a life coach to Cord as he seeks out Zetan.
Along the way, Cord experiences different people and undergoes various trials. Each trial serves to strengthen Cord mentally. Also, the trails contain Zen lessons that are easy to understand and all the lessons add up at the end.

This is so much depth to Circle of Iron that one viewing isn’t enough to take it all in. It would be like quickly reading through a book on Zen one time only and thinking that you have understood everything without taking your time and making an in-depth study chapter by chapter. I recommend watching Circle of Iron more than once. Each time I see it, I noticed something new that I missed the first time around.

Despite all the negative criticism from film critics who lack the background necessary to understand the martial arts and how martial arts and philosophy intertwine, Circle of Iron doesn’t deserve having such a low rating. Granted, if Bruce Lee would have made it and it was his vision then Circle of Iron would have been a better movie. Still, Lee is not around so the only reasonable option is to appreciate Circle of Iron for what it is because it could have never been made and Lee’s idea could have never been filmed at all.

Circle of Iron has an entertaining cast with Hammer Horror alumni Christopher Lee, as well as, Roddy McDowall, and Eli Wallach.

So ignore the online hate and check out Circle of Iron for yourself. I was glad to see it back in the early 90’s and to me it remains an underrated gem.

Highly Recommended

4 out of 5 Stars

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2013 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2013 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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