Circle of Iron

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Circle of Iron
Circle of Iron.jpg
Circle of Iron film poster
Directed by Richard Moore
Produced by Sandy Howard
Paul Maslansky
Written by Stirling Silliphant
Stanley Mann
Bruce Lee
James Coburn
Starring David Carradine
Jeff Cooper
Christopher Lee
Roddy McDowall
Eli Wallach
Anthony De Longis
Earl Maynard
Erica Creer
Music by Bruce Smeaton
Cinematography Ronnie Taylor
Edited by Ernest Walter
Release dates
Running time
Country United States
Language English

Circle of Iron is a 1978 martial arts and fantasy film co-written by Bruce Lee, who intended to star in the film himself, but died before production. The film is also known as The Silent Flute, which was the original title of the story conceived by Bruce Lee, James Coburn, and Stirling Silliphant in 1969. After Lee's death in 1973, Silliphant and Stanley Mann completed the screenplay, and Lee's part was given to the Kung Fu television star, David Carradine. Many other well-known character actors also had small roles in the film, including Roddy McDowall, Eli Wallach, and Christopher Lee.


Arrogant brawler Cord (Jeff Cooper) defeats every opponent, but is disqualified for fighting dishonorably. Cord decides to follow the eventual winner Morthond (Anthony de Longis), hoping that he can lead him to Zetan.

Cord then comes upon a band of travellers holding a festival. Cord meets with their leader, Chang-Sha, who offers him to sleep with one of his wives, Tara. Cord mentions his vow of celibacy, and challenges Chang-Sha to a fight. The fight is set for the following day and during the night, Cord is joined in his tent by Tara. They make love, and Cord asks Tara to stay with him forever. The next morning when Cord awakes, he finds that the entire band has left, and that Tara has been crucified.

While trying to find Chang-Sha, Cord comes to an oasis where he again meets the blind man. Cord asks him to be his teacher again; the blind man agrees and they travel together. Encounters with a poor ferryman, a band of raiders and a spoiled child become opportunities for the blind man to teach an exasperated Cord a few life lessons before they go their separate ways once again.

Cord finally finds Chang-Sha and his band. While Cord holds himself, not Chang-Sha, responsible for Tara's death, he still insists on fighting Chang-Sha to learn the location of Zetan. The fight ends in a draw, but Chang-Sha still tells Cord how to find Zetan.

Cord reaches the island where Zetan lives, and encounters the cult that protects the book of enlightenment. Cord expects to have to fight, but Zetan explains that Cord has passed the trials and is entitled to take possession of the book. He even offers Cord to replace him as the new keeper of the book. Opening it, Cord finds that the book's pages are nothing but mirrors, and Zetan explains that there is no book of wisdom, and that enlightenment is found only in one's self. Cord walks off laughing, refusing to take Zetan's place, and leaves the island. He rejoins with the blind man who gives Cord his flute, passing on his role of teacher to Cord.

Bruce Lee's inspiration[edit]

Bruce Lee envisioned his film as an entertaining introduction to Eastern philosophy, as well as martial arts. As he wrote in a preface to the script:

The story illustrates a great difference between Oriental and Western thinking. This average Westerner would be intrigued by someone’s ability to catch flies with chopsticks, and would probably say that has nothing to do with how good he is in combat. But the Oriental would realize that a man who has attained such complete mastery of an art reveals his presence of mind in every action...True mastery transcends any particular art.

After Lee abandoned the project, the original script was rewritten, replacing some violent scenes with comedic themes.[1]


Cast list[edit]


The movie gained a mostly negative reception over the bad acting and martial arts but gained a cult following. It currently has a 43% "rotten" rating on review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.


External links[edit]