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With: David Carradine, Jeff Cooper, Christopher Lee, Roddy McDowall, Eli Wallach, Anthony De Longis, Earl Maynard, Erica Creer
Written by: Stanley Mann, Stirling Silliphant, based on a story by James Coburn, Bruce Lee, Stirling Silliphant
Directed by: Richard Moore
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 97
Date: 07/25/1978

Circle of Iron (1978)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Lee's Company

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Legend has it that Bruce Lee, along with his students, actor James Coburn and screenwriter Stirling Silliphant (In the Heat of the Night), came up with a screenplay called The Silent Flute during the years before Lee became a big star. Not surprisingly, studios weren't interested, and later, when Lee finally had the cache to get the movie made, he was no longer interested. After his death, the project was re-written and finally realized as Circle of Iron, with David Carradine in the Bruce Lee role and Jeff Cooper (TV's "Dallas") in the James Coburn role. As Lee intended it, the movie has more to do with Zen philosophy than with fighting, but without Lee's charisma or guidance, the movie never sparks to life. Moreover, director Richard Moore directed only this one movie, and his work is rather stiff. Cooper -- with arguably the worst hair in movie history -- plays a fighter who sets out on a quest to battle Zetan (Christopher Lee), the Keeper of the Book of Enlightenment. Along the way, he faces many tasks, and Carradine plays several roles to that effect, including a blind, wise man, a "monkey man" and Death. Erica Creer appears for an awkward love scene, Eli Wallach plays a man immersed in a vat of oil, hoping to dissolve his manhood, and Roddy McDowall appears briefly in the opening scene. Game of Death, featuring footage of Lee shot before his death, was released the same year. Just to be confusing, Coburn starred in Sam Peckinpah's Cross of Iron the previous year.

DVD Details: Blue Underground has released Circle of Iron in a two-disc DVD set. Moore provides a commentary track on the first disc, and the second disc includes interviews with many of the cast and crew. Other extras include trailers, a poster gallery and a copy of Lee's original script on DVD-Rom.

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