Circle of Iron (1978)

Circle of Iron (1978), directed by Richard Moore.

In a mythical land in an unknown time, a martial arts seeker embarks on a quest to wrest the Book of Enlightenment from its mysterious guardian.

This is not loved by many. Viewers are expecting either a Conan genre film (the landscape is right) or a pure martial arts flick. What they get is an awkward leading man in a series of Zen tales, comic and serious, punctuated by kung fu incidents.

It was Bruce Lee's idea, developed with James Coburn and eventually completed by others. He wanted a presentation of Zen philosophy. I'm unqualified to judge; it seems to me mostly half-assed, but strangely enough it kind of works in the end. I liked it better this time than when I saw it way back when.

It's of interest to David Carradine fans. He ramrodded the project after Lee died, plays four roles and is obviously having a blast, although he broke his nose twice.

(As an aside, a Carradine story I heard just after his death, told, I think, by actor/author Jim Beaver. They were in Mexico working on a little film and he said to Carradine: "This isn't a very good movie, is it?" Reply: "This modest little western is a shining diamond in the stinking pile of s*** that is my career.")

Roddy McDowall, Eli Wallach, and Christopher Lee each have one scene.

One mild passion scene, girly in it's softness.

This is the director's only feature film. He was a cinematographer and there are some pretty shots.

Filmed in Israel with some lovely found locations: natural caves and Roman ruins.

Available on Blu-ray. On the commentary track the director is interviewed by someone from Blue Underground: