Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 19th, 2007
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1978
Director: Richard Moore
Cast: David Carradine, Roddy McDowall, Erica Creer, Christopher Lee, Eli Wallach, Jeff Cooper, Anthony Delongis, Earl Maynard
DVD released: May 29th, 2007
Approximate running time: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66.1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: DTS ES 6.1 English, DD-EX 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Stereo English, Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Blue Underground
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
Synopsis: A warrior named Cord (Jeff Cooper) earns the opportunity to challenge a man named Zetan (Christopher Lee) who guards a highly prized book known as the “Book of All Knowledge”. Along the way Cord make overcome several obstacles if he wants to have a chance to defeat Zetan and obtain the “Book of All Knowledge”. Will Cord defeat all those who stand in his way and will he finally find enlightenment once he gazes upon this mysterious book?
Circle of Iron originated as an idea that Bruce Lee came up with shortly before he made it big in Hong Kong as a marital arts superstar. Lee was offered a chance to make Circle of iron after the success of Enter the Dragon and even though he was offered a large payday he turned down the project. Circle of Iron seemed to be destined to remain in obscurity. Then a few years after the death of Bruce Lee interest in Circle of Iron began to increase and after many false starts the film would be finally made.
The story is not your typical martial arts journey as it delves into more in the fantasy realm then the blood drenched revenge theme’s that dominated so many martial arts films. Even the fight scenes are merely adequate with no great moves or finishes. The films lead character known as Cord the seeker is blandly performed by actor Jeff Cooper who size fits the role while his overall performance lacks the charisma needed to really sell the role. There are several well-known actors who have minor roles in the film like Roddy McDowall, Eli Wallach and Christopher Lee as Zetan the man who possesses a book that everyone desires. These three legendary actors are all woefully underused and outside of Eli Wallach their performances are rather forgettable.
The real star of the film is David Carradine who plays count them four roles The Blind Man, Monkeyman, Death and Changsha. Carradine is the best part of this film and every role he plays stand out as some of the most memorable moments in the film. His portrayal of a Blind Man is his most impressive performance of the lot. The locations used through out the film give the overall production a larger epic feel. Fans of Bruce Lee will want to at least check this one out to see where Lee was at one point in his career looking to take martial arts cinema. Ultimately despite many of Circle of Iron’s flaws the film still remains entertaining in its own charming way.
Circle of Iron is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original aspect ratio. This transfer looks like the one included on the previously released one disc release of Circle of Iron from Blue Underground. The image is in great shape and free of any major print damage. Details look crisp and colorful. Overall this is another solid transfer from Blue Underground.
This release comes with four English audio options 6.1 DTS-ES, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround and Dolby Digital mono. Also included with this release is a French Dolby Digital mono mix. This release comes with an abundance of audio options and they all sound exceptional. Deciding which one best suit’s your viewing experience may come down to your home video set up. The 6.1 DTS-ES and 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX audio mixes offer the most dynamic and robust audio experiences. Removable Spanish subtitles have been included with this release.
The extras for this release have been spread over two discs with the bulk of the extras on disc two. Extras on disc one include T.V. spots, theatrical trailers and an audio commentary with director Richard Moore and moderator David Gregory. The audio commentary is lively as Moore recounts many details and sorties about cast, crew and working of Circle of Iron.
Extras on the second disc include poster & still galleries and text piece titled “Bruce Lee’s the Silent Flute: a History” written by Davis Miller & Klae Moore. Other extras include a fourteen minute interview with actor David Carradine titled “Playing the Silent Flute”. A lot of great information is supplied about the origins of the film and his own experiences making the film. Also included with this release is an audio interview with the film’s co-writer Stirling Silliphant which includes stills of Bruce Lee. This audio interview is about thirty minutes long and Silliphant remembers in great detail working with Bruce Lee on this project. Rounding out the extras are two interviews. The first interview is about twenty nine minutes and it is titled “The Producer” with Paul Maslansky who discusses not only Circle of Iron but also other productions he has worked on. The second interview is about thirty one minutes and it is titled “Karate Master” with martial arts coordinator Joe Lewis who discusses David Carradine and the fighting scenes in Circle of Iron. Lewis also talks about his own career in film and martial arts. Also include with this release is a DVD-Rom extra which contains the entire first draft script of Circle of Iron (70 pages) written by Bruce Lee, James Coburn and Stirling Silliphant.
When films get re-released on DVD sometimes the new release is only a marginal improvement over the previous edition. This is not the case with Blue Underground’s new two disc release of Circle of Iron which can truly be called the definitive DVD release of this film, highly recommended.