THE SILENT FLUTE
CIRCLE OF IRON
The Silent Flute is a martial arts movie about the Zen philosophy behind the martial arts. (In video stores, it is usually placed in the Martial Arts section with the names of Bruce Lee and David Carradine prominently displayed unsuspecting punters who pick it up must wonder what on Earth they have ended up with. It would have been even more bizarre if The Silent Flute had been made with Bruce Lee the thought of 1970s audiences coming to watch this and expecting another Enter the Dragon (1973) is a highly amusing one).
One can see why The Silent Flute was a failure mindedly, the tv series Kung Fu (1972-5), which David Carradine had come to fame in, was highly successful in espousing the philosophy behind the martial arts. Throughout, in the name of epigrammatic mysticism, one is treated to a parade of bizarre, presumably enlightening, visions. For example, while killing camels with karate chops, David Carradine waxes philosophically about what can be learned from the monkey that tries to bite ones bottom. And then there is Eli Wallach who turns up as a man who has spent ten years in a barrel of oil trying to dissolve his penis because he has been too cowardly to cut it off. Dialogue is suitably inscrutable:
Buddha once sat by a wall and when he arose he was enlightened.
There are times the film seems barely able to keep its tongue out of its cheek like the pre-credits quote:
Tie two birds together, even though they have four wings they cannot fly The Blind Man.
However, when the book that is supposed to hold all the wisdom in the world is unveiled as only a book of mirrors, the result is so absurd the film collapses into a colossal joke on the audience. No doubt Lee, Stirling Silliphant and James Coburn intended it seriously as a Zen comment on the human condition but to the contrary it seems like a bad joke played on the audience who have sat all the way through out of interest to find what the film construes enlightenment to be. The entire film is absolute tosh, which makes the calibre of some of the names attached to it David Carradine, Bruce Lee, Christopher Lee, James Coburn, Roddy McDowall all the more of a surprise.