Monday, January 12, 2015

Only now does it occur to me... CIRCLE OF IRON

Only now does it occur to me...  um... where to begin?  At the beginning, the middle, or the end?  Truly they are all the same, because the beginning is the middle as well as the end, and of course there never was a beginning, middle, or end.  Like a circle.  Of Iron.

So... CIRCLE OF IRON is a quasi-mystical martial arts action epic (based on a story by Bruce Lee and James Coburn!) that harvests that fertile ground where "Kung Fu-Samuel Beckett" and "Bible-themed community theater" intersect.  Don't believe me?  Here's Eli Wallach soaking in a tub in the middle of the desert, trying to dissolve himself in oil to prove a metaphysical point:
Samuel Beckett's lesser known martial arts play, WAITING FOR G'DEATH-BLOW.

Here's Christopher Lee, offering us a flower, donning a resewn pillowcase headpiece, and instructing us about the nature of existence:
They easily could have gone with this instead of the "modified 90s Cher" look for Saruman.

Here's a wacky-wigged David Carradine (who plays–count 'em– four roles!), ready to rumble and tearing off his robe to reveal a man-bra/S&M harness made out of Treasure Trolls' jewels:
Also– he's kind of pulling it off!

Here's Roddy McDowall, possibly wearing a woman's spandex leggings as a hat, and overseeing some sort of wizard kumite:
I think now we should call him "Rowdy Roddy" McDowall.

What a day for a kumite.

And, in a possible nod to Roddy's role in the PLANET OF THE APES films, this universe also has kung fu monkey men:
Budget was an issue.

And we mustn't forget the glorious Jeff Cooper as "Cord," the seeker of knowledge, whom you would never guess was on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS and DALLAS:
In the end, it's BLOODSPORT at a monastery, equal parts drive-in trash and Zen metaphysics, the no man's land between watching EL TOPO and being trapped in conversation with your crazy uncle.  And for that, CIRCLE OF IRON, I salute you.


Francisco Gonzalez said...

I've been so curious for this one for a long time, number one because of the Bruce Lee connection of course, because this is one movie he wanted to make before he died, but yet, it looks totally bonkers. I wonder if it would have been this bonkers had Lee starred in it? Who knows, maybe he had a nother vibe in mind....still curious to see what they did with his ideas.

Sean Gill said...


Indeed the film is totally bonkers, and yet the tone is such that I imagine Bruce Lee probably intended for it to be totally bonkers (much in the way that Jodorowsky offers EL TOPO to the audience with a straight face), with all the philosophical under/overtones. I have to guess that he would have wanted it to have a bigger budget and non-community theater costumes, though!

Daniel Wallin said...

Did you ever see Holy Mountain?

Sean Gill said...


I have indeed– I'll say that visually, it may be unmatched; but content-wise strays a little too into the woo-woo territory for my taste. Still, it exists on its own plane (like most Jodorowsky films) and I have a deep appreciation for its artistry.