Bruce Lee Script Treatment 'The Silent Flute' Gets New Life

There's always a serious cachet to making a film based on a 'lost' story or treatment from a deceased talent. For example, we've just been talking about Lunatic at Large, which will be based on a long treatment Jim Thompson wrote for Stanley Kubrick.

Today an old Bruce Lee story is coming back to light. In the late '60s Lee wrote The Silent Flute, which he conceived with James Coburn (envisioned as Lee's co-star for the film) and Stirling Silliphant, before it went by the wayside prior to Lee's death. Now producer Paul Maslansky wants to mount the story as a new martial arts film.

Variety has quotes from Maslansky, who says this "will be an epic martial arts adventure film that promises to honor Bruce Lee's original artistic and philosophical conception. It also promises to reach new levels of action and adventure never before seen in martial arts filmmaking." I'll believe the latter claim when I see it, but in the meantime, OK, why not?

Well, one reason why not is that Maslansky has made this film once before. In 1978 he produced the amusing but not terribly good Circle of Iron, which starred David Carradine and was also based on this same story treatment. (Not to be confused with Sam Peckinpah's WWII film Cross of Iron.)

In Lee's original conception, he would have played multiple roles. Those all went to Carradine instead. (Irony!) Here's a recap of Circle of Iron as it was filmed. This new version may differ somewhat, as Sasha Maslansky is writing a new screenplay based on Lee's treatment.

A martial artist rebel named Cord embarks on a quest for the Book of Enlightenment, which is kept by the mysterious Zetan. He must pass various trials along the way that educate him in Zen philosophy. Among the characters that he runs across are a blind flute-player, a monkey chieftain, a death character, and the leader of a gypsy tribe (all played by David Carradine), who acts as a reluctant mentor to Cord. Some trials involve combat, while others involve riddles or encounters with unusual characters, such as a man who has been standing in a barrel of oil for 10 years in an attempt to remove the lower half of his body so he is no longer distracted by his genitals. Cord successfully passes all trials and is able to view the Book of Enlightenment. He discovers that each page in the book is a mirror, showing him that the secret to enlightenment and all knowledge is already within himself. He then returns to the outside world to himself become a mentor for later seekers.

Here's the trailer for Circle of Iron (1978):