In a far off land, Cord (Jeff Cooper) is taking part in a tournament to see who will be the chosen one. This champion will then embark on a journey to seek the mysterious Zetan (Christopher Lee) and read the contents of a holy book thereby providing him with much enlightenment. However, in spite of his great skill at fighting, Cord is not a fair combatant and disables his opponent, Morthond (Anthony De Longis), when he is lying on the ground so Cord is disqualified although he technically won. But he will not accept this and follows Morthond as he sets out, determined to succeed in the quest...
A silent flute? That would be a stick, wouldn't it? In fact, the flute of the title actually doubles as a fighting staff for the wise blind character played by David Carradine, and it makes noise when he uses it, so a better title might have been The Quite Noisy Flute. A missed opportunity, there. But Carradine, though not playing the lead character, is important in this film's production for this, as a pre-credits message informs us, was originally intended as a vehicle for the legendary Bruce Lee, which he had developed with his friend James Coburn.
Stories vary about how far into being made this film was when Lee was alive, but he was to have taken the Carradine roles and Coburn the Cord part. That Coburn was replaced by Cooper, who few people had heard of before, was not a good sign and as this was a flop, it did nothing for his job as an action hero and he was relegated to TV appearances for the rest of his short career. Also suffering was Richard Moore, a cinematographer here making his directorial debut who never helmed a movie again, although on the plus side he does ensure the landscape photography is attractive.
It was Carradine who secured the rights to The Silent Flute, also known by its other name Circle of Iron, and created it as part tribute to Lee, but mostly a tribute to himself. The result is essentially one of those martial arts cash-ins on the reputation of the prematurely deceased star, only this was straight out of Hollywood and therefore featured far less of the action sequences than it might have done had this been made in Hong Kong. What it did have in spades was a large portion of would-be mysticism that Moore and his writers, Stirling Silliphant and Stanley Mann, allow no opportunity to extol pass by.
So for your patience you get a lot of frankly bizarre life lessons in the way of the exploding fist or whatever, which is irrevocably pretentious and at times it's not clear whether the filmmakers have much of a grasp on their material. Among the weirdness is Carradine dressed up like a monkey and providing Cord with his first trial, which in spite of what the blind version of Carradine says is not much of a humourist, or Eli Wallach as a man in a barrel of oil all the better to dissolve his lower half to rid himself of his libido. You don't know whether to laugh at this kind of thing or shake your head, and although Christopher Lee is second billed in the opening titles, don't get your hopes up: he only appears for five minutes at the end and doesn't get into any combat scenes. If you feel like expanding your consciousness, there are better ways than this, which comes across like a silly facsimile of the real thing. Music by Bruce Smeaton.