IF A FILM SPOILS IN THE FOREST, DOES IT MAKE A SOUND?
What is the sound of one hand clapping? And what, indeed, is the sound of a silent flute? Can the sharpest sword cut itself? More importantly, how much longer has this Bruce Lee-conceived mystical tosh and waffle still got to run? Full of beard-stroking gnomic aphorisms and head-scratching philosophical utterances, and featuring David Carradine in four roles and Sir Christopher Lee as a legendary wizard who doesn't actually do any magic, this is a bafflingly peculiar film, and while I don't endorse such things for a second, I suspect it's best appreciated through a haze of narcotics.
Certainly the whiff of controlled substances must have been around when they were trying to write the screenplay for The Silent Flute. "There's this guy, called Cord, with a mullet, and he's thrown out of a karate competition by Roddy McDowall. Cord wants to find the wizard Zeitan and read the Book Of Enlightenment but he must first face a series of trials so he goes into the desert and meets David Carradine, who's a blind flute player. And then he fights a monkey in a cave, and the monkey is David Carradine. And then he goes west into the wilderness to look for a rose and he finds Eli Wallach who's spent ten years dissolving away his genitals in a cauldron of oil. And then he meets a nomadic king: it's David Carradine, and he gives Cord his ninth wife and then crucifies her in the desert."
"Yeah, and then Cord is visited by Death and it's David Carradine in a wetsuit. And then David Carradine comes back as the blind flute player and they fight some soldiers and David Carradine punches a child in the face. And then David Carradine as the nomadic king turns up again and they fight on the beach and Cord gets to go on a boat to the island of Zeitan the wizard. And Zeitan is Christopher Lee and takes Cord to the Seat Of Harmony and gives him the Book of Enlightenment...."
Memorable nuggets of pseudo-Buddhist wisdom include "you cannot step twice on the same piece of water" and "if you tie two birds together, though it has four wings, it cannot fly", although the greatest truism is probably "it is hard to kill a horse with a flute". Words to live by. Jeff Cooper as the hero looks a bit like Will Ferrell playing a heavy metal drummer while dressed as Tarzan, the fighting is fair at best, there's a bit of very discreet nudity and one scene shot for no immediately obvious reason through a solarising filter. And while it's always good to see McDowall and Wallach, and especially Sir Christopher Lee in anything, they're given absolutely nothing to do, which is a pity when you've got all that talent out there. Mildly interesting, but weird.
A fish saved my life once. I ate it.