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Grasshopper Snatches Pebble

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David Carradine, who isn’t Chinese and only looks vaguely Asian because he squints a lot, is back in the spotlight with his title role in the Kill Bill films and with today’s DVD release of the first season of Kung Fu.

I loved Kung Fu when it ran on TV from ’72-74. Of course, I was the right age (14-16) and as a skinny kid I very much admired and fantasized about using skills to overcome (ie, kick the ass of) more formidable adversaries using special knowledge and their momentum against them. I thought the Eastern mysticism was deep and cool as well, sort of Powell doctrine for the individual: speak softly, be slow to anger, but when the time comes use overwhelming force. The flute was cool, too.

AP talked to Carradine:

    David Carradine, riding a career resurgence as the title character in Quentin Tarantino’s two-part saga “Kill Bill,” is revisiting his martial-arts roots with Tuesday’s DVD release of season one of “Kung Fu,” his 1970s television series.

    The two characters could scarcely be more different – Bill the worldly father figure of a pack of crack assassins, and Kwai Chang Caine the soft-spoken refugee from a Shaolin monastery, serenely spreading wisdom and kicking bad guys’ butts in the Old West.

    Through more than 100 feature films with such directors as Martin Scorsese, Ingmar Bergman and Hal Ashby, Carradine remains best known as Caine. He reprised the role in a mid-1980s TV movie and played Caine’s grandson in the 1990s syndicated series “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues,” but most of Carradine’s work the last 20 years has been on obscure, low-budget movies.

    ….Carradine was a shadowy presence in last fall’s “Kill Bill – Vol. 1,” in which one of Bill’s former assassins (Uma Thurman) begins a vengeful rampage against her old associates.

    The first film hits home video in mid-April just before the theatrical debut of “Kill Bill – Vol. 2,” in which Thurman’s character comes face to face again with Bill himself. The title implies Bill’s fate, but Carradine is mum on whether the character meets his demise.

    Though he’s the heavy, Bill has more depth than run-of-the-mill bad guys, Carradine said.

    ….The son of character actor John Carradine and brother of actors Keith and Robert, Carradine had the title role in the short-lived Western TV series “Shane” in 1966 and co-starred in Scorsese’s 1972 film “Boxcar Bertha” before shooting to stardom with “Kung Fu.”

    He left after three seasons, saying the show had started to repeat itself. After “Kung Fu,” Carradine starred in the 1975 cult flick “Death Race 2000″ and played Woody Guthrie in Ashby’s “Bound for Glory” the following year. He starred with Liv Ullmann in Bergman’s “The Serpent’s Egg” in 1977 and with his brothers in the 1980 Western “The Long Riders.”

    Despite Carradine’s well-deserved reputation as a quick-to-anger actor and hard-drinking partier, the public image of the unflappable, inscrutable Caine lingers. Fueling that is Carradine’s own continued interest in Oriental herbs, exercise and philosophy. He wrote a personal memoir called “Spirit of Shaolin” and continues to make instructional videos on tai chi and other martial arts.

Meanwhile, check out the trailer for Kill Bill 2 here.

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About Eric Olsen

  • Chris Kent

    I had the great misfortune of having to wait on his table once. I will not say what kind of tip he left, suffice to say if I ever see him again, I am going to deliver a swift hapkido kick straight up his ass……

  • Eric Olsen

    YOu know what they say about those Chinese …

  • duane

    I also fell for the Shaolin mystique mixed with the “I am an underdog who will nevertheless kick your ass without breaking a sweat” motif. The philosophical training just seemed to make it easier to kick the crap out of bad guys, not to mention the fact that it made it possible for Caine to always hold the moral high ground. Ultimately, I think what appealed to us teens was the revenge aspect. What a great fantasy.

  • Eric Olsen

    Which I am sure is why he was cast by the perverse cultural historian QT as the recipient of revenge in the Kill Bills

  • Chris Kent

    Well, I think you give QT too much credit. He probably just watched Lone Wolf McQuade one too many times and decided to substitute Chuck Norris with Uma, Uma, Uma…..

    I will grudgingly admit that The Long Riders was a damn good film. For one of the few times in David’s career (I think he played Cole Younger), he had the intensity of something more than a stick of driftwood.

  • Eric Olsen

    Say what you will about QT as a filmmaker – and your antipathy is well documented – he is an encyclopedia of popular culture from music to movies to TV. There is no way he missed the (reverse) connection here. Same with casting John Travolta against type as an amiable loser/bad guy.

  • Chris Kent

    I shall sit alone atop the shaky “I hate QT” mountain. Someone throw me a bone now and then……

  • duane

    “Trust in the masters… Trust them! They are wise.” – Caine

    “Recognize that all words are part false and part true, limited by our imperfect understanding.” – Master Kan

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    one of my favorite Mad magazine stories (next to “The Poopsidedown Adventure” was “Kung Fool”.