Tuesday, June 9, 2009

R.I.P, David Carradine

I’m a bit late to the gathering with this but I felt that the blog wouldn’t be complete without a word or two honoring the late actor, who passed from the scene at the age of 72 in an incident that officials report was a suicide…but that additional speculation suggests could have been either accidental or possibly a homicide (I’ll leave that up to you). The oldest son of the legendary John Carradine—an actor held in high esteem here at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear for the reason that no role went unplayed as long as John needed money to fund his theater productions—Carradine made many memorable appearances in feature films, becoming a cult figure in flicks like Boxcar Bertha (1972), Mean Streets (1973), Death Race 2000 (1975), Bound for Glory (1976), The Long Riders (1980), Q (1982) and Lone Wolf McQuade (1983).

Carradine will probably best be remembered for his portrayal as wandering Shaolin monk Kwai Chang Caine in the cult TV western Kung Fu, telecast on ABC from 1972-75. My father was a huge fan of the series (well, he’s always had a jones for westerns) and I have hazy memories of watching it with him on Saturday nights (mostly the unforgettable opening, in which mentor Keye Luke—as the blind Master Po—would instruct the young “grasshopper” to “snatch the pebble from my hand”), following the adventures of Carradine’s counterculture hero out West and his relentless search for his half-brother. The Caine character was on the run from bounty hunters out to collect the heavy price on his head—Caine had killed the nephew of an Emperor after said nephew had croaked Caine’s mentor, Master Po. The series was sort of a trippy version of The Fugitive, with the main character skilled in the art of Kung Fu…with which he used to beat the snot out of the bad guys every week. Carradine would reprise the character in a “reunion” TV-movie entitled Kung Fu: The Movie (1986) and again in a syndicated series based on the original series entitled Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (1993-97).

Carradine’s stock had risen considerably in the past five years or so, having been “rediscovered” by directors like Quentin Tarantino—who cast him as the titled villain of Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004). He gets major props from your humble narrator for being as dedicated as his old man when it came to acting (his list of credits at the IMDb is pretty lengthy, though John still wins it in a walk) and for the hilarious Yellow Book “blipverts” (a nod to Mr. O’Brien) he appeared in over the last few years.

R.I.P, David. You’ll never know how much you’ll be missed.

1 comment:

Edward Copeland said...

They said John appeared in more than 500 films, many uncredited. When I was a very small child, I actually got his autograph when he appeared in a summerstock production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in Indiana with Arte Johnson, Avery Schreiber and Hans Conreid. David was so good in Kill Bill part 2 and was robbed of an Oscar nomination. Someone speculated the other day that in a weird way he would think the mystery of his death was appropriate since he always felt some guilt for getting the lead in Kung Fu over Bruce Lee who of course also died mysteriously. Michael Madsen said that David had 10 rules to live by and he couldn't remember them all but the one he did was very funny: Never buy anything from someone who is out of breath.