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.