Sunday, June 7, 2009

David Carradine Dies Again

Originally posted on myspace June 4 2009

I just heard that David Carradine passed away. When I was in high school I loved the old "Kung Fu" show. I wanted to be "Caine" so bad it hurt! Little did I know how awful the martial arts were on that show or how silly many of the episodes and "wisdom" would seem to me later. Over the last couple of years, Samarra and I have been slowly working our way through Season One and now Season Two of "Kung Fu." Some of the episodes we found truly wacky and/or inane, but many we liked quite a bit. And always there is the underlying unintentionally hilarious spectacle of David Carradine doing his ridiculous "I sound Chinese because I talk very slowly and hesitantly" act. He's clearly sincere, clearly in love with himself, and both affecting and absurdly weirdly implausible at the same time. I really recommend getting Season One, watching the pilot first and then going from there.

And then there are the "T'ai-Chi" videos. DC always tried to pawn himself off as some kind of martial artist, but these videos show very clearly that no, he wasn't... There's always a guest "master" who leads most of whatever form they're doing. DC shows up to lead warm-ups and provide psuedo-Zen-Oriental ambience. These videos too are often unintentionally funny as hell.

I think the very best use anyone ever put David to was his work in "Kill Bill." I know he's hardly in it really, but when he shows up he's perfect. Quentin Tarrentino must have treated him like Brando for months to coax this performance out of him. You can watch the whole thing or just rent part two and watch the last scenes.

BUT...if you ever want a real hoot, get "Circle Of Iron". Netflix has it. It's this incredibly pretentious, psuedo Zen martial arts movie starring DC in 4 roles, none of which he, shall we say, "disappears" into. It was supposedly written by Bruce Lee, James Coburn and Sterling Silliphant and it's pretty awful, but in a good/bad fun way. Eli Wallach and Roddy McDowell have cameos but it's mostly Carradine's show. He does an interview in the Special Features where he says he thought this movie would literally "end" martial arts movies, that it was so profound and deep that the genre would be "done" with its addition. He sounds really proud of the thing too. To me he's kind of the Hippie William Shatner without being in on the joke. By the way, "Circle Of Iron" was shot in Israel and shot beautifully. It's gorgeous to look least the scenery anyway.

But even having said all of the above, I have to say that I still like the guy and I'll miss him. In spite of being, in my opinion, a complete nutcase; a narcissistic, pretentious, windbag; and a god awful actor, there was something about the guy that I just liked. Maybe it was the way he just shamelessly rode his wave and said whatever he felt he had to say to keep it going as long as he possibly could. I really don't know what it was really...

So as you contemplate this tragic loss, slip "Circle Of Iron" into your DVD player, fire up a huge bowl of whatever your favorite poison is and behold THE MASTER!

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