Nothing too fancy, but just wanted to take a minute to pay some respects to poor David Carradine. Like many people I was saddened by his passing, and by the knowledge that for now on whenever you mention the poor guy some god damn prick will get to make a smarmy quip about the apparent circumstances of his death. Can’t defeat his kung fu but you can defeat him with your powers of ironic distance and obvious jokes. Congratulations, dick.
To tell you the truth I used to kind of resent Carradine as the white guy who got to star in two Bruce Lee creations, the show KUNG FU and the movie CIRCLE OF IRON. Well, the truth is it wasn’t really his fault, I don’t really blame him for taking the job on KUNG FU and CIRCLE OF IRON was after Bruce’s death anyway. Plus, he did a better job replacing Bruce Lee than the other guy did replacing James Coburn. He’s really good in both roles, actually. (for a white guy.)
Come to think of it it’s kind of weird, Carradine is so associated with martial arts, but he didn’t practice them until he did that show, so he could also be in all those westerns and shit without somebody making him do karate. He was foremost an actor but also could teach a tai chi workout if he wanted to. My favorite Carradine movie was always DEATH RACE 2000 (pictured above), where he played the famous death race driver Frankenstein. It’s the satire and the crazy cars and everything that I like in that movie, but it’s hard to imagine Frankenstein without that voice and that lanky frame. He was a super hero.
In the last few years of his life he had an avalanche of work, which seems to be the pattern now for some of these old b-movie guys who have their icon status reignited by a Tarantino role or a Rob Zombie movie, then they start doing the autograph circuit again and signing up for ten shitty movies a month. But it’s cool because KILL BILL was a truly great role for him. I remember seeing volume 2 the first time and after rooting for his death all through volume 1, I got to that scene where he’s making the sandwich with his daughter and I thought, “wait a minute, you’re gonna kill this guy?I like this guy!” That’s all Carradine.
I watched part of that today and, while his speech about B.B. killing the fish has some extra creepy resonance now, the movie is a pretty good send-off. He was known to be brash and opinionated – for example he dissed the great Yuen Woo Ping’s choreography, even though the fights in those movies are fucking spectacular! – but that was part of his charm. In the movie, Bill is an asshole but you love him and you’re sorry to see him go. At least he gets to see his fate coming and gets to choose his final moments before he takes those five steps that cause his heart to explode. It seems Carradine didn’t have that luxury, the poor bastard.
Oh well, 72 and still full of surprises I guess. And he left behind quite a legacy. They won’t have to replace him with lookalikes to fulfill the demand like they did after Bruce Lee’s misadventure. Sorry to see him go, though.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.