David Carradine is Elvis of kung fu, having the honorable distinction of helping to pioneer western martial arts movies only by virtue of blatant racism. He is most famous for playing the lead in the 1970s kung fu serial, creatively titled Kung Fu, winning the part from Bruce Lee, even though Lee helped create the show for the sole purpose of acting in it. Apparently no one told Bruce that at that time Chinese people were considered "too Chinese" to play Chinese people.
Carradine is slightly less famous for playing the titular Bill in Quentin Tarantino's gold-plated B-movie and pop culture circle jerk, Kill Bill. He is not famous at all for the remake of Kung Fu, titled even more creatively, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.
David Carradine was not only on the forefront of the burgeoning martial arts genre, but his role actually created the concept of the karate cowboy; a character which can be seen later in such examples as Chuck Norris' Walker, Texas Ranger or the Patrick Swayze action vehicle (which we would totally drive), Roadhouse. Some die-hard fans consider Carradine a disgrace because of his lack of expertise while starring in Kung Fu (he didn't actually know any martial arts at the time), but to be fair it was the '70s, a time when a man could raise his leg above the knee and spin around and everyone would give him the benefit of the doubt.
Plus, he totally kicked Bruce Lee's ass at being white. While that may not be much of a feat, being better than Bruce Lee at literally anything nets you some tough-guy points.Most Epic Moment Caught on Film:
In this clip, the famous intro to the Kung Fu series, Carradine lays down several scenes that have since become kung fu movie classics. From the now omnipresent training montage to lifting a burning iron kettle with your wrists, Kung Fu was the first place we saw these things and he was the first guy that made us want to incompetently emulate them, thus endangering ourselves and others.The Sad Decline:
As it turns out, the ability to look cool greased up in your underwear and screaming declines rapidly with age. At around 55 these conditions reach their peak, and instead of striking fear into your opponents with your powerful yells and intricate body movements, you're more likely to prompt helpful citizens to hit the button on your Medic-Alert bracelet for you. This sad fact, combined with Carradine's natural flower child tendencies, took all the badass right out of his sails and left him hopelessly adrift in Weird Old Hippie Guy waters.Most Pathetic Moment Caught on Film:
It certainly did nothing to help David's rep as a master of pain distribution when he appeared in this infomercial for his series of exercise tapes called Spiral Fitness. This was meant to capitalize on the 'Crazy Device + B-List Celebrity' fitness craze back in the '90s, like the Thighmaster or the Total Gym. Unfortunately, David was a bit too short on funds to manufacture a decent crazy device, so he used what appears to be either a short length of garden hose or a large rubber dildo instead.
Watch about one minute in when, after witnessing Carradine flail about in a backyard for far too long, the camera angles switch and accidentally catch somebody's dog in the scene. The dog, following its keen canine instinct to avoid shame, promptly runs off camera, leaving David alone again to tell you all about how this bright green dildo really makes him want to move.