Sweet Carradine: Five Great Moments From His Career

It must be hell out there for a Hollywood actor. Not only is every role dissected by fans and eviscerated by critics, but no aspect of your personal life or fashion sense is left unexamined. And you'd better hope you die in as unexciting a manner as possible, lest your demise generate greater notoriety than your actual career.

Don't believe me? When I say "Vic Morrow," do you think Cimarron or "helicopter?" Does the name "River Phoenix" bring to mind A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon or the Viper Club? These days, the odds of dying of natural causes after a long and distinguished career and not, say, drowning in a toilet after trying to OD on Seconal (Lupe Velez) are slim indeed.

And this is just what David Carradine found out this week. Early reports of his death by strangulation omitted that little detail about the cord wrapped around his genitals. Certainly, the guy was never going to be regarded as one of cinema's finest actors, but now the dude who was always going to be remembered as "that guy from Kung Fu" will be stuck with the addendum "...who died jerking off in a Bangkok hotel closet." We can't all be Paul Newman, I guess.

And so, we at Hair Balls would like to offer this (mostly) autoerotic asphyxiation-free Carradine retrospective.

5. Kung Fu: The Movie (1986)

There were other Kung Fu movies after this one, but this 1986 effort perfectly encapsulates all that was wrong with the show. Bad enough that Carradine, a white guy with no previous knowledge of martial arts, was picked over Bruce Lee to star in the series, but ten years after the show's merciful cancellation, Lee's own son Brandon is cast in the TV movie...as Caine's son. Even worse, they had to slow him down so he could more believably get beaten by Carradine. If there's an afterlife, Bruce probably nunchucked the shit out of it after seeing this.

4. Death Race 2000 (1975)

Watching this scene, in which a pre-Rocky Sylvester Stallone and a Carradine fresh off of Kung Fu square off, one can almost see the promising careers stretching in front of both of them. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and Homo Erectus were still a long way off.

3. Boxcar Bertha (1972)

Who here was intrigued by neophyte filmmaker Martin Scorsese's fairly accomplised intertwining of the themes of exploitation and 1930s race/gender relations? And who just wanted to fast forward to the sex scene, which -- according to both Carradine and Barbara Hershey -- wasn't faked? Thought so.

2. Lone Wolf McQuade (1983)

After watching the climactic fight scene between Texas Ranger J.J. McQuade (Chuck Norris) and drug kingpin Rawley Wilkes (Carradine), one has to ask: if McQuade was going to violate Department protocol and piss off the Feds by hunting Wilkes down in Mexico anyway, why didn't he just throw grenades at him from the get-go? Might've saved your daughter a bullet.

1. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)

Carradine experienced a Tarantino-assisted career jolt (see also John Travolta) in the early 2000s, though he had little screen time in the first Kill Bill, and his fine death in the second is diluted by QT's love for the sound of his own dialogue (see also Death Proof).

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar