Friday, June 05, 2009

Last Stop on the Endless Highway

For months, I've been meaning to post my review of David Carradine's autobiography, Endless Highway. Now I find the task bittersweet, since the final chapter is being written in Thailand and Hollywood as we speak. It's horrible irony, as my colleague Michael pointed out when he picked up my copy of the book this morning and perused the first chapter, that Carradine wrote:

"When I was five I tried to hang myself in the garage by jumping off the bumper of the Duesenberg. My father saved me, and then confiscated my comic book collection and burned it - which was scarcely the point."

Endless Highway is a thoroughly entertaining read because Carradine's entertaining way of telling stories drips through every page. He's got thousands of anecdotes like that and he tells them in a way that's both arresting and matter-of-fact, open-ended like the comment above - I mean these are on every page, leave you going, "What?" and "Man, I'd like to have coffee with this guy."

Endless Highway tells the story of Carradine, the son of an accomplished Hollywood leading man and character actor who grew up constantly shuffled between homes and reform schools. Carradine was an original member of the post war counterculture(s), first as a painter, musician and actor/dancer beatnik-type in New York, then as a California hippy. That's when he did "Kung Fu" and made his stamp on the 20th century American experience. His career post "Kung Fu" was checkered and interesting - I think a lot of us overlook the fact that he made a number of great movies as well as a long list of cult films and stinkers: think Roger Corman's Death Race 2000, Circle of Iron, Bound for Glory and Lone Wolf McQuade. Kill Bill was a natural fit, pointing out yet again that Tarantino has had an instinct for ferreting out people like Carradine, Harvey Keitel, John Travolta and Robert Forrester and putting them to great use.

David Carradine was, in the last equation, a working actor, a seeker, someone who struggled with substances, part new ager and part redneck, all American and, in my mind, one of those people that's just a part of things, so germane to them that they are simply invisible. He wrote:

My story isn't a personal saga. It's a chronicle of a time, a period in history when everything came up for grabs. We all had to make choices. I made mine sometimes. Sometimes shit just happened... After all the triumphs and failures, the lovers, the detractors, I still am not finished, not hardly started really. There's a whole slew of things still undone, dreams not yet realized. I'd better get on with it; get back out there on that endless highway and give them more hell. I don't have forever, as far as I know.

How right he was.

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DAMMIT, Mr. Han Died, Too!

Boolshit, Mr. Han-man!

You came straight out of a comic book. And touched out hearts. Rest in peace, Han, as great warriors sail you to your final island.

Kung Fu Cinema has the story. Image taken from HERE.

Martial arts actor Shek Kin dead at 96

By Mark Pollard on June 4, 2009

Hong Kong has lost one of its greatest and longest living film treasures. Veteran martial arts actor Shek Kin (aka Shih Kien, Sek Kin), best known internationally for his role in ENTER THE DRAGON as "Mr. Han," died this morning at the venerable age of 96.

Gregory So, Hong Kong's Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development expressed regret at the loss.

"Mr. Shek's brilliant career in the performing arts industry started in the 1940s. Since then he devoted lifelong commitment to the industry. He played a villain role in the Wong Fei-hung film series and had become one of the most recognizable faces of Hong Kong cinema," said So.

"With his death, Hong Kong has lost an outstanding performing arts talent. On behalf of the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, I offer our deepest condolences to Mr. Shek's family."

Shek was one of the territory's most recognizable actors thanks to a prolific career that spanned over 50 years. Born in 1913, Shek was among Hong Kong's first generation of martial arts stars, including Walter Cho, Kwan Tak-hing and Yu So-chow, who flourished during the initial genre boom of the 1950s and '60s. Trained in several northern kung fu disciplines rather than Chinese opera like so many of his peers, Shek began appearing in Cantonese-language martial arts films in the late 1940s. Up until he was cast as the lead villain in ENTER THE DRAGON, Shek was best known as the lead villain in the long-running WONG FEI HUNG film series where he frequently crossed fists and wits with series star Kwan Tak-hing.

In the 1970s and '80s, Shek continued to appear in a variety of films, most notably in ENTER THE DRAGON but also in a comedic supporting role opposite Jackie Chan in THE YOUNG MASTER. He also frequently appeared in local television series. Shek Kin retired from the entertainment industry in the mid-1990s. His final film role was in Bosco Lam's comedy HONG KONG ADAM'S FAMILY (1994).

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Thursday, June 04, 2009


Here I was, getting ready to update this blog with my final reviews from Season One, a review of Carradine's autobio, and some other assorted stuff when THIS HAPPENED.

NY Times and AP:

David Carradine, the star of the 1970s television series “Kung Fu” and the title villain of the “Kill Bill” movies, has died in Thailand, The Associated Press reported. The United States Embassy in Bangkok told The A.P. that Mr. Carradine had been found dead in his hotel suite in Bangkok, where he was working on a movie. He was 72.

Mr. Carradine was part of an acting family that included his father, John; his brother, Bruce, and half-brothers Keith and Robert; and his nieces Ever Carradine and Martha Plimpton.

After a short run as the title character in the 1966 television adaptation of the Western “Shane,” he found fame in the 1972 series “Kung Fu” as Kwai Chang Caine, a wanderer raised by Shaolin monks to be a martial arts master. He enjoyed a career resurgence in recent years when he was cast by Quentin Tarantino in the action movies “Kill Bill: Vol. 1″ and “Vol. 2.”

Updated | 10:58 a.m. Thai police have told BBC News that Mr. Carradine was found on Thursday morning by a hotel maid in a wardrobe with a rope around his neck.

* * *

What more can I add? The only thing I can say is that the world lost a great actor. I can only speculate as to why he may have taken his life - it may be as a result of his struggles with alcohol. EDIT: Or it may have been accidental. I am shocked at this, frankly, because David's confidence and self-worth seemed so evident. Perhaps we'll learn more in the coming days. Regardless, my prayer is for your rest and hereafter, David. We'll miss you but, in a way, because of what you left behind, we'll always have you. God keep you, Grasshopper.

Shoot, I'm kinda crying right now!