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Kung Fu

Title Card - KUNG FU

ABC Network
1972 - 1975
60 Minutes

David Carradine starred as Shaolin priest Kwai Chang Caine, an Oriental/American raised in a Chinese monastery who later fled to America when he killed the Royal Chinese nephew in defense of Master Po (Keye Luke), a blind monk who called Caine "Grasshopper."

While in America, Caine searched for his family roots and his half-brother Daniel "Danny" Caine whose father Thomas Henry Caine fell in love with an oriental woman name Kwai Lin while in China and gave birth to Kwai Chang.

David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine - KUNG FU

Listen to Opening Music & Narration

As Kwai Chang trekked through the Old West in search of his American identity, he was confronted by many who wanted the $10,000 reward for his capture. His only defense: Kung Fu.

"In the Shaolin Temple, there are three kinds of men...students, disciples and Masters. The development of the mind can be achieved only when the body has been disciplined. To accomplish this, the Ancients have taught us to imitate God's creatures...From the Crane we learn grace and self control. The Snake teaches us suppleness and rhythmic endurance. The Eagle, the duality of hard and soft. The Praying Mantis teaches us speed and patience. The Way of the Tiger...tenacity and power. And from the Dragon we learn to ride the wind."

When Caine first arrived at the Shaolin monastery, Master Kan (Philip Ahn) pointed to a pebble in his open palm and said" "As quickly as you can...snatch the pebble from my hand." Caine (Radames Pera) grabbed for the tiny stone but Kan's hand closed before he could get to it. Then, Kan said to Caine, "When you can take the pebble from my hand, it will be time for you to leave."

Master Po and Kwai Chang Caine - KUNG FU

Years later, Caine, fully trained and educated in the Ways of the Shaolin, again presented himself before Master Kan. This time he snatched the pebble and thus graduated which included branding his arms with the sign of a tiger and a dragon. These marks identified Caine as a priest to Chinese immigrants and a tell-tale sign for the Imperial Chinese agents and bounty hunters who sought to catch Caine dead or alive.

"It is said a Shaolin priest can walk through walls...listened for, he cannot be heard...looked for, he cannot be seen...felt, he cannot be touched."

The closest Caine ever came to a reprieve for killing the Emperor's nephew was when they offered him a pardon if he considered returning home to China. The only condition. He had to cut off one of his fingers as a sign of atonement. Caine passed on the deal. (Smart move)

Eventually, Caine finds his brother Danny (Tim McIntire), but for the rest of his life Kwai Chang would still be on the look out for emissaries of the Imperial Court in China who wanted revenge the Royal nephew's death.

Caine's family offered to let him stay at their ranch but he declined and instead wandered off into the wilderness on an endless journey of self discovery.

Other relatives discovered on Caine's journey included:

  • Dean Jagger as Henry Rafael Caine, the grandfather who lived in Lordsville. He gave Caine Danny's letters, and his great grandfather's watch. Henry's deceased wife was Elizabeth Hale Caine. When Kwai Chang made a return visit to his father's home, he discovers his grandfather was murdered.
  • John Blyth Barrymore as nephew, Zeke.

TRIVIA NOTE: Radames Pera played Caine as a boy in flashbacks. David Carradine's brother, Keith portrayed Caine as a teenager in flashbacks during the series. Another brother Robert played the one-shot role of Sonny Jim. And their father, veteran actor, John Carradine had a recurring role as Serenity Johnson, a poor preacher blinded by Indians.

David Carradine later appeared as Kwai Chang Caine in the TV Movie Kenny Rogers: The Gambler - The Luck of the Draw, that also featured a reunion of such classic western characters as Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors of THE RIFLEMAN); Wyatt Earp (Hugh O'Brian of THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF WYATT EARP; and Bart Maverick (Jack Kelly of MAVERICK).

The series also spawned:

  •  Kung Fu: The Movie (1986) a made-for-TV movie whose plotline featured Chung Wang, Caine's adult son from China (Brandon Lee)  who was trained by the father of the slain Royal nephew to kill Caine. Caine, of course had no idea he had fathered a child.
  • Kung Fu: The Next Generation (1987) a failed attempt at a second series set in the present about  Kwai Chang Caine's grandson (David Barlow) and great-grandson, Johnny Caine (Brandon Lee).
  • KUNG FU : THE LEGEND CONTINUES/SYN/1993-96 a successful sequel where the grandson of Kwai Chang Caine and his son. great grandson Peter Caine (Chris Potter) live in a large metropolitan city and help others using modern weapons and, of course, Asian wisdom and martial arts. Other relatives revealed on the series were: Grandson: Damon Caine and Grandson: Martin Bradshaw.

"The grandson of Kwai Chang Caine walks out of the past. [Great grandson of Kwai Chang Caine speaks ] "But I want to fight. [Grandson responds] "Yes, so did your great grandfather when he was your age" [Narrator continues] "He teaches his son wisdom at a Shaolin Temple. An evil force destroyed that temple; father and son each believed that the other had perished. Fifteen years later they were reunited. Now Caine faced new challenges and his son grew up. [Caine's son speaks] "Look, I'm not my father. I don't do Kung Fu. I'm a cop, that's who I am, that's what I do." [Voice of Caine] "I am Caine. I will help you."

Obituaries: David Carradine: 06/04/2009; Keye Luke: 01/12/1991;  Philip Ahn: 02/28/1978;

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