I first encountered David Carradine when I had my first encounter with a true moviegoing experience: in 2004 after viewing the “Kill Bill” saga. In “Vol. 1,” Carradine appeared as just a voice without a face, yet still remained a dominating force. It was not until “Vol. 2″ that he showed a performance worthy of Brando and Bogart in their finest days.
On Wednesday June 3, David Carradine was found dead in his Bangkok hotel room. He was in Thailand shooting a movie; the actor was found hanging naked with a rope around his neck. He was 72.
Carradine’s legacy hits both the movie and TV screen. He was a Golden Globe and Emmy nominated actor. He appeared in highly acclaimed films such as “Bound for Glory” and less acclaimed films like “Children of the Corn V.” He made small appearances here and there (such as a very memorable cameo in “Mean Streets”), but his career would be defined by his role in the TV series “Kung Fu.”
I consider Carradine as one of the finest actors out there, even though I’ve seen so little of his work. His role as the sadistic yet sometimes reasonable Bill in “Kill Bill” represented everything that set him apart from other actors: that he could make someone as sadistic as Bill seem reasonable and even sensitive.
Rather than make Bill a one dimensional villain, he was a complex character. He smiles and yells “Gotcha!” after shooting a bullet at Beatrix. By the end, Bill is still a villain and his actions horrible, yet we see why he did what he did. It was not so much out of sadism but rather out of heartbreak.
And it breaks my heart to see Carradine go. His death might’ve been suicide. It might’ve been murder. But, that’s not for me to judge. What I am to judge is his legacy, and his legacy is certainly a fine one, one that will remain even as time goes by.
Below is Carradine’s monologue about superhero mythology from “Kill Bill.” It’s one of the best monologues ever put on film: