A tribute to David Carradine
Time Out mourns the passing of American actor David Carradine by looking at some of his greatest roles...
Five Carradine classics...
The Serpent’s Egg (1977)Ingmar Bergman’s one-and-only ‘Hollywood’ movie features the unlikely pairing of regular muse Liv Ullman with Carradine as a Jewish trapeze artist and is set in a gaudily realised Berlin circa 1920. The film follows him as he wanders drunkenly around the brothels and cabaret bars, trying to ignore the violence, depravity and anti-semitism screeching at him from every street corner.Bound For Glory (1976)Starring Carradine in a rare non-chop socky role as Woody Guthrie, ‘Bound for Glory’ stands as perhaps the jewel in the crown for one of New Hollywood’s most underrated figures, Hal Ashby. For a music biopic, it’s uncharacteristically elegiac and sombre, with Carradine offering a beautifully textured central turn as the class warrior-cum-boxcar troubadour. Haskell Wexler scooped an Oscar for his gorgeous camerawork which perfectly captures the unease of 1930s Depression-era America and which inspired Guthrie to spread his message of working-class upheaval.
Death Race 2000 (1975)
'With half a face and half a chest and all the guts in the world, he's back!' It may not have been his most serious role, but the part of Frankenstein, the masked motor-racing avenger in Roger Corman's 200mph satirical juggernaut, may prove Carradine's most memorable. His unmasking scene, in which both the audience and nubile 'navigator' Annie realise Frankenstein is far from the twisted monster of legend but actually a sleek, rather dashing revolutionary hero, remains one of his finest moments on screen. Dry, witty and effortlessly likeable: this is a movie star, ladies and gentlemen.
The Long Riders (1980)
The Keach brothers may have nabbed the flashier roles of Frank and Jesse James in Walter Hill's masterful sibling rivalry Western, but it's Carradine and his brethren who command the attention onscreen. As the sad-eyed, dominant Cole Younger, Carradine feels like a one-man elegy not just for the dying West, but for the Hollywood '70s, his loose, brash performance style fast becoming outdated in the slick corporate '80s.
The Winged Serpent (1982)
A relatively rare straight-man role. Carradine may have been acted off the screen by Michael Moriarty's ludicrous hep-talking petty thief in Larry Cohen's gloriously wacky NYC creature feature, but, frankly, Brando would have struggled under the circumstances. As it is Carradine, along with his none-more-smooth partner Richard 'Shaft' Roundtree, provides much-needed gravitas, heavyweight acting ballast to counteract Moriarty's bonkers improv.
And five lesser known Carradine titles which, if you've seen, we'd love to know what they're like...Safari 3000 (1982)Carradine joins Christopher Lee and Stockard Channing for what we can only imagine to be a one-louder Trans-African cannonball run set against a backdrop of busy innuendo and scratchy stock footage. Co-stars Cocky Two Bull as ‘Rally-Car Salesman #1’.Tropical Snow (1988)Sounding like one of those made-up film titles that feature regularly in ‘Seinfeld’, this bills itself as a steamy drug-trafficking parable co-starring a young Madeleine Stowe, and sees Dave as a character known only as Oskar – which we assume means he’s the baddie.
Quite how a film labouring under the title of a woefully contrived comedy (in which Ben Stiller sublets his apartment to… what? A basketball team, maybe? A dolphin?) can somehow also be know in certain territories as ‘Codename: Jaguar’ we are very keen to find out.
Animal Protector (1988)
Ditto for this one, which is for some tantalising reason known as ‘Born To Kill’ in India. A Swedish ‘Island of Dr. Moreau’ co-starring Magnus Cederblad? We’re sold.
Evil Toons (1992)
Looking like a bongo version of ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ from the always-exciting directorial talent, Fred Olen Ray (see also, ‘Bikini Airways’, ‘Bikini Chain Gang’ and ‘Bikini Pirates’), Carradine stars as the austerely monikered Gideon Fisk, a man who arrives at a haunted house being occupied by four teenage bikini models. He delivers a mystic tome, from which they read, and inadvertently release a bunch of evil 'toons. Fin.
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