Plot: What’s it about?
Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine) is a man on the run, as he has to leave his home behind and start again. He faces not only a new land and new home, but a new life in total, as his former way of life has been shattered. Caine studied the ways of Shaolin, enduring intense mental and physical training sessions, in order to master his craft. Master Kan (Philip Ahn) taught him how to blend his mind and body into one, as well as how to use the teachings to gain new perspective on the world around him. Caine has spent his life absorbing Kan’s lessons, but the time has come for the student to venture out into new realms. Now Caine wanders the western lands of America, in search of his brother and a fresh start in life. This journey was not all Caine’s wishes, but when a tragic turn of events unfolded, he had to take drastic measures. The Chinese Emperor’s nephew used a gun to dispatch Kan, killing the wise man in the fashion of a coward. This enraged Caine, to the extent that he avenged his teacher’s death with lethal force. Now Caine has come to America to avoid retaliation, as well as to find his brother. But as he travels the land, he runs into criminals, swindlers, and bounty hunters, all who stand in his path. Can Caine remain true to his Shaolin values, strike down the evil that he encounters, and complete his journey?
If you can snatch the pebble from my hand, you can read all of my comments about Kung Fu, which has finally reached DVD. This series became a smash success and won over audiences around the world, becoming a cultural icon in the process. Even now, references to Kung Fu can be found in countless films and when asked to detail inspirations, even young filmmakers often list this series. David Carradine (Kill Bill: Volume One, Death Race 2000) starred as Caine, one of the most popular and enduring characters in television history, but in the end, he was unable to attain the level of stardom most expected. His work in Kung Fu is excellent however and without question, his presence was a primary reason for the show’s success. The mixture of martial arts action, solid drama, and philosophy was conjured up to near perfection, just enough of each element to keep the series in balance. The action was fun to watch and added some spark, but Kung Fu strived to be more than a simple action series. As a result, the inspirational storylines and Caine’s philosophies added depth. So yes, Kung Fu was about martial arts and action scenes, but it had heart and a brain, not mention a soul. In the first season release, Warner offered a cropped widescreen version, which altered the visuals and by turn, had fans in a foul mood. That is not the case here, as the series is presented in full frame, as intended. A solid season and an improved treatment from Warner, so this second season is well recommended.
Video: How does it look?
The episodes are presented in full frame, as intended. Now this is how this series should look, unlike the first season, which was masked off to a widescreen format. I love widescreen, no doubt, but when the material should be full frame, that is how it should be presented. As before, the image looks terrific and will surely thrill fans, as the visuals are in tip top fashion here. There is some light grain, but debris is minimal and as I said with the first season, I never expected this series to look so good. The colors are warm, but not overly bright and contrast is up to snuff throughout. No undesirable softness is evident either, so the image has a sharp, clean overall presence, quite impressive work.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included mono soundtracks ensure these episodes sound much like they would have on television, which is about all you can ask from this release. The sound effects & music come through well here, no age related issues surface and I was pleased with the overall clarity involved. If you’ve never seen the show, the music is very ’70s and sounds cool, which is why I am so glad it sounds good here. I had no problems with the dialogue either, as vocals were smooth & crisp at all times. This release also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, and French, just in case you’ll need those at some point.
Supplements: What are the extras?
I said I wanted some audio comments from Carradine when the first season came out and now I can rejoice, as this release includes two such sessions. As expected, he is laid back and offers a lot of memories from the production, as well as stories about how the series continues to be so popular. I do wish he were able to record tracks for more episodes, but perhaps next season will have more. Carradine also returns in a featurette, in which he is joined by a host of folks, connected to the show and otherwise. You’ll hear from Cynthia Rothrock, Vivica A. Fox, series star Radames Pera, technical advisor Kam Yuen, Michael Madsen, and others, as this landmark series is discussed in depth.