Kung Fu [1972]

Director: Various
Stars: Various
Genre: Action, Drama
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 3168 minutes

While it may not rank with Richard Kimble's fateful meeting with the One-Armed Man in the series finale of The Fugitive, Caine's reunion with his long-lost brother, Danny, brings Kung Fu, to quote the title of the four-episode story arc's conclusion, "Full Circle." The series' rich iconography and episodes featuring returning characters may make this final season heady going for newcomers. But those who have faithfully followed Caine (David Carradine in his iconic role) on his nomadic adventures will be richly rewarded with some of the series' best episodes. The season begins with a stellar two-parter, "Blood of the Dragon," in which Caine seeks the truth about his grandfather's murder, while Imperial assassins are dispatched to kill Caine. The venerable Patricia Neal guest-stars as the grandfather's iron-willed, cold-hearted former lover. Eddie Albert also stars as a doctor who sides with Caine. Other memorable guest stars this season include William Shatner broguing it up, Scotty-style, as a sea captain who arrives with an Imperial pardon for Caine (but at what cost?) in "A Small Beheading." Barbara Hershey portrays an aspiring Shoalin priest in the two-parter, "Besieged." In "The Brothers Caine," a pre-Airplane Leslie Nielsen is a ruthless magnate who puts a $10,000 price on Danny's head, making for an awkward reunion when Danny thinks that Caine is a bounty hunter. David's father, John, returns as blind preacher Serenity Johnson in "Ambush." This season was distinguished by innovative episodes set in China during Caine's "Grasshopper" tutelage. In "The Demon God," the youth, poisoned by a prince, experiences mystical visions of his older, wandering self, who is stung by a scorpion. In "The Thief of Chendo," young Caine's Master imagines an adventure for the aspiring priest. Two Carradine commentaries, and a near-hour long chronicle of Carradine's 30-years-on visit to a Shoalin monastery in China (an incredible journey that ends with Carradine's soulful rendition of "America the Beautiful") help to give Kung Fu a worthy DVD send-off. --Donald Liebenson

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