David Carradine: The Eye of My Tornado: A Portrait by Marina Anderson

Book cover of Marina Anderson's autobiographical taleAfter spying this biographical tale in the second-hand section of the local thrift shop last year, I grabbed it on a whim. I was still in shock at Carradine’s death by “autoerotic asphyxiation” as determined by a coroner back when his body was discovered in a Bangkok, Thailand hotel closet in 2009.

The reason that his death stuck in my mind so firmly was two-fold. One, the news of his death came literally on the same day that SyFy’s “Celebrity Ghost Stories” had advertised a segment by Carradine where he talked of a haunting. I remember being stunned at the news and the timing of it. Secondly, his death was eerily similar to another actor’s whose dead body was discovered after the dead man’s fiancee raised concern for her missing fella. Albert Dekker, whose last role was that of the railroad man Harrigan, an agent for the company intent upon hunting down and killing the gang in “The Wild Bunch.”

Dekker had been found in ladies lingerie with obscenities scrawled on his near-naked body and hanging from the shower rail in his apartment. The death is recounted in the “underground classic” “Hollywood Babylon” by Kenneth Anger. The similarities are remarkable, especially as both women whom the men were attached to, were adamant that foul play was involved.

In this book, Marian Anderson writes, as a sort of catharsis, about her time with Carradine and the side less known. Her recounting of their affair shows just how much she did to rejuvenate his career and her work to get he and Tarantino together before “Kill Bill.”

That David Carradine was a very talented actor is undeniable. Watching him in “Night of the Templar” in what was, except for the 2016 film “Mata Hari” which is still in post production, his last role is an example of his effortless style of delivery in an otherwise poorly executed film.

Marina tells of David’s attempt to stay sober during their six year relationship and his going back to booze afterward, along with what appears to have been opiate abuse throughout, and one marvels at the amount of talent that still shone through in his performances.

Sadly, it seems that Carradine was not an overly pleasant man when dealing with his fans and he was at the forefront of autographs for money. Reading the book, which is very well written, Carradine comes across as romantic, controlling, narcissistic, passive-aggressive, and wildly talented. He was a musician, singer, and writer on top of his acting and Marina is not hesitant to point out the creative sides of her ex-husband.

There are things about David that are shocking, incest on top of the alcohol abuse, and his sexual practices sound like something out of “50 Shades of Grey.” Anderson does not flinch at showing all the sides of her relationship with Carradine, warts and all. Her cleansing act of revelation is entertaining and one leaves the book with a feeling that Carradine never realized what he had in his grasp.

Sadly, it seems to be a trait which he was doomed to repeat regardless of whatever partner he was with. After buying this book, written in 2010, it took me over a year to get past the first chapter. Not because it was “hard reading” but because of my business schedule. I picked the book up yesterday and once started, it was impossible to put down. Finishing this morning, I realized that this was one of the best celeb biographies I’d read in a long time.

Kudos to Marina Anderson for her portrait of David Carradine, “the eye of her tornado” and the times spent living with him and getting over him. She also tells of her own personal investigation into his suspicious death in Thailand and her conclusions. This is a 4 out of 5 star read, fascinating and difficult to put down.

Night of theTemplar David Carradine In His Last Performance

Night of the Templar

Night of the Templar is a 2012 low budget (an estimated $3 million) British film and the best thing about it is David Carradine in his last performance. Officially this was his last film before being found dead aged 72 in Bangkok, Thailand  apparently a victim of auto-erotic asphyxiation.

Written and directed by stuntman Paul Sampson, the film’s premise and its tag lines are, regrettably, the best thing about the film, although having said that, the cast list was damned impressive. In case you can’t be bothered to look up either the cast or the tag lines here they are, in reverse order.

Taglines:

“Here tells a tale of Passion, Loyalty, Deceit, Betrayel … and Revenge!”
“Hell is Eternal as is the Wrath of Vengeance!”
“The Eternal Wrath of Vengeance!”
Cast list courtesy of IMDb:
Paul Sampson
David Carradine
Udo Kier
Norman Reedus
Billy Drago
Max Perlich
Benoit the Butler
Nick Jameson
Lord Renault

If you want a plot run-down, don’t bother looking for it in Wikipedia. On IMDb is gets two lines that say, “A Medieval Knight resurrects to fulfill his vow and bestow a blood-thirst vengeance upon the kindred spirits of those who betrayed him long ago. In the course of one night, identities will be revealed, destinies met, and a poetic justice of the macabre maniacally served.

I’ve discovered in my short time of writing “reviews” for films, that is a film is really bad, you will not find a recap on Wikipedia. Really, I could get by with not doing a review at all. But, despite the execrable editing, the horrible acting, except from Kier and Carradine, and the ramshackle plot, I liked it.

I did have some problems, apart from the above listed. One had to do with Paul Sampson. Sure he fell into the bad acting category as well, but, my main problem with him was the way he spoke. His accent was all over the place,  (like mine, I’ve been told, but I can assure you that is my “speaking voice” and not my “acting voice”) but beside that and the bad acting, he didn’t sound right.

Now before I get all kinds of complaints, let me explain that I do not suffer from Homo-phobia nor do I think there is anything wrong with same gender relationships.

Okay?

But, every single time that Sampson opened his mouth as his “reincarnated” self, he sounded almost camp. As he was supposed to be a muscle bound actor who was the reincarnated soul of a Templar knight, he didn’t sound the part. It took me till halfway through the film to realise that it was his “Hollywood bridge” that was causing the problem.

A Hollywood bridge is a cosmetic dental device, very popular among the Toddlers and Tiara’s set, which clip over your real teeth and  give you a perfect smile. Sampson’s changed the way he spoke. It was as though he was wearing someone else’s teeth. In the flash-back scenes he is very obviously not wearing the bridge so when he was playing the Templar, he sounded just fine, his acting even appeared to improve!

English: David Carradine in Almaty, Kazakhstan...

But this last film of Carradine’s was doomed by so many problems. It is such a shame  that Night of the Templar wasted  two talented actors like the 72 year-old Carradine and  the 68 year-old Udo Kerr .

About Kerr…

Either the man has made some sort of Faustian pact or has the services of the world’s best plastic surgeon, because he almost looks no different. It is as though he has stopped ageing. It is a little creepy. I keep trawling the internet to find pictures like those featured of Keanu Reeves, Nick Cage, and John Travolta!

But Udo Kerr and his creepy non-aging thing aside, the film could have been great.

Towards the end of the film, the acting got better and the interaction by the surviving members of the cast was quite good. It gave a glimpse of what the film could and should have been.

It’s a shame that they didn’t figure that out before they started editing the thing.

One very odd moment in the film stuck out. And if you know what auto-erotic asphyxiation is it will actually give you a bit of a shiver.

One of the characters is getting some sexual oral ministrations from another character. While he is in the throes of passion he takes his belt and wraps it around his neck, tightening it.

Shivers, right?

The irony of that cinematic moment not only gave me the shivers, but I had to stop the film and have a think. As Night of the Templar was David Carradine in his last “official” performance, you have to ask the question, “Was he influenced by that scene?”

This is a 2 out of 5 star film, notable only for the presence of Kerr and Carradine. Worth a look if you want to see the Kung Fu actor and Kerr together.

Français : l'acteur Udo KIER au festival de Ca...

Hell Ride (2008): Biker Film Homage

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Written and directed by Larry Bishop (son of Joey) Hell Ride is an apparent homage to the Roger Corman Biker films of the 60’s and 70’s. The “original” biker films were cheap, loud and full of bad acting and great moments. *who can forget a mortally wounded Bruce Dern in The Wild Angels asking as he dies, “Does anybody have a straight cigarette?”*

Unfortunately Bishop’s homage, while it looks good, does not contain any “great” moments like the old 70’s films. You can call Roger Corman many things, but corny wouldn’t be one of them.

Hell Ride has a good cast:

Larry Bishop
Michael Madsen
Vinnie Jones
David Carradine
Dennis HopperEric Balfour

The film looks like a part of the “Grindhouse” flicks that Tarantino and Rodriguez put out in 2007 and appropriately enough the idea came about when Bishop was working with Tarantino on Kill Bill 2. While the idea might have been a brilliant one, the actual execution left a lot to be desired.

I’ll start by saying what I think was wrong with the film. Firstly, all the leads seemed to be doing their best Clint Eastwood impression. It was all clenched teeth and guttural whispering of lines; even the females. Everyone, that is, except Michael Madsen who played his character like…well, Michael Madsen. If ever there was an actor who could be considered a “one-trick-pony” it is Madsen. Don’t get me wrong, I like Michael, but there is a reason why he doesn’t work that much. There are only so many films that need a Michael Madsen character.

The bikes all looked great, except for the chopper that Madsen rode, it looked like it belonged to another biker and he’d borrowed it. It just did not fit.

Madsen riding his big brothers bike.
Madsen riding his big brothers bike.

The other “problem with the film was the dialogue. It tried too hard to be “cute” and amusing. The blame for that lies squarely on the shoulders of Larry Bishop. It’s obvious that his father (who was known as a “comedians comedian”) was a comedy writer and comic. Where these type of lines, “It’s a business. Speaking of business. How’s business” (Spoken between David Carradine and Bishop) reeked of last generation “smart ass” humour that did not fit in the realm of the biker world.

The locations were fine and in keeping with the Southern California setting that the original biker films favoured. But that was about the only thing the film had going for it.

Eric Balfour as Comanche/Bix/Sonny/Son was pretty much wasted in his part. I’ve already groused about Madsen, so we won’t mention him. David Carradine was seen too little. Vinnie Jones was miscast and seen too much. Dennis Hopper was, as usual, great; Hopper cut his teeth on the Biker Genre a’ la Easy Rider. Larry Bishop? Well, suffice to say, if he hadn’t written the damn thing and gotten Quentin to produce it and had Bruce Willis drop out as the lead, he wouldn’t have had to “star” in the film at all.

And that would have been a good thing.

Speaking of good thing (s): the score was boss. It fit the mood and the feeling of the old biker films, but, a good score does not a good movie make.

The final verdict? Crass, crude, creative-not, cinematic chaos. Poorly acted, poorly edited, and poorly received (by me). If you want to re-live the madness that was 60’s and 70’s biker films, watch the real deal, check out the originals and don’t waste your time on this one.

2 out of 5 stars and that’s only because of Hopper and Carradine’s presence.

The original, watch this instead of a crappy homage film. Just sayin'.
The original, watch this instead of a crappy homage film. Just sayin’.