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.

Ichi The Killer (2001): The Way You Make Me Feel

Cover of "Ichi the Killer [Blu-ray]"
Cover of Ichi the Killer [Blu-ray]
Based on Hideo Yamamoto‘s manga and directed by the iconic Takashi MiikeIchi the Killer has a cult statusthat very few other ‘cult’ films enjoy.

As popular with audiences now as it was in 2001, Ichi has lost none of it’s power to mesmerise, horrify and shake-up the viewer.

Starring Tadanobu Asano (Thor, Zatoichi, Battleship, and in 2013 Thor 2), Asano is the closest thing Japan has to a superstar. His work on Ichi as the sadomasochist Kakiharo enabled him to “steal the show” and  made him a cult favourite with fans.

Nao Ohmori (not as well known to western audiences, but a jobbing actor who has been working since 1997) played Ichi. Ichi is mentally unbalanced and finds violence sexually arousing. He has been brainwashed by Jijii – Shin’ya Tsukamoto (TetsuoTetsuo II: Body HammerBullet Balletinto believing that he witnessed a rape when he was younger and not only did he not help the girl, but he was aroused by it. Jijii convinces Ichi that he must kill the boys who perpetrated the rape and he points them out for Ichi.

The first ‘perpetrator’ is Anjo a Yakuza boss whose enforcer is Kakiharo. Ichi using the razor sharp blades in his boots, cuts Anjo into pieces and Jijii disposes of the body parts. Kakiharo wants to know where his boss is and suspects a rival Yakuza gang of killing or kidnapping him.

Jijii makes sure that Kakiharo suspects the rival gang in the hope that they will kill each other off, with Ichi’s help of course, and then he will run that area of town.

Ichi The Killer is typical Takashi Miike. Gallons of blood. Violent acts that the camera shows unflinchingly. And of course black humour crops up in every other scene.

Some of the violence is almost unwatchable. In one scene, Kakiharo is questioning another gang’s boss. They pierce the skin all along the back of his body and hang him face down from the ceiling. When Kakiharo does not get the information he wants, he pours boiling oil on the bosses back. The combination of the smoke, sizzling sounds and the victims screams make this one of the hardest scenes in the film to watch.

Yet Miike’s humour pervades the film. Whether it is Ichi gleefully telling a girl that he has saved from being beaten to death, by her boyfriend by killing him,  that now he can beat her. She is, somewhat understandably, not thrilled by the proposition.

Or when one of Kakihuro’s minion decides that he doesn’t want to look for the missing boss Anjo any longer, Kakihuro slams a board with a nail in the end onto the minion’s foot. This action changes his mind and he decides he does still want to help Kakihuro and they all walk down the street, with the minion dragging the board that is still impaled in his foot.

And of course the most amusing of all is the reason that Kakihuro wants to find his boss. It turns out that no one else can give him the pain he desires like his boss.

This is classic Takashi Miike and one you definitely need to see, if you haven’t already.