The Kung Fu tv enterprise has spawned two series and two pilots.
1. Kung Fu US tv series (1972-1975). Lou Step Productions/Warner Bros./ABC. Pr Alex Beaton, John Furia Jr, Herman Miller. Exec pr Jerry Thorpe. Dir Robert Butler, David Carradine and many others. Writers Kathryn Barton, Gene L Coon, Dorothy C Fontana and many others. Created by Ed Spielman, Herman Miller. Starring Philip Ahn (Master Kan), Carradine (Kwai Chang Caine), Season Hubley (Margit McLean 1974-1975), Keye Luke (Master Po), Stephen Manley (Caine aged 6), Radames Pera (Young Caine). Warner Bros. 62 60min episodes plus 90min pilot. Colour.
Caine, born to a Chinese mother and a US father, is an orphan drifter in the 1870s USA. He studied to be a Shaolin priest but was forced to flee China after killing a man there, for his victim was a member of the royal family. While Caine has been taught to practice nonviolence, he has also been taught the martial art of kung fu in case he must defend himself. This is lucky, for each week he finds himself having to resort to violence when all attempts to escape trouble fail.
The fight scenes are best remembered for their unusual use of slow-motion photography; additionally, the series featured a large number of flashbacks, in which the young Caine was seen with his learned tutor, Master Po. The unusual formula worked for, though many of the stories themselves were rather uninteresting, the series enjoyed a healthy run. [BC]
2. Kung Fu: The Movie US movie (1986 tvm). Lou Step Productions/Warner Bros./CBS. Pr Skip Ward, David Carradine. Screenplay Durrell Royce Crays. Based on 1. Dir Richard Lang. Starring Carradine (Kwai Chang Caine), Keye Luke (Master Po), Brandon Lee (Caine's son). 120 mins. Colour.
Pilot for an unsold series revival. Its failure prompted the production company to try another format (see 3). [BC]
3. Kung Fu: The Next Generation (vt The Way of the Dragon) US movie (1987 tvm). Lou Step Productions/Warner Bros. Pr Danny Bilson, Paul DeMeo, Ralph Riskin. Dir Tony Wharmby. Screenplay Bilson, DeMeo. Starring Brandon Lee (Cain's Grandson). 90 mins. Colour.
Pilot for an unsold series intended to feature the adventures of Caine's offspring. Brandon Lee, son of martial-arts expert Bruce Lee, achieved posthumous fame as star of The Crow (1994). [BC]
4. Kung Fu: The Legend Continues US syndicated tv series (1993-current). Warner Bros. Pr Phil Bedard, Martin Borycki, David Carradine, Larry Lalonde, Reuben Leder, Susan Murdoch. Exec pr Michael Sloan. Dir Mario Azzopardi, William Shatner and many others. Writers Phil Bedard and many others. Starring David Carradine (Kwai Chang Caine), Kim Chan (The Ancient), Robert Lansing (Captain Paul Blaisdell), Nathaniel Moreau (Young Peter), Chris Potter (Peter Caine). 60min episodes. Colour.
In a modern-day setting, Carradine plays the grandson of the original Kwai Chang Caine from 1; he believes he is still carrying the dishonour of his ancestor. Eventually making his way to San Francisco, he finds his own grandson, Peter Caine, a police officer. Together, they use the disciplines of the Shaolin teachings in a series of battles against local criminals and renegades from their own religion. While most episodes feature rather mundane adversaries, the story "Gunfighter" found Caine trading places with his grandfather in the past, where he had to fight to save both of their existences. In later episodes, hints are given that Kwai Chang may be the original Caine and not his grandson; if so, he is over 130 years old. [BC]