Kung Fu: Season 1, Episode 0

Pilot (22 Feb. 1972)

TV Episode  -   -  Adventure | Drama | Western
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After avenging the death of his teacher, a Shaolin monk flees China to the American West and helps people while being pursued by bounty hunters.



(teleplay), (teleplay), 1 more credit »
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Title: Pilot (22 Feb 1972)

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Episode complete credited cast:
Wayne Maunder ...
Benson Fong ...
Richard Loo ...
Philip Ahn ...
Victor Sen Yung ...
John Leoning ...
Master Teh
David Chow ...


From the tiger, he learns tenacity and power. From the white crane, gracefulness. And the dragon teaches him to ride the wind. It could take a lifetime to master just one of the many Kung Fu disciplines. But young Kwai Chang Caine knows them all. He was educated in a Shaolin monastery around 1800 by the monks. Against all forms of violence he face his ultimate challenge when his preferred master was killed by the hands of the imperial forces. After avenging the death of his teacher, as a Shaolin monk, he flees China to the American West and helps people defending the weak and fighting against the evil while being pursued by Chinese bounty hunters. Written by Anonymous

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Release Date:

22 February 1972 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Richard Loo here plays Shaolin Master Sun, a character he would reprise in two episodes, Kung Fu: Blood Brother (1973) during the first season, and Kung Fu: Besieged: Cannon at the Gates (1974) during the third. He would also feature in three other entries, playing three different characters: Kung Fu: The Tong (1973), Kung Fu: Arrogant Dragon (1974) and Kung Fu: The Devil's Champion (1974). See more »


Master Po: What do you hear?
Caine: I hear the grasshopper.
See more »


Referenced in On the Set of Sightlines (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

a story of a past,a present, and an uforseeable future
12 July 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Kung Fu can be watched as a series, but this pilot-movie, at a length that is perfectly agreeable as a self-contained project and only contains the vaguest of to-be-cont'd endings. It was unlike any other show in America at the time, and introduced many to kung-fu who hadn't possibly seen any of the underground movies of the Shaw brothers or just before Bruce Lee really became huge. And, sadly, Bruce Lee was turned down from this show. Maybe it was the right decision not because of the ethnicity barrier (I think a show could have at least been attempted with an Asian lead), but because its focus is rather unique: it's a 'white man' as it were who is a Shaolin monk, Caine, who in a moment of unintentional fury killed a nobleman and had to flee from China to America, where he is often mistaken in the 19th century "old-west" as a "Chinaman".

It works, too, that David Carradine has a certain Asian aura about him. This isn't offensive him playing this character (it certainly isn't derided like, say, Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's). The producers and writers of the show actually pay more respect and adherence to the ways of martial arts and its teachings and real professing of non-violence more than other kung-fu movies from China at the time. In fact, one could almost argue it's too respectful, that there's a lack of fun. But, as this pilot shows, which goes between the origin story of Caine in the Shaolin temple and his first real encounter with collective horror and stupidity in man working on a railroad, there's lots of excitement and even philosophizing to be had in the series. And when there is a battle, watch out! It's not bloody, sure, but it is for its time well choreographed and shot for maximum (TV) effect.

And what else can be said about David Carradine? The man was just *on* all the time. There's scenes and moments he looks like he's staring off into space, and one isn't sure if it's the character just observing or if Carradine is in some kind of trance. But it's sincere, dedication and craft with a character that makes it count. He's like Eastwood's Man-with-no-name character who says little and makes it count when he does. You simply don't f*** around with the guy, but many do, and it's that archetype that Carradine taps into and mines for all it can be worth for him. It's not the most original story ever, but its got a great twist to it, with (in this case of direction) creative storytelling not unlike techniques started in Point Blank of cutting back and forth in time. Plus a superb lead, and a dependable supporting cast of Chinese-American players.

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