2009, $3.99 at the Goodwill Superstore on San Fernando

First impression: Hell yeah! I’m gonna get trained up like a Shaolin monk!

Second impression: I can’t help but notice that there is no one of Asian descent on the cover.

Opening with a title card of an inexplicable “Aladdin” font, this DVD is hosted by David Carradine. By “hosted” I mean, he appears on set in his black kung-fu pajamas, introduces the video, and walks backstage to collect his check.

Two instructors, prompted by David Carradine’s disembodied voice, demonstrate moves from the crane and tiger styles. I’m amazed these styles are real! As a kid, I loved to watch kung-fu movies on Saturdays, and would often re-inact fight scenes with my older brother, which always involved talking out of sync with our own mouths.

Well, friends, I’m disappointed to say this, but strength training like a Shaolin monk is nowhere near as fun as watching a kung-fu movie with 70’s mono sound, chopped up by commercials. On this DVD, no one yells “Whaaaaaaa!” as they leap sideways through a window, no one beats anyone up with a pair of chopsticks while balancing a hot cup of tea, and there certainly isn’t a rack focus to anyone’s eyes as they do a slow burn. Yawn!

Instead, we witness demonstrations of boring moves with exciting names such as Knife Hands, Hour Glass Stance Double Fist, and Horse Fire Punches. The one with crunched up fingers and extended index finger hurts my wrists.   David Carradine encourages me to perform the moves “with spirit,” which I think means, “try to break a sweat, Lady.”

All this spirited activity is going on in front of a faux-finished adobe arch and some sad little lost houseplants while an excerpt from the Miami Vice soundtrack plays in an endless loop.

While the credits roll, an instructor does a form demonstration, next to those yard-high, Gothic iron candlestick holders that they used to sell at Pottery Barn, topped with lit candles. The green pastures of the matte painted background are now lit with pink gels, to indicate the setting sun. So peaceful.


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