Thursday, April 23, 2009

Superstition (Kung Fu, 1973)

When you think of scary TV shows, Kung Fu probably doesn't leap to mind. But there was a moment in a Season 1 episode, "Superstition", that gave me plenty of chills when I first saw it in reruns as a (very young) kid.

It happened during one of the many flashbacks to the young Kwai Chang Caine as he goes through various trials and tribulations at the Shaolin monastery on his long road to manhood. Young Caine was portrayed by Radamas Pera, who also starred in one of my favorite Night Gallery episodes, "Silent Snow, Secret Snow".

In this episode, Master Po (Keye Luke) senses fear in his young student as they stand near a door that leads to an area of the monastery that is no longer used.

"Before I came here, a boy in the marketplace whispered of a corridor of death. He said the place at the end holds the bones of many who entered." Caine says. Master Po assures him there is nothing to fear, but Caine doesn't seem too convinced.

Later, Master Po tells Caine he must practice walking along a balance beam mounted to the floor. When Caine asks why this is important, Po reveals that in a week, he will be required to walk the same beam across a pool of acid.

The week passes and Caine is taken through the door that he feared, down the "corrider of death", to the acid room. To demonstrate that it can be done, Po (who is blind) quickly navigates the beam across and back.

Now it is Caine's turn. As he steps onto the beam, he looks down into the green, bubbling acid...

...and sees a skeleton, presumably of a schoolmate that lost his footing.

"Why do you delay?" taunts Po.
"I see where others have fallen." answers Caine.

Psyched out by fear, Caine stumbles off the beam, splashing into the acid bath.

Now as I watched this episode for the first time, I knew... KNEW... there was no way they were going to kill off Young Caine like that. After all, these scenes are merely flashbacks--we know Caine lives to adulthood. And besides, they simply don't do stuff like that on television. Yet in that moment, all logic and common sense were lost to the shock that I had just witnessed a kid die a horrible death due to his own clumsiness and the sadistic curriculum of a pitiless teacher.

But sure enough, Young Caine soon hops out of the pool, which was only filled with warm water after all. And what about the skeleton?

Fake!

My fear was soon replaced by the strong desire to have an indoor pool, some water-proof skeleton decorations, and a balance beam, so I could play the same trick on my friends. (Though I never put much thought into how exactly that would've played out even if I had all that stuff. "Hey guys, want to come play at my house? I filled the indoor pool with acid. We can practice walking across it on a beam. That skeleton is some kid who tried it last week. You wouldn't know him--he went to a different school.")

That Shaolin monastery must've been a real hoot around Halloween...

1 comment:

Sara said...

Kung Fu doesn't but Friday the 13th the tv show does.

ugh, that show gave me nightmares.