Kung Fu drastically challenged the conservative, militaristic, and philosophically naive outlook I held as a 20 year old college student and "gung-ho" ROTC cadet in 1972. Now, 36 years later, I have had the opportunity to watch Kung Fu once more, and the impact has been nearly as powerful. I have been disabled for severe depression and anxiety for over 15 years, including close to two years of hospitalization. In all of that time I have barely moved forward--until re-watching Kung Fu. The show has visually reminded me of many things, repeatedly told me by therapists, in such a way that I am once again able to reflect--especially while watching the show--a little more positively on my life.
That is the beauty and mastery of Kung Fu, one of the most intriguing shows ever made: it invokes one to THINK, discuss, and contemplate. The only other show I have seen have such an effect on so many people (nearly 90% of my ROTC class of 207 cadets watched Kung Fu as well as me), is the original two years of Star Trek. BUT, the level and intensity invoked by Kung Fu was immeasurably greater than that of Star Trek. The commentaries and features (see the Comments for listing of these items) often mention how teachers "required" students to watch Kung Fu, and then discussed the episodes in class. In deed, it is the philosophical nature of the show that most appeals to me and many who watch it.
Conversely, I will not deny that the show led me to sign up for Judo classes too (over 50% of my friends signed up for some form of martial arts), but the Karate nature of the show was never that appealing to me. Kung Fu is frequently accredited for "introducing" thousands of people to the martial arts. Unfortunately, many who watch the show or have watched the show have followed the path of what I consider "aggressive" martial arts, forgetting the retrospective nature of true Kung Fu. But, I must believe that if parents watch the show with their children, they can have an opportunity to talk with their children about both aspects of Kung Fu.
Another fabulous feature of the show is that viewers are presented with the reality of bigotry and hate--something that never ends, and is completely pertinent to today's world. (Please see the Comments for an example of how the mere fact that I lamented--now also in the Comments--that the DVDs are in English only prompted someone "disrespectful to Americans living in AMERICA.") Again, parents could easily use episodes to discuss and help their children--be they victims, violators, or naive--deal with bigotry and hate.
PLEASE NOTE: Warner Brothers has apparently advertised, and thus Amazon has listed, this set to contain wide-screen formate; see the Comments for more discussion on this. While the Season One episodes have been digitally reformatted "IN A "MATTED" WIDESCREEN FORMAT PRESERVING A THEATRICAL EXHIBITION ASPECT RATIO. ENHANCED FOR WIDESCREEN TVs," all episodes and features in the Season 2 and 3 sets are in fact full screen. The release date (on Amazon and the back of the red slip case for the series) states 2007, but season boxes all state they were done in 2005; so I don't think there is any difference between the Complete Series Box Set and the single season box sets. On an even sadder note, while Warner Brothers did attempt to improve the quality of the shows and alter the formate, they did so, with varying success, for the first season only. (Again, please see the Comments for more discussion on this matter). For the second and third seasons, Warner Brothers either did nothing or very little to restore the negatives, so the episodes are littered with white specs, scratches, and so on (although I found them no less bothersome than those found when watching a well used copy of a movie showing at a theater; for more discussion on this, see the Comments). That said, one must remain mindful of the fact that "Kung Fu" was filmed for television not the theater, was on a limited budget, and the fact that the negatives, when placed in the vault for storage, were most likely not very high quality to begin with; after all, nobody anticipated cable television syndication, let alone VHS and DVD production when the negatives were stored. On the other hand, this inconsistency in DVD quality (be it television shows or movies) is what I have now come to expect from Warner Brothers: misinformation and little or no care for their consumers; out of seventeen letters I have sent to them with questions, they have never replied to a single one.
All that said and done: Please consider renting (if available) or buying the Kung Fu series, and watch it with family and friends if you have them. "Kung Fu - The Complete Series" includes the award winning Pilot movie and all 62 episodes on 11 discs, starring David Carradine as Kiwai Chang Caine, Philip Ahn as Master Kan, and Keye Luke as Master PO. Special guest stars (some of which I have noted in the Comments) include David's father John Carradine, Benson Fong, Harrison Ford, Jodie Foster, Don Johnson, Leslie Nielsen, William Shatner, and others. "Kung Fu" is a show that is thought provoking, educational, inspirational, and unforgettable. "Kung Fu" is a show that can be watched over and over--by yourself, with friends, or with your family. There is no other TV show that I would recommend for people of all ages than "Kung Fu"--so, treat yourself with the whole series.
UPDATE--FEBRUARY 22, 2009: It came to my attention while reading "A Kid's Review--Kung Fu is the best, and this is the best way to own them," that I failed to mention the great extra features included in each of the three season sets. In particular, in the Season Three Set, there is a fascinating documentary that follows David Carradine and some of his friends on a trip to China, where David is given a Shaolin robe on their visit to the famed Shaolin Temple Monastery, a key location depicted in the series, and David plays his flute on the Great Wall of China while it is snowing. For Kill Bill - Volume One and Kill Bill - Volume Two fans, there is a bonus feature on the Season Two set that features David Carradine having dinner with stars/friends from these two films and the "Kung Fu" series. (See the Comments for more details on other bonus features and special guest stars, including Harrison Ford!).
Also, I feel like this review has become too long in my efforts to answer questions. Therefore, I am going to cut my other updates and place them in a comment. For first time readers, these comments deal with the following: film format and transfer quality for each season; languages and subtitles for the episodes and extra features; the fact that the discs are double sided; more on how the series is packaged; and, bonus features (rather than listing them here). I sincerely apologize if this is an inconvenience for some, but if you look at the comments you will understand just how long this review was getting.
June 14, 2009: I have deleted my response to the individual whose comments have been once again removed by Amazon, as they were out of place without that person's comments. If you wish to read them, I have saved them and would be happy to send them to you--just go to my Profile to get my email address. And thanks to everyone for making this my most successful, albeit declining in popularity vote percentages. Regardless, if my review sparks interests, then it has achieved one of my objectives.
If this review was not helpful to you, I would appreciate learning the reason(s) so I can improve my reviews. My goal is to provide help to potential buyers, not get into any arguments. So, if you only disagree with my opinion, could you please say so in the comments and not indicate that the review was not helpful. Thanks.