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Tag Archive: Ricardo Montalban


The best production of 50 years of Star Trek, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, returned to theaters Sunday for two screenings nationwide, and audiences packed theaters from coast to coast.  The 35th anniversary of the biggest summer of movies continues Wednesday with your last chance to see 1982’s The Wrath of Khan back on the big screen as Paramount Pictures partners with the Fathom Events series once more.  We couldn’t wait to see it again and saw the first screening Sunday and were quickly reminded why the film was such a success.  What were my takeaway thoughts this time through the film?  Leonard Nimoy’s voice echoed throughout the theater with every line (was this his finest work as Spock?).  Kirstie Alley’s Lieutenant Saavik fits right in as the new crewmember.  The lengths director and screenplay writer Nicholas Meyer took to make the Enterprise look like a functioning military vessel:  from the boatswain’s whistle, to the formality of the uniforms and ship inspection by Admiral Kirk, the pulsating real-world sound effects of the two competing vessels, and the military tactics and trickery as Khan and Kirk try to one-up the other that always connects this film for me to another favorite, The Hunt for Red October.  William Shatner was so cocky and confident.  Tightly edited action sequences, camera angles placing the audience inside the bridge and into every nook and cranny inside the Enterprise (Turbolift doesn’t work? Let’s take the ladder), and James Horner’s unforgettable and unique musical score.  And it was fun for me to think back of all the people who made this film that I have had the good fortune to meet, like Shatner, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Walter Koenig.  Each of these actors seem to have done their best work in this film.

What surprised me?  After watching Sunday’s screenings I heard remarks from viewers about how many new scenes they did not remember, and this was echoed across the Internet, including comments from long-time Star Trek fans and insiders.  But it makes perfect sense–unless you are a rabid Star Trek fan, you probably didn’t track all the variations in the film that have been released over the past 35 years.  If you have a photographic memory at all, you may hear lines in this week’s presentation that don’t quite match up.  But if you only saw the film in theaters or via early DVD and Blu-ray releases, you will have seen different versions of the film (for one example, the original cut didn’t include the current title, instead it was Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, without the II).  If you watched the expanded ABC TV movie re-broadcast on television in 1985–as many did before the prevalence of home video options–you saw a version different from the 1982 release, full of entirely different takes of several scenes.  In 2002 a Director’s Edition was released, and if you saw the film recently at all, but before 2016’s official Director’s Cut, then you probably last saw the Director’s Edition.  The differences from what was scripted and filmed and what made the original theatrical version alone literally fills ten pages of Allan Asherman’s 1982 book The Making of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but even that book of course couldn’t include the differences found in the much later ABC TV version and subsequent editions.  The version in theaters this week is the official 2016 Director’s Cut, itself absorbing so many modifications from the original 1982 release from prior incarnations.  But this is the final, the version Nicholas Meyer (the reputed “Man Who Saved Star Trek”) discussed with me in my interview with him here at borg.com last month.

Wait–What’s going on here?  I don’t remember this scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan! (Keep reading!)

So if you recall a more suggestive relationship between Kirk and Kirstie Alley’s Lieutenant Saavik, or sensed a romantic relationship brewing between Saavik and Kirk’s son David (played by the late Merritt Butrick), you won’t notice that so much in the Fathom Events presentation (below you’ll see the ABC TV version offered more “steamy” close-ups and additional dialogue amplifying the more womanizing Kirk of the original series).  If you don’t recall that Scotty has a young relative aboard the Enterprise, be prepared for a pleasant surprise, including some great additions featuring Kirk and Scotty.  The midshipman’s (played by Ike Eisenmann) death is more poignant in the latest cut, and an entire sequence between McCoy and Kirk gets us further into Kirk’s thoughts in the aftermath of Khan’s attack.  A conversation about ego between Spock and Alley adds further justification for Kirk’s actions as he taunts Khan into the nebula.

Newspaper advertisement for the 1985 ABC television presentation of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

But do you recall seeing a child in Khan’s crew on Ceti Alpha V?  McCoy mentioning he served with Paul Winfield’s Captain Terrell?  How about McCoy operating on Chekov after he returns from the Genesis planet and Chekov struggling to return to help on the bridge?  Sulu’s promotion to the Excelsior, or Kirk’s final line, quoting Peter Pan’s “first star on the right, and on ’til morning”?  That Saavik is half-Romulan?  David besting Kirk and holding a knife to his throat?  How about these lines from Khan:

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We’re back today with the second part of my interview with Nicholas Meyer, director, screenwriter, and storyteller, as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and its return to theaters next month as part of the Fathom Events series.  Meyer directed Star Trek II and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and he was a screenwriter on both movies as well as Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  He chatted with me about his films and more this past week.  If you missed part one of the interview, check it out here.

CB:  You’ve written words spoken on-screen by Lawrence Olivier (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution), David Warner (Time After Time, Star Trek VI), and Christopher Plummer (Star Trek VI).  Are there any other great actors you maybe fantasize, or would like to write, dialogue for?

NM:  I’ve also worked with Jason Robards and John Lithgow (both in The Day After).  I’ve worked with some really wonderful actors.  Fantasizing about working with actors is interesting.  When I listened to the Chandos recording of the music from Henry V–the Olivier film with Christopher Plummer reciting or acting out the various Shakespeare vocal parts–I thought, “Wow, I’d really love to work with this man.”  And I wrote the part of Chang in Star Trek VI specifically for him.  That’s the first time I’ve ever written for an actor other than the Star Trek cast.  I said to my casting director Mary Jo Slater, “Whatever you do, don’t come back without him.  Because there’s no movie unless it’s him.”  It would take me longer than this conversation to rustle around in my brain other actors I’d love to work with–Benedict Cumberbatch–sure, of course.

Nicholas Meyer directing the production crew, with Christopher Plummer as General Chang, on the Klingon courtroom set of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

CB:  Your Time After Time co-star Malcolm McDowell joined Star Trek in the seventh movie in the series, Star Trek Generations, after you were no longer with the franchise, and it always seemed to me to be an obvious choice to get him into the Star Trek universe.  Did he ever contact you about taking on a Star Trek role?

NM:  No… we never discussed it.  David Warner, who actually has been in two Star Trek movies (as Chancellor Gorkon in The Undiscovered Country and St. John Talbot in Star Trek V: The Final Fronter), was the great post-war Hamlet with the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company), and I think Malcolm at one point was a spear carrier in that company at the time when David was this huge star.  In Time After Time they used to kid each other about those times.  Something about carrying a pack of cigarettes under your costume.

CB:  You have said you see yourself first as a writer and have been writing and telling stories since you were five years old.  Are you as excited today to sit down and craft a story as you were in 1982?

NM:  I think when I get going the answer is yes, and if it’s going well the answer is yes, and the hours can go by and I look up and it’s a week later.  But as I’ve gotten older, the process of actually starting, of facing what used to be a blank page, which is now a blank screen, having done it again and again and again…  Most of the stuff I’ve written has never been produced.  Most of the stuff I’ve written for books I’m happy to say has been published, but I haven’t written that many books.  But most of my screenplays–including probably my best screenplays–have never been done.  So as you get older and you embark on this again and again and again there is a kind of a weariness of picking up the yoke and putting it on your shoulders.  That said, getting paid for telling stories beats work any day.

On the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Engineering set, that’s Catherine E. Coulson (later Twin Peaks’ Log Lady) with the camera, director Nicholas Meyer (in Starfleet captain’s jacket) and James Doohan as Scotty, filming the emotional finale.

CB:  In your memoir The View From the Bridge, you mentioned some of your best ideas or solutions when writing come while doing laundry, while in the tub, or even building a model boat.  What was your biggest revelation and strangest place you found it?

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Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan–a member of that fabled Class of 1982’s “best summer of movies”–turned 35 this year, and to celebrate, the film is returning to theaters as part of the Fathom Events series.  It has been said the film’s director and screenplay writer Nicholas Meyer saved Star Trek.  Meyer was well-known as the author of the New York Times bestselling novel The Seven-Per-Cent Solution and its screenplay, which earned him an Oscar nomination, and for directing and writing the screenplay for the fan-favorite, time travel thriller, Time After Time.  After the lukewarm response at the box office to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, executive producer Harve Bennett tapped Meyer to take the franchise in a bold, new direction, and the result, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, became the best reviewed film of the franchise and a classic among all science fiction.  Many details about Meyer’s work have been recounted in Allan Asherman’s The Making of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Meyer’s own memoir, The View from the Bridge.  Meyer has also shared a trove of his thoughts and work on the film in director commentaries accompanying the film’s various home releases.  He’s not quite finished with Star Trek yet–he’s back again as a writer and producer on the new series, Star Trek: Discovery, premiering next month.

I was ecstatic to interview Nicholas Meyer this past week and listen to him reminisce as director and screenwriter of The Wrath of Khan for the approaching anniversary theatrical release, and ask him questions I’ve had for years about his long writing career.  Meyer sees himself first as a storyteller.  In addition to The Wrath of Khan, he wrote the screenplay for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and he directed and wrote the screenplay for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  I think you’ll discover—or rediscover—that in Meyer’s selections of leading stage and screen actors like Christopher Plummer, Meyer provided gravitas to the Star Trek universe, and by infusing classical literature into the voices of characters from the likes of Shakespeare, Doyle, and Melville, he elevated Star Trek’s story beyond mere popular science fiction.  Everything that would come after The Wrath of Khan in the Star Trek franchise exists as a direct result of Meyer’s success on that film.

Director Nicholas Meyer observing final detail work as Ricardo Montalban’s headwrap is applied, filming the first appearance of Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

CB:  Welcome to borg.com.  Thanks for chatting with me and borg.com readers today and congratulations on the 35th anniversary of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

NM:  Thank you so much.  It’s a real pleasant surprise—As Kirk said to Scotty, “That’ll be a pleasant surprise.”

CB:  Let’s talk about Ricardo Montalban as Khan.  I have always loved this line: “I’ll chase him ‘round the Moons of Nibia and ‘round the Antares Maelstrom and ‘round Perdition’s flames.”  When you write something like that, do you know that you’ve got it, and when you see Montalban saying it and it appears on the screen, do you get any satisfaction of seeing that all come together?

NM:  Absolutely!  I have to say, first of all, I didn’t write it.  Herman Melville wrote it.  I substituted a few planets or something.  This is all Ahab.  I just cribbed it.  I remember with some satisfaction what I took to be at the time my cleverness (which turns out to be the curse of Kirk: “I patted myself on the back for my cleverness”).  It wasn’t until I saw Ricardo actually do it that I got goosebumps, and thought, “Holy cow.  This is wonderful!”  And I said to him actually at some point during the movie, “You really should be playing Lear.”  He sort of looks like Lear–with a big set of pecs.  Because he has been on stage, he was on Broadway, he did legit plays.  He was very touched, I think, that I had told him this, and he made some disparaging remark about his Hispanic accent.  I said, “That’s all bullshit.  You enunciate perfectly.  You could do this.”  I think Khan was as close as he ever got to doing it.

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Khan crew image

One of the greatest all-time sci-fi villains and best productions of the 50 years of Star Trek is coming back to the theaters this summer.  The 35th anniversary of the biggest year of movies continues, with the 1982 masterpiece Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan hitting theaters across the country as Paramount Pictures partners with the Fathom Events series.  It is the sequel not only to Star Trek: The Motion Picture but a direct follow-up to the original series episode “Space Seed” starring the incomparable Ricardo Montalban–and his Khan has remained the unchallenged best villain in the franchise ever since.  Initially Montalban envisioned his character as a brash, over-the-top, shouting image of villainy, but director Nicholas Meyer took Montalban aside to coax from him his iconic, sinewy, scarily subdued personification of the Klingon proverb, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

The legendary test of character for a Starfleet officer, the Kobayashi Maru, and the death of the entire Enterprise bridge crew revealed in only the first minutes…  A ship full of trainees…  An experiment called Genesis…  Where Jaws prompted us to fear water everywhere, The Wrath of Khan made us fear anything crawling into our ears.  Kirstie Alley as Lieutenant Saavik…  Paul Winfield as Captain Terrell…  Ike Eisenmann as Scotty’s ill-fated nephew…  Who would have guessed James T. Kirk had a son?  The most emotional of scenes of the series as Spock says goodbye to Kirk…  And with all the new faces, the familiar ones were back again, at the top of their acting game: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Walter Koenig…  All rounded out with a score by James Horner and the most memorable of uniform styles for our heroes created by Robert Fletcher.

But you already knew that, right?

“Making Star Trek II seems like only yesterday,” Shatner said announcing the theatrical re-release.  “Even back then, we knew we were creating something really special, and to have The Wrath of Khan back on the big screen 35 years later is a wonderful testament both to the film itself and to the incredible passion of Star Trek fans.”  *Don’t miss our borg.com interview with The Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer here.

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Harve Bennett

Producer and writer Harve Bennett passed away February 25 in Oregon, two days before Leonard Nimoy.  Fans of the Star Trek films credited Bennett with resurrecting not only the franchise with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but with the idea of resurrecting Ricardo Montalban as the show’s charismatic villain.  Bennett served as an active force behind four Star Trek films, and we actually get to see Bennett in front of the camera as an admiral briefly in a conversation with Captain Kirk in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

Bennett was also responsible for talking Leonard Nimoy into staying with the franchise by agreeing to kill off Spock in Star Trek II.  Bennett was executive producer and co-developed the story for that film, and then went on to write the script for and produce Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.  Along with Nimoy, Bennett came up with the “save the whales” theme of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, serving as producer on the film as well.

Bennett’s voice was used for a flight recorder in Star Trek III, but his most far-reaching contribution was not that voice work, but his seven memorable words at the beginning of each weekly episode of The Six Million Dollar Man before Richard Anderson utters his “we have the technology” lines:

Steve Austin, astronaut, a man barely alive.

The Six Million Dollar Man was one of the most popular shows of the 1970s, watched by millions of viewers each week for its five season run.

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Enterprise from Into Darkness

Review by C.J. Bunce

After more trailers than we can count, more minutes of screen-time revealed in advance, and more advertising and hype than any Star Trek film in recent memory, Star Trek Into Darkness is not only better than you’ve heard, it’s the best Star Trek movie since Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  Considering all my fellow uber-Trek fan friends had more negative to say than positive on this 12th motion picture entry, I was scratching my head to try to figure why this was the most fun I’ve had watching a movie in years–or maybe why they didn’t have as much fun as me.

Star Trek, the Original Series, is pretty much sacred, and not only sacred, its sacrosanct in the eyes of loyal fans, so J.J. Abrams was taking a risk by getting his claws into the franchise in 2009’s Star Trek.  When I read that he was taking on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan material specifically, I thought he was just plain nuts.  But then I asked myself, if I had the keys to the candy store what would I do if I wanted to make my mark on the franchise?  Bring back Christopher Lloyd’s Klingon Commander Kruge or Ricardo Montalban’s regal Khan?  Kill off a main character?  Abrams did just what any of us would love to do, and I expect, this should set our expectations for what he will do with the third trilogy of the Star Wars franchise, which will have a much larger international audience and implications for Abrams’ own future.

STID

As a viewer well-versed in the minutia of Star Trek, I expected to nitpick this film to death when walking into the theater and actually put off watching the film instead of seeing it on opening weekend like I had historically viewed the past films back to Star Trek VI.  But not 15 minutes into the movie, when Kirk is being scolded by Admiral Christopher Pike (played deftly again by Bruce Greenwood) for violating the prime directive and then rightfully demoted, I was reeled into a cleverly twisting plot that delivered the goods at every level with a non-stop, action packed thrill ride that also managed to offer some of the best characterization for key roles than has been given to them in any prior Star Trek film, period.

Take for instance Simon Pegg’s Scotty.  Not since the TV series was Scotty given the opportunity to play a key role in the story of a Trek film.  Here he plants the seeds not as the throwaway silly Scottish chap, but as the moral voice for the film.  Karl Urban’s Bones similarly gets many lines–good lines– and we learn something about him other than his “wait a damn minute” grunting, which was all we ever saw from him in Star Trek: The Motion Picture through Star Trek VI.  We learn for example that he once gave a C section to a pregnant Gorn (with octuplets).  And that they bite.  Awesome!  This sheds some light on why he later would try to work on the dying Klingon ambassador in Star Trek VI.  And someone finally, onscreen, calls out Bones for his repeated metaphors.

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The Prop Store (formerly the Prop Store of London) had a great booth at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, with a wall full of production-made and screen-used props and costumes.  The most recognizable to sci-fi fans is probably this nice condition Uhura dress from the original Star Trek season 1 or 2.  (I am assuming they have good provenance for this one as a real Nichelle Nichols’ Uhura costume or they wouldn’t have it on display, but you couldn’t see any tags from its display to tell just by looking).  It also has appropriate arm rank braids and William Ware Theiss’s unique sunburst design.  A pretty costume in person!

 

Uhura costumes of any variety are rare, as they didn’t change her wardrobe throughout the series and movies as much as her male counterparts.  This piece was not for sale at Comic-Con but on display from a recent buyer.  Here is a close-up of the delta patch:

The Prop Store representatives told me they try to sell a shirt at their booth that matches something on display, and this year’s shirt is appropriate and clever (see top of article above)–“Comic Khan 2011”.  And here is the Khan vest on display from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, one of my favorite films I saw in the theatre as a kid:

Definitely a rare and a sought after style because of Khan’s position as the best villain of the Star Trek universe.  But if you can afford the $30-35,000 for this vest (I heard two different sale amounts), you can afford to wait for the studio to sell off its studio pieces one day, or for the buyer from a previous Profiles of History auction to put his/her more complete costume set on the market again.  For this kind of money a buyer should examine the piece in person and make certain he/she knows what he/she is getting.  My concerns with the jacket at this price level:

  • I think the Prop Store piece is a back-up piece that may not have made it to filming.  The piece is incredibly clean compared to screenshots, as if it was a back-up that was not used, and not completely distressed with singe and wear marks from early scenes (the character was supposedly wearing this for years in the story) or blood and battle damage from later scenes, or it has been extensively cleaned.  Yes, it has the cut marks that match both the screencaps and other costumes that have surfaced, but other details of distressing are missing.  My money is on it being a back-up, since, for example, you can see from handling other outfits from the same scene–the Khan crew outfits–that the distressing used for even background pieces is not something that could just be washed off.  Those marks are painted or dyed and they are permanent.  
  • The Prop Store piece includes no typical indicia of a hero piece.  Is it rare and clearly identifiable for the character of Khan?  You bet.  But my understanding is this piece has no sewn tag stating Ricardo Montalban’s name, indicating to me you cannot unquestionably state it is more than a stunt Khan piece.  Every Khan crewmen costume I have seen has a clear sewn in tag with the name of the actor or actress.  This has a paper tag (with name misspelled, which can be found on even confirmed costumes from time to time), but these are easily created, and do not establish provenance.  Still cool and rare, just no proof offered of it being a “hero” piece worthy of such a hefty price tag. 

This Prop Store piece is the fifth Khan costume lot we’ve seen publicly.  The studio owns two versions it uses for its Star Trek tour, and Profiles in History sold one in 2002 that appears from photos to match closer to movie screencaps, and contains the several collateral decorative pieces–key pieces that in my view make the outfit, including the necklace made from a destroyed Starfleet belt buckle–the coolest part of the whole costume.  (I haven’t seen these close enough to know whether these are real, replicas, heroes or stunts, but believe at a minimum the Profiles sale lot is the real thing).  Here is the 2002 sale lot:

Here are the two from the Star Trek tours:

Profiles in History sold a different Khan costume last year, a neat mask and turban set from Khan’s opening scene (notably with clear labels stating “Ricardo Montalban” and “Kahn” (sic).  This Prop Store vest makes number five.  Are there more Khan pieces out there?  Could be.  But more items surfacing should drive the price down, not up. 

The Prop Store would do well to have someone like Tom Spina make a creative display for it as he did with the recent Profiles in History opening scene Khan mask and turban set, which although not used for the entirety of the movie, displays much better compared to the piece on display at Comic-Con.  On its simple black half form, the Prop Store vest looked sort of like an old, yellow, velour consignment shop piece from the 1970s compared to how cool it should display. 

The Khan piece I’d like to get my hands on?  Khan’s necklace or his slick metal accented gloves, one of which sold through Profiles in History in 2002 with the mask and turban set that sold last year without the glove:

Ultimately, I think Khan is univerally the best Trek villain because of Ricardo Montalban’s voice and charismatic acting, not his costume.  I don’t think this costume is intrinsically cool, especially after viewing this in person, as are so many other costumes in the Star Trek universe.  And for the asking price, you could buy a whole bridge crew of Klingons or Romulans.  More bang for the buck, in my view.

But Prop Store had more than just Star Trek on display (although that would have been enough).  They also had this superb Abe Sapien latex mask from Hellboy II: The Golden Army:

Abe Sapien is one of the best creatures in one of the best comic book film franchises, created by the great Mike Mignola.

They also displayed several other pieces such as prop weapons, a lot from Gladiator, and pieces from Pan’s Labyrinth, the Terminator series, the Raiders of the Lost Ark series and Superman II.  And last but not least was this beautiful, recognizable head of our favorite golden protocol droid, C-3PO from The Empire Strikes Back.  A great mask no matter how you slice it.

 

The Prop Store sells props and costumes from its Los Angeles and UK offices, via its website at www.propstore.com   I look forward to seeing what they have on display next year!

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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