Ricardo Montalban will always be Khan to me

Wrathkhanricardomontalba_lThe late Ricardo Montalban had a titanic career — spanning some 60-odd years — during which the Mexican actor kicked up his heels in MGM musicals and granted wishes on Fantasy Island, set the stage for ape rebellions and tangled with men from U.N.C.L.E, swung with nighttime soap stars and lent his voice to Family Guy. It doesn’t matter than he won an Emmy (for 1978’s How the West Was Won) or was nominated for a Tony (for 1958’s Jamaica)…to me, he will always be Khan.

He will always be Captain Kirk’s finest foe, the would-be conqueror who first tried to steal the Enterprise in the classic Star Trek episode "Space Seed" and then finally robbed Kirk of his best friend in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Montalban’s magnetic, robust presence; that voice that sounded like a ride over rolling hills — he made Khan Noonien Singh the worst kind of despot: the kind you’re pretty sure you’d die for. The product of a Eugenics program that rendered him stronger and smarter than the average bear, Khan was a tragic figure — the man who would not be denied, born into a world that did nothing buy deny him his birthright — and that tragedy is part of what lifts Star Trek II to an almost Shakespearean level.

Some may choose to remember Montalban as the benign Mr. Roarke, with his white suit and diminutive assistant, teaching life lessons on a mystical island resort, or as the suave movie star romancing Shirley Maclaine in Sweet Charity, helping teach her the ways of the world. Me? I will always remember him, teeth gritted, quoting Moby Dick as he hurls one final benediction toward Admiral Kirk: "To the last, I will grapple with thee…from Hell’s heart, I stab at thee! For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee!"

Not the warmest sentiment, I know, but fitting nevertheless.

addCredit(“Everett Collection”)

Comments (81 total) Add your comment
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  • Mr. Williams

    The news is very sad indeed – he will be missed. Ricardo played Khan to such a perfection – making him one of the greatest fictional villains of all time.

  • B Ro

    Can only hope somewhere Shatner is shouting KKKKAAAAAAAAAHHHHHNNNN!!!

  • Mr.G

    Amen! Nicely written. Yes, Mr. Montalban will always be Khan to me as well.

  • Brad

    What made Khan so memorable was the way he, more than the Klingons or Romulans before him, came the closest to taking out Kirk and his crew in the Space Seed episode. Without the Wrath of Khan, would they now be trying to bring Star Trek back to the big screen in May?

  • Dean

    And that was his real chest in Khan. God bless him. He was such a fine man and a great actor. I hoped this day would never come.

    • Ricardom

      you should have seen his chest when he was younger ( abaut 30-50 y/o it was written ” Best Giganticchest in movie History” !! no more no less

  • StarTrekLives Michael

    “You still remember. I cannot help but be touched. I, on the other hand, remember YOU……”

  • mikey

    I agree that Khan was his best character, but feel the need to point out that Mr. Roarke was far from a benign wish granter. Behind the pineapple-cup hoist and the seemingly warm “Smiles, Everyone. Smiles!” toast lurked a very dangerous man that you did not want to cross. Guests who had secrets or ulterior motives tied to their fantasies or questioned his methods found themselves in far darker places than they bargained for.
    Even when he played it for comedy as in The Naked Gun, I can think of no one who has brought the combination of charm and malice to a character on the scale of Ricardo Montalban.

  • Tammy

    Marc I completely agree with you. Montalban really elevated that movie (actually, he stole it)to not only the absolute, bottom line best of the Star Trek series, but one of the best Sci-Fi films ever. However, my favorite line of that film is “Revenge is a dish that is best served cold. It is very cold in space.”
    RIP Mr. Montalban – we will miss your talent, style and warmth.

  • ks

    The best Trek bad guy ever! he stole the show! he will be dearly missed by me. I always loved the line “we are all one big happy fleet” and “aft torpedo’s-fire, damn you” RIP

  • Gary Earl Ross

    Just yesterday I was quoting to one of my classes Khan’s quoting Ahab near the end of ST II. Absolutely, he will always be Khan, one of the best villains ever, anywhere. Of course, we mustn’t forget his turn as Vincent Ludwig, who tries to have Reggie Jackson assassinate Queen Elizabeth in The Naked Gun. The look on his face when he pulls from his fish tank a pen-speared lionfish (the work of Leslie Neilsen’s Frank Drebbin) is priceless. Vaya con Dios, Mr. Montalban.

  • Randy Greenberg

    Tammy, you’re right on the money. Best of the Trek series movies, and BEST line of the movie. Also, “I wish to hurt you…and KEEP hurting you.” I also hope that Shatner is shouting “KKKKHHHHAAAAANNNNNN!!!!!” someplace. :)

  • John

    You can read all about how big a scumbag he was at http://brokencountry.com

  • wg

    Well said/written. RIP Mr. Montalban. And thank you – for Khan and Mr. Roarke and so many other greats.

  • Son of Khan

    Revenge is a dish that is best served cold…and it is very cold…in space.

  • Tony

    Oh, he was such an amazing actor. He will be missed!

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