Okay… it’s not quite halfway through January and we’re already off to a rip-roaring start on the 2009 death roll. I am profoundly saddened by today’s two passings.
Patrick McGoohan’s “The Prisoner” is, bar none, my favorite television show ever. It’s cerebral, silly, surreal, and spectacular, and it’s all McGoohan. It’s one of those moments where someone who was a fairly big star in a certain medium seized control of his career and made something incredibly personal. And the results really hold up. If you’re not familiar with “The Prisoner,” you should be. And McGoohan’s presence in the new TV version and the proposed feature film adaptation will be undeniably missed.
And Ricardo Montalban… I mean, how can you even sum that guy’s charisma up in words? I just the other day read a great piece by Pauline Kael in which she was talking about his iconic work in “Star Trek 2: Wrath Of Khan,” and she was lamenting the fact that Hollywood never figured out how to make Montalban a star the way he should have been. He could sing, he could dance, he was great in comedy and drama, and he projected such a ridiculous machismo that it seems beyond belief that he was always relegated to supporting roles. We’ve come a long way in terms of racial equality in casting, but we failed this titan. He will be missed, no question, but I wish he’d been treated better in his prime. I’ll leave you with some of Kael’s words on him:
“Montalban is unquestionably a star in ‘The Wrath of Khan’ (and his grand manner seems to send a little electric charge through Shatner). As a graying superman who, when foiled, cries out to Kirk, ‘From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee!,’ Montalban may be the most romantic smoothie of sci-fi villains. Khan’s penchant for quoting Melville and Milton (which goes back to ‘Space Seed’) doesn’t hurt. And that great chest of Montalban’s is reassuring. He looks like an Inca priest. He’s still champing at the bit, eager to act: he plays his villainy to the hilt, smiling grimly as he does the dirty. Montalban’s performance doesn’t show a trace of ‘Fantasy Island.’ It’s all panache; if he isn’t wearing feathers in his hair you see them there anyway. You know how you always want to laugh at the flourishes that puncuate the end of the flamenco dance and the dancers won’t let you? Montalban does.”
What a miserable day at the start of a year.