More than 200 years ago he was a Prince with power over millions. Yet, 33 years ago he returned with a vengeance only to have Kirk take him to task. So this is not about age, and I know it. Like many Trekkie's my age, I enjoy living in the past. Cinematically especially. Star Trek's return to the big screen with "The Motion Picture" in 1979 was not all the Paramount had hoped for. Although profitable (for the time), it met the needs of a few, but not the needs of the many, thereby kicking off the odd numbered curse for the franchise. So, the suits wanted changes, not to mention budget cuts.
Enter Harve Bennett. TV producer extraordinaire. Budget conscious, and creative, Bennett was charged with producing a sequel to the "Slow" Motion Picture. So like any good TV guy, he went back and watched ALL 79 episodes of ST:TOS (The Original Series). That's where Khan Noonien Singh, a genetically enhanced power-mad superman caught his eye. In the TOS episode Space Seed, Kirk and Co. picked up the Botany Bay lost in space from the year 1996 in cryogenic freeze. For an excellent look at how Khan was created, grew to power, left earth, and wound up in the 23rd Century PLEASE read the Eugenics Wars by Trek scribe Greg Cox. Truly one of the best series on the market.
Bennett recognized the gravitas of Ricardo Montalban and the character of Khan which gave us an 80's style quote fest, the action and emotion needed for a space opera such as Star Trek, and one the best death scenes in movie history. Trust me, it's so good that they tried to duplicate it to a tee with the latest Abrams offering Star Trek: Into Darkness. Cumberbatch although commanding, is NO Montalban, and he should have been cast as Garth of Izar. But I digress.
ST: TWOK was produced using plenty of footage originally shot for ST:TMP. Sets and props were repurposed, in fact Space Lab Regula 1 is simply the orbiting space station Kirk beams to and meets Scotty for the Enterprise reveal in TMP only turned "upside down". Further turning Trek on it's ear was director Nicholas Myer, the diamond in the rough who got the best from his performers, and rewrote and the script in under 12 days after early concerns. Another excellent read is Myers own book "A View From the Bridge" about his life with Trek as well as directing both ST:TWOK and ST:TUC. Myers at the time did not have enough clout in Hollywood and actually wanted TWOK to be called "The Undiscovered County", but looking back I'm glad things panned out they way they did.
So 33 years ago this week I actually had to WAIT to see TWOK. We only had 4 screens that showed movies in Washington PA, those being The Mall Twin, a clever two screen theater built beneath the town mall. And Cinema 19, another two screen gem I have spoken about in another post. But, there was also the Route 19 Drive-In, and that is where the folks in Washington decided to premiere the Wrath of Khan for it's first week of release. Now, at 11 years old I did not drive, nor did I appreciate all that could be accomplished at a Drive-In movie at the time, I just wanted to see Star Trek. So I waited. Then about came out of my skull when I saw it would move to Cinema 19 the following week. So with my pal Sal in tow, ( I think his brother Pete went along as well) we got dropped off at the movies to witness awesome.
Since spoiler alerts are a way of life, and today's pervasive media ruins just about everything, sometimes at our own choosing, the only movie secret that had blew my mind at the time was the whole Vader / Skywalker deal. I can still hear the collective gasp of the audience in my mind on opening night for that one. Now Washington PA was a small town at the time (still is in some respects) and we were not privy to many Hollywood rumors. So as we stood outside on a Saturday afternoon waiting for the box office to open, imagine our surprise when an old, skinny, smoking, dirty guy joined us in line and said "Hey, did you hear Spock dies in this movie?" WHAT? I suppose you want to tell the kids behind us something about Santa Claus as well you prick. So if you didn't know this after 33 years, perhaps you can sympathize with the stomach punch I just received from a total stranger. From hell's heart I stab at thee!
Yet, armed with this knowledge I was still able to massively enjoy the film, and I still do today. Although the Ceti Eels did make me sick for the rest of the day. Now, I'm one of those guys who goes back to well, long after many have had enough to drink. As such a person I have seen the Wrath of Khan well over 300 times start to finish. I have committed similar crimes with other films, but amazingly I have moved out of my parents stereotypical basement, I have "Got a Life", (take that Shatner) a wife, and children. Hard to believe we've lost both Leonard Nimoy and Harve Bennett in the same space of time, and Montalban back in 2009. Still my old friends, I love my Star Trek. Paramount has managed to kill just about everything else, but I hope they won't keep missing the target to the point where they no longer need to try. So when I'm having a bad day, even just a few moments of Khan (thanks Netflix) can take me to a far far better rest than I have ever known.
Pass the butter Bryon. Thanks Dove.