Quien es mas macho…Senor Lamas or Senor Montalban?
That line from an old Saturday Night Live sketch used to make me and my friends laugh to the point that it didn’t even have to be finished.
As it turns out, I think Senor Montalban was the correct answer.
Montalban started acting in the early 40s with the likes of Esther Williams and George Murphy.
So why is he being eulogized here on GonzoGeek? That answer, dear reader(s), is simple.
Thinking back on the career of Senor Montalban, it quickly became apparent that he is a huge star in the universe that is GonzoGeek. How? Read on.
My first exposure to Senor Montalban was, as for so many of us, Fantasy Island. His messianic Mr. Rourke granted wishes to B-list and lower celebrities week after week. With his diminutive side kick, Tattoo, Mr. Rourke was able to send people back in time, end family curses and other acts of magical mystery, all without getting a stain on his immaculate white suit.
Fantasy Island was also where I learned what a hooker was.
Fantasy Island may have been the perfect television vehicle. There was never a shortage of has-beens, nearly-wases, and never wases willing to step off that seaplane and grovel at Roarke’s feet for the chance to have their greatest fantasies fulfilled.
It was during this time that I, like so many of my generation, discovered the Planet of the Apes movies. Montalban shows up in Escape from Planet of the Apes as Armando, the benevolent circus owner who takes in a baby Caesar, saving him from the ugly humans. It is the death of Armando that send Caesar over the edge in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and sends the whole of civiliazation spinning off into Apedom.
Of course, neither of those roles the pinnacle of Senor Montalban’s GonzoGeek cred. No, that honor is reserved for Khan.
All together now…
Senor Montalban appeared in a 1967 episode of the original Star Trek series as Khan Noonien Singh. It seemed to be a throwaway role until Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Its been over 25 years and that movie is still the yardstick by with all Star Trek movies are measured and by which all Star Trek movies come up short.
Bent on revenge for his exile at Kirk’s hands, Khan is the yin to Kirk’s yang and one of the all-time great sci-fi movie villains. It remains, perhaps, Senor Montalban’s finest cinematic moment.
Senor Montalban continued to act into his 80s. A whole new generation of kids was introduced to him when he played the grandfather role in two of Robert Rodriguez’ Spy Kids movies. You know what? He was really good and a solid choice. I totally bought him as Antonio Banderas’ dad. My boys love those movies.
In the interim, Senor Montalban did some good genre voiceover work. He lent his famous voice to Freakazoid, Dora the Explorer and Kim Possible to name a few.
And no discussion of Senor Montalban would be complete without mention of his work as spokesman for the Chrysler Cordoba in the mid-70s. I’m sure his description of the car’s “soft Corinthian leather” sold many units.
So, raise a frosty tropical drink as we celebrate the life of Ricardo Montalban., GonzoGeek icon.
We can only hope that his coffin is lined with rich Corinthian leather and when he reaches the other side Herve Villechaize and Roddy McDowell are ready to drive him to a waiting starship full of talking apes ready to take control of the hereafter.