Sunday, September 4, 2022


Check out Your Humble Narrator's short article, online at Phoenix Magazine, about the upcoming TCM/Fathom Events revival of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan at select AMC Theatres on Sunday, September 4, Monday September 5 and Thursday September 8...

...and also of the showing of Nosferatu at the Orpheum Theatre here in Phoenix next Tuesday.

It's bad enough that Nosferatu is marking its centennial this year, but it's really irksome that Wrath of Khan is being shown in observance of its fortieth anniversary. Wrath of Khan is forty freakin' years old.

I have a bit of personal history with this film. My review of Wrath of Khan was the first movie review of mine ever to appear in a daily newspaper, the Erie Times-News. I was twenty years old, and had been submitting my work to the editors there for a while without success. My break came because the regular reviewer disliked sci-fi, and horror, and action pictures, and pretty much any kind of movie in which, as he liked to put it, "the dialogue appears in word balloons over the characters' heads."

Needless to say, I was more than happy to relieve him of this beat, and Wrath of Khan was my first opportunity to do so. I dragged my then-girlfriend to it at the Strand on 10th Street in Erie. I think she was a little taken aback at how much I responded to it. She knew I was a nerd; she didn't know I was that much of a nerd.

Forty years later, it's still a favorite of mine. All these years, however, I've had a complaint about the movie, and I doubt there will be a better occasion than now to air it. But it involves a moment at the very climatic moment of the film, so if you've never seen it, and want to discover it for yourself, consider this a MAJOR SPOILER warning.

Okay, for those still reading: Near the end of Wrath of Khan, Kirk's titular nemesis, grandly played by Ricardo Montalban, is dying aboard the starship Reliant, scarred by radiation burns, but still lashing out at Kirk by trying to detonate the Genesis Device, spewing Ahab's invective toward Moby-Dick all the while. Meanwhile Kirk, aboard the Enterprise, and his crew are frantically trying to regain warp speed so that they can escape the blast zone. The director, Nicholas Meyer, cuts between the two vessels, with Khan's crazed, disfigured face gleefully watching the Enterprise on his viewscreen.

At the last second, of course, warp speed is attained, and the Enterprise zips away to safety as the Reliant explodes behind her. Yay, the good guys win; all is well, except...Meyer doesn't cut to a reaction shot so that we can see Khan register, in that final second, that Kirk has defeated him once and for all.

I've never understood this omission. Everything about the way the scene is shot and edited up to that point seems to set up such a reaction shot, maybe even a final "NOOOOO!" from Montalban. It would have been the perfect payoff to Kirk's much-parodied roar of "KHAAAAAN!" earlier in the film.

I'm well aware that the reason for the dissatisfaction I feel at the lack of this shot has to do with my persistent, spiteful feelings about revenge in melodramas. Khan himself, in this movie, quotes a "Klingon proverb" that "revenge is a dish best served cold," but the innumerable action pictures that end with the bad guy simply being killed leave me cold; they're entirely unsatisfying. Far better that they should live long to wallow in their defeat; at a minimum, they should die knowing that they've lost. There are a few movies that have grasped this: the original Cape Fear, also The Princess Bride among them. But few movies have ever left me hanging in this regard as badly as Wrath of Khan, wonderful as it is.

Was such a shot planned, but never filmed? Was it filmed, but cut for some deliberate reason, or just for time? Did Montalban have to leave early that day? Or was it truly never considered? If I ever get the chance to interview Meyer (no matter what the subject of the interview is supposed to be), these are likely to be the first questions I ask him. Or, by some chance, does the shot exist after all, and is it at last included in the "Director's Cut" being shown at the TCM/Fathom Events revival?

In the meantime, I'll ask you: Am I the only one that ever noticed this or felt this way?


  1. I never noticed the omission; you are right it would be better if such a scene was included. Now it will bother me too! : )