11 August 2017

Ming the Merciless

Somebody Who Should Know told me that our beloved Holy Father is sometimes known among his Curial fellow-toilers as Ming the Merciless.

The term suggests to me flickering black-and-white adventure movies from the 1930s, long fingernails, improbably droopy moustaches, unimaginable oriental cruelties, opium dens, and all that. Am I on the right lines?

One simply cannot imagine Oriental Cruelties, or even Opium-fuelled Orgies, in Pope Francis' Rome.

Incidentally, apparently the Holy Father, to show that he is not a luxuriating Renaissance Prince, is spending a humble and abstemious August in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Does anyone know whether or not the air-conditioning (vide Laudato si Paragraph whatsit) is on?

Is there any truth in the rumour that the cooler and papally-vacated Castelgandolfo has been made exclusively available to clerical bloggers and their wives?


Fr said...

Apparently, one of the more dour Northern bishops on the Wales and England bench has had the same moniker bestowed upon him amongst by lesser clergy!

Tee Pee Gee Eff said...

Ming the Merciless is the villain of the Flash Gordon movies which are space opera (adventure plus scifi) rather than simple adventure stories. But otherwise your conception is accurate. https://youtu.be/RxFBi3z1i3k

Simon Platt said...

I'm afraid, Father, that you're off target. Ming the merciless was not only a villain, but an alien.

Or are you pulling our leg?

Fr. John said...

Dare we hope for a future Pope Hunwicke?!?!

Viva il Papa!

Calvin Engime said...

Spot-on guess, Father.

I explain here for the benefit of younger viewers that before the advent of television, going to the cinema was often an all-day affair which might include not only one film and adverts beforehand, but two full-length films together with cartoons, the news, and "serials", which consisted of one-reel episodes focusing on the adventures of characters like Zorro or Buck Rogers. If you wanted to know what happened to the hero, you had to come again the next week...

Those who would like to acquaint themselves with the unpleasant character of Emperor Ming can look online for a twelve-episode serial, now out of copyright, called Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, or a feature film cut down from the serial called (don't laugh) Purple Death From Outer Space. Ming seemed to have died in the last episode of the previous series, but no explanation is offered for the apparent rupture...here, he conspires to develop a deadly toxin that will affect only those intelligent enough to oppose him. These aired on U.S. television, and some may recognise their influence on a film from that time called Star Wars, especially in the facetious designation "Episode IV" and written explanation of what had happened in the episodes you missed.

Rodrigo said...

Close, Father. Despite the name and the visage, Ming is actually the usurper tyrant who rules over the planet Mongo with an iron fist. The whole of the planet is under his vise, save for some rebel kingdoms, one of which is populated by Lion-Men. Sounds about right.

Mr. Janney said...

Ming the Merciless was the villain of the Flash Gordon television series that ran in the mid 1950s.

Woody said...


John Vasc said...

Involuntarily coming to mind are some scenes from 'Round the Horne' featuring the fiendish oriental mastermind, Dr Choo En Ginsberg, MA (Failed), played by Kenneth Williams.
'Ah, Horne!'
'Ah, Choo!'
'Bless you!'

I recall that the good Doctor's concubine, Lotus Blossom, was played by Hugh Paddick, with no semblance of female impersonation and a gruff, weary, cockney bass voice.

They'd both be cardinals today, no doubt.

Exsollertan said...

The Emporer Ming the Merciless was the villain in the Flash Gordon movies, Father. The character you describe sounds more like Fu Manchu, another villain and just as good fun!

John Ahern said...

Dear Father Hunwicke:

Some idle questions,.

Do we know whether His Holiness's colleagues employ the phrase "Ming the Merciless" in English?

In Italian it might be "Ming lo Spietato." "Spietato", however, loses the apposite connection with "mercy"/"misericordia."

Is it mainly native speakers of English who use this title?

When translated into Italian, how do the many comics, films etc. in which Ming figures so prominently render "merciless"?

In other words, is it Italians or English speakers who made the connection?