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Paul Lawrence Smith is among the great unsung heroes of American cinema -- a metaphorical beast of a man if his casting is to be believed. His version of Bluto, from the 1980 Robert Altman-helmed Popeye film endures, as does his portrayal of the Beast Rabban in the 1984 silver screen realization of Dune (stunted as the film was, compared to the book from which it springs).

The mass of a man was born in 1939, and his imposing visage first graced the screen twenty-one years later in an uncredited role as a Jewish prisoner in Exodus. Most of his 50+ roles to come after that rolled out in the 1970s, with the next largest swath coming in the 80s (roles outside that pair of decades can be counted on one hand). In 1978's Midnight Express, he is the brutal Turkish prison guard Hamidou, who dies while preparing to sodomize the star prisoner. In the following year's Return of the Tiger, Paul sort of does kung fu (thanks to some slow motion camera work), and tries to whale on Bruce Lee with a wagon wheel. No really.

But his most enduring images must come from his 80s triumphs. Lest we forget, Popeye was basically a musical, and Paul sang like a.... well, like a big burly guy with a growling voice. And in Dune, he flew around and laughed like a redheaded madman. And don't forget his roles as an oddly nerdy Falkon in Red Sonja (it's the beard, folks), and as his usual self as Surbus in Gor. Let's face frank facts folks. The movies need their villains, and someone who can do it with an almost endearing level of menacing growl and glare is a boon to the craft. So I say let us salute Paul L. Smith, and give him the credit a good villain is due.

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