He is the most unlikely member of the entire Pantheon of Plastic, and he rounds out the first 5. His entry to the Pantheon is a triumph for every hulking Brummy writer determined to honour their roots. Boys and girls, I give you the fifth inductee into the Pantheon of Plastic, in 1984, it is Pat Roach!
Birmingham native Patrick Roach made a name for himself throwing down with Giant Haystacks, Big Daddy and other legendary figures of the UK wrestling scene. It was Stanley Kubrick who first put him on-screen, in Clockwork Orange and then again in Barry Lyndon, and this track record got him on-set for Spielberg’s 1981 pulp homage. Roach features in the only set-piece fight scene in the film, which stands out for its great storytelling and Harrison Ford’s wincing, grimacing performance. His hulking, terrifying presence is all the more impressive for coming pretty much out of nowhere. He’s not the henchman of the main villain, he’s not a vicious recurring enemy, he’s just a dude who was at his job when some foreigner starts causing trouble on his patch. And, one senses, this German mechanic quite enjoys stopping trouble. The battle is hair-raising and builds up to one of the most memorable demises in 1980s cinema. Roach uses scant minutes of screen-time to make an indelible impression.
Spielberg brought Roach back for the Indy sequel (and again for the third film, but there’s no action figure of that role). This time they Richard-Attenborough-in-Ghandi’d up his skin and had him playing the fierce guard keeping the boy slaves in check. His role isn’t nearly so memorable this time, not to mention the fact that blacking up seems entirely inappropriate these days, but it gave Roach more time to glower and look menacing.
My favourite thing about this figure is that it’s listed in several places as the “giant huggee“. Which, let’s face it, is what everyone wanted to do to gentle giant Roach, particularly for his best-remembered performance of all, as Bomber in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.
Sadly, Roach didn’t survive to appear in the final Auf Wiedersehen special, dying of throat cancer in 2004, aged 67 (Independent obituary).