With all the tumult and hubbub accompanying the upcoming holidays, let's not forget the birthday (Nov 25) of one of cinema's greatest actors--Ricardo Montalban! Though best known for his leading role as Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island and as spokesperson for Chrysler Motors (seducing us with the lure of "rich Corinthian leather"), Montalban has a humongous archive of work stretching back to the 1940s. Here are three fine examples proving once and for all that Montalban is OH! So muy caliente.

• Battleground (1949)--This way ahead of its time war flick tells the tough-as-nails tale of a squadron of 101st Airborne Division grunts trapped in the city of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. Our man Ricardo plays the plucky Pvt. Johnny Rodriguez, who gives the finger to those goose-stepping krauts who are trying to get our boys to surrender. A terrific script and beautiful b&w cinematography highlight one of the best of the battle films.

• Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)--Ricardo makes monkey magic in this fourth installment of the Apes series, in which he plays Armando, the handler for the talking chimp Caesar. After witnessing how earthlings treat monkeys like pets, Caesar opens his fat trap in a crowd of humans, dropping both himself and Armando in the soup. Caesar escapes and leads a rebellion against the humans, while poor Armando tosses himself out a window rather than finking out his little monkey buddy. Montalban is brilliant as usual.

Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (1982)--I'm utterly convinced that Ricardo Montalban saved the entire Star Trek movie franchise with this deliciously juicy portrayal of Kirk's arch-nemesis, Khan. Based on the 1967 episode, "Space Seed," Khan returns to kick Kirk's ass once and for all, leaving him to croak on a deserted planet, screaming at the heavens, "KHAAAAAAAAAANN!" Though Shatner is good, when it comes to scenery chewing, Ricardo is nearly impossible to compete with (especially when he's wearing a furry vest that shows off his awesome pecs). WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY