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April 28, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

All the King's Men
Blu-ray

Robert Rossen flexes his subversive instincts on an easy target: fiery populist politics as excoriated by Pulitzer Prizewinning author Robert Penn Warren. Brutish Broderick Crawford and the even more intimidating Mercedes McCambridge won Best Acting Oscars for their work in this mad-as-hell indictment of Southern-fried demagoguery, and Rossen collected a Best Picture nod for a movie bitterly critical of America -- right in the middle of the Blacklisting scare. John Ireland and Joanne Dru round out the cast. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
4/29/14

The Revengers
All-Region Blu-ray

This down-market, post- The Wild Bunch shoot-em-up has the gall to hire William Holden and Ernest Borgnine and film in some of the earlier film's same locations. Holden's vengeance-crazed rancher hires a passel of condemned prisoners to massacre some Nazi generals track down the despicable murderers of his family. Woody Strode is the key recruit and Susan Hayward the soulful doctor who patches up Holden when he's shot. It's all grossly derivative and clumsily assembled, yet the curiously watchable, handsomely filmed western is a fun outing. An All-Region German disc in Blu-ray from Explosive Media GmbH.
4/29/14

Young at Heart
Blu-ray

Doris Day and Frank Sinatra prove to be a curiously appropriate 'mismatched match' in this sentimental yet curiously downbeat musical. Day gets the brighter numbers while Sinatra croons soulful barroom standards. She's the wholesome girl attracted to a pessimistic, defeatist musician convinced that the world will always trip him up. The two stars are in top form, honing new screen characters for themselves; the story is old-fashioned yet emotionally mature. With great support from Ethel Barrymore, Dorothy Malone, Elisabeth Fraser and Gig Young. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
4/29/14

and

The Freshman
Blu-ray + DVD

Harold Lloyd is Harold Lamb, a greener-than-green college frosh who thinks that campus success can be had by dancing up to strangers, putting out his hand and grinning: "Step right up and call me Speedy!" Jobyna Ralston is the modest beauty that urges Harold to find himself as he suffers a string of crushing humiliations. The superb silent comedy is capped by a rousing madcap football game, with Harold as the substitute tackling dummy who must save the day at the last minute. One of the best and most popular silent comedies is given a masterful set of unique extras. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.
4/29/14




Hello!

Our sympathy goes out to colleague and good friend Stuart Galbraith IV, author, fellow reviewer and the brain behind the new review site World Cinema Paradise. Over the weekend Stuart got himself into some kind of motorcycle vs. scooter traffic accident, and came down hard in the road. Hopefully his online description of the crash is accurate and he's 'just banged up a bit', but in my book any description that starts with the words 'bruised ribs' doesn't sound like fun. So I hope he's feeling better today, and that nothing serious comes of this.

I took a look at Turner Classic Movies' cable schedule for the next few weeks and found a number of gotta-see titles. So I'm just sharing FYI -- there's no work connection in this for me. May 03: Howard Hawks uncut The Big Sky is one I can keep re-seeing forever. May 4, Ivan Passer's Intimate Lighting; May 5, the 1956 UFO, May 7: John Sturges' Right Cross. May 13 has the really gotta-see Pitfall by Andre de Toth and the Savant-recommended They Came to Blow Up America. May 15 brings Harold Lloyd's Why Worry? and May 19 84 Charing Cross Road. May 27: Julien Duvivier's Lydia. Most of these I haven't seen, and really ought to.

Thanks for reading -- Glenn Erickson



April 25, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Get Carter
Blu-ray

Michael Caine turns heads as a pitiless mob killer dealing out vengeance to the killers of his brother in Mike Hodges' powerful, influential modern gangster thriller. Set in a gritty Northern industrial town, this was raw stuff in 1971, and it still carries a charge of cruel credibility. With Ian Hendry, John Osborne and Britt Eklund. The disc includes an excellent commentary from its director, its star and lighting cameraman Wolfgang Suschitzky. In Blu-ray from Warner Home Video.
4/25/14

King of the Hill
Blu-ray + DVD

Steven Soderbergh goes into heartland-Americana with this appealing coming of age story set in Depression-era Missouri. The resourceful but inexperienced adolescent Aaron is left alone when his mother, father and brother must go away for different reasons. Getting by forces him to lie to his teacher and classmates, and conspire with a petty thief. It's a superior 'home alone' story of a kid learning about the people around him, while matching wits with a crooked cop and a hotel that wants to lock up all the family's possessions. With a terrific cast: Jeroen Krabbé Lisa Eichhorn, Karen Allen, Spalding Gray, Elizabeth McGovern and Jesse Bradford as the intrepid Aaron. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.
4/25/14

Man Without a Star
(Mit stahlharter Faust)
All-Region Blu-ray

King Vidor's stunning Technicolor western is a vehicle for Kirk Douglas but also one of the most subversive oaters of the 1950s -- the American West is overrun with people struggling to grab or steal money or power, and a violent confrontation is never more than a few minutes away. Vidor's dynamic direction keeps a terrific cast in motion at all times -- Jeanne Crain, Claire Trevor, William Campbell and Richard Boone. Ya gotta hand it to Kirk -- he's a big showoff but also one of the flashiest trick-shot quick draws even on the screen. The German-produced Blu-ray is advertised as Region B, but it's really an All-Region release from Explosive Media GmbH / Alive AG.
4/25/14

and

Broadway Danny Rose
Blu-ray

Woody Allen settles on Mia Farrow as his longest-running love interest in this warm-hearted ode to a low-rent talent agent. Danny Rose loves his inept clientele, and keeps getting shafted by talented ingrates that dump him after their careers are successfully launched or rescued. Farrow's caustic 'other woman' gets Allen tangled up in an Italian mob vendetta, and in the course of their adventures discovers some weaknesses in her cynical tough-girl armor. Lovingly filmed in B&W, this is one of Allen's sweetest light comedies. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
4/25/14




Hello!

In a week or so Savant will review Criterion's new Blu-ray of Harold Lloyd's The Freshman, but Dick Dinman already has a pair of radio shows up and running about the silent comedian and the disc release: Dick Dinman Salutes Eternal Freshman Harold Lloyd. Lloyd archivist Rich Correll features in both segments, talking about the star's biggest box office hit and his personal life. It's in two parts, Part One and Part Two.



At his Screen and Stream page, colleague Glenn Abel has a new review up that complements my own for Orson Welles' Touchy Weevils Touch of Evil (see below). The Abel Review of Touch of Evil review digs into the Welles notes used assemble the revised 1998 version.

And I keep forgetting a note from another source: friend Craig Reardon reminds me that the image of Welles's eyes that Universal keeps using on the Touch of Evil packaging is really a still from Man in the Shadow (shown right) with some minor Photoshop alterations.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



April 21, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Disco & Atomic War
DVD

An absolutely factual, bizarre and frequently hilarious documentary from Finland. Try as the Soviet authorities may, they can't keep the Estonians from tuning in to Finnish TV and being seduced by the evil capitalist plot represented by shows like Dallas and Knight Rider, and movies like Star Wars and Emmanuele. Pirated TV format conversions and an underground market in tv aerials explode, as grim totalitarianism fails to compete with glamour, abundant groceries and sex. Cleverly directed by Jaak Kilme, and with a 2nd documentary feature as an extra. In DVD from Icarus Films.
4/22/14

The Pawnbroker
Blu-ray

One of the more famous American art films of the 1960s still holds up as good cinema, with exceptional acting. Sidney Lumet navigates through hazardous subject matter and comes out with a show that's profound, honest and non-exploitative. Rod Steiger is electrifying as a man obsessed by the tragedy that took his wife and children, and who is incapable of feeling emotion or pleasure. He gets sensational support from Geraldine Fitzgerald, Brock Peters, Juano Hernandez, Thelma Oliver, Raymond St. Jacques and a very young Jaime Sánchez. It's presented in a terrific, nearly perfect HD transfer as well. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
4/22/14

Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation
Blu-ray

James Stewart suffers through a summer with the whole family, putting up with various forms of abuse and familial chaos. The episodic story is a time capsule of America's notion of what a family is supposed to be, when parents managed their daughters' love lives and husbands like Stewart's Roger Hobbs had better not get caught talking with the blonde bombshell on the beach. Maureen O'Hara is the beautiful battleaxe loving wife, and Fabian the Prince Charming that rescues Roger's daughter. With an Isolated Score Track for Henry Mancini's music. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
4/22/14

and

Touch of Evil
Blu-ray

Finally arriving is a Blu-ray encoding of the 2008 DVD release, the one with three separate versions of Orson Welles' tale of murder and menace in a wild border town. With several commentaries and docu extras (with stars Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh) that tell the entire story. The complex tangle of images is much improved with the added boost from HD. In Blu-ray + Digital HD from Universal Home Video.
4/22/14




Hello!

It feels like summer here, and this week is getting off to a good start. As you may have noticed, in the last couple of weeks I've quickened the pace on the Savant reviews. I feel confident I'll be able to cover all the great stuff that's been coming out. Already in hand and in the works are Blu-rays of King of the Hill, A Brief History of Time, The Freshman, Young At Heart, Broadway Danny Rose, Wild at Heart, Breaking the Waves, Sleep My Love, Sorcerer, The Inspector Lavardin Collection, Get Carter and Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre; and DVDs of Dante's Inferno, Midnight Lace, Americans in Bed, Here Comes the Navy, Showboat and What Price Hollywood?

Expected in May are VCI's version of White Zombie, Icarus Films' docu The Great Flood, Criterion's Ace in the Hole, Overlord, Red River and Like Someone In Love and Twilight Time's Thunderbirds are Go/Thunderbird 6, The Firm, Fate is the Hunter and Two Rode Together. I also have to tell you I'm excited by a few future releases, which include Criterion's Judex (June 17), Twilight Time's The Train and The Man from Laramie (June 10), and Eclipse's The Essential Jacques Demy, which includes his amazing romance Lola (July 22).

Gary Teetzel attended Wondercon and found this intriguing upcoming model kit that I know I'll have to buy and put the box right next to my unassembled kits of the S.S. Seaview and the Space Ark. This one is the Cosmostrator (or Kosmokrator) from Der Schweigende Stern. I'm a soft touch for keepsakes from old Sci-Fi pictures!

It's a great year for discs --- Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



April 18, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Used Cars
Limited Edition Blu-ray

Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale chalk up another anarchic comedy, this time a raunchy satire that equates American enterprise with chicanery, fraud and appeals to the baser instincts. Sign me up! Kurt Russell is at the center of a business war between competing used car lots, a no-holds barred competition that quickly becomes R-rated. The picture has some of the funniest gags I've seen -- good healthy wicked laughs. With Gerrit Graham, Deborah Harmon, Jack Warden, Frank MacRae and Joe Flaherty. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
4/19/14

Villain
DVD-R

From the brutal early '70s that brought us Michael Caine in Get Carter, here's another well made Brit crime saga. Richard Burton seems really engaged with his role as a homosexual, mother-devoted psychopathic gang leader. The supporting cast is sensational too: Nigel Davenport, Ian McShane (looking very young), Fiona Lewis, Cathleen Nesbitt, T.P. McKenna, Joss Ackland, Del Henney, Donald Sinden. When Burton's top-dog thug insists on pulling off a robbery scheme personally, utter chaos ensues. In DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.
4/19/14

Double Indemnity
Blu-ray + Digital HD

Walter Neff, Phyllis Dietrichson and Barton Keyes are in fine form in this polished new video restoration of Billy Wilder's breakthrough noir murder tale. It's premeditated and cold blooded, and as Fred MacMurray's Walter admits, he did it for money and a woman. Barbara Stanwyck's Phyllis dangles an anklet before Walter and it's clear that he'll do anything to possess her. And nobody rattles off suicide statistics faster and better than Edward G. Robinson's Keyes. It's a classic that takes one's breath away even after multiple viewings. It also captures author James M. Caine's mood of suburban California rot, where people will kill for a chance at the good life. In Blu-ray + Digital HD from Universal Home Video.
4/19/14

and

Wonderwall
Blu-ray

Joe Massot's hip, cool, happening, far-out excursion into post-mod psychedelia gives us Jack MacGowran as a dotty old professor peeping at the hip, cool, happening, far-out activities in the room next door. It's no ordinary room but the crash pad / photography studio / love nest of '60s superstar model Jane Birkin. With major help from Beatle George Harrison and crew and actors from Roman Polanski's production team (Massot was really well connected in swinging London), the movie does one thing very right: the psychedelic visuals by Harry Waxman are genuinely exciting and attractive, perhaps the best of the era. The film has been given a tip-top restoration by the BFI, too. In Blu-ray from Shout Factory / Fabulous.
4/15/14






Hello!

A couple of nice links today.

Correspondent Kevin Pyrtle used to help out Savant, and got me my first look at Abel Gance's La fin du monde before a disc was available. Over at his EXB (Exploder Button) page, Kevin has reviewed a German Blu-ray of Universal's The Monolith Monsters. From Kevin's frame grabs, it looks as if the new 2:1 video transfer horizontally distorts the image a bit. I notice it on the title card much more than on the rest of the movie.


And in Seattle, correspondent Scott Henderson forwards the lengthy screening list for a Cinerama Sci-Fi Film Festival being held in May at the Seattle Cinerama Theater. The new DCP versions of the older movies look attractive, as decent 35mm prints for most of those shows are very hard to come by these days.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



April 15, 2014

Savant's new reviews are:

Let the Fire Burn
DVD

Jason Osder's powerful documentary is made almost exclusively from on-the-spot news video from Philadelphia TV stations. The MOVE organization's ongoing battles with neighbors and the city authorities finished in 1985 in a shootout and siege that escalated into a massacre -- with most of the separatists dead and half a neighborhood burned down. It's beautifully assembled to show the intolerable abuses of the MOVE people as well as the highly questionable police policy, which comes off looking like revenge. In DVD from Zeitgeist Films.
4/15/14

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
Blu-ray

Sam Peckinpah either found the perfect expression for his nihilistic world view with this movie, or he went absolutely freaking nuts. Warren Oates plays a Peckinpah-like opportunist who determines to take on a nasty job for a powerful Mexican landowner, for big money. A trek across the desert turns into a bloodbath, followed by a grotesque, sordid delivery mission that would put Edgar Allan Poe off his feed. Accompanied by several new documentary extras. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
4/15/14

The People versus Paul Crump
DVD

Finally out on DVD, this is the legendary show that became a major career steppingstone for William Friedkin. In 1962 Friedkin was a low-echelon local TV director until he made this exposé of the story of Paul Crump, a robber and murderer whose conviction was based on flimsy evidence. The picture is so packed with recreations of the crime and Crump's torture by the police that in modern terms it can barely be called a documentary -- it's an one-sided crusade to free a man from Death Row. A pamphlet of liner notes by Susan Doll gives a context for the film -- and clues us in to a major surprise about the unfortunate Paul Crump. In DVD from Facets Video.
4/15/14

and

Men in War
Blu-ray

This well-received "lost patrol" combat film is an intense low budget effort made by top talent: Philip Yordan, Ben Maddow, Anthony Mann and Ernest Haller. It got its reputation by sticking to a tough-minded, realistic script (no babes in swimsuits) and giving free rein to an excellent cast. Robert Ryan is the exhausted, concerned Lieutenant trying to get his men back to their own lines and Aldo Ray is a one-man-army interested only in saving his Colonel, who's in a state of paralyzed shock. Several classic sequences lead to the inevitiable battle in a narrow mountain pass. With Philip Pine, Robert Keith, James Edwards, Nehemiah Persoff and Vic Morrow. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
4/15/14




Hello!

I'm back up and running thanks to DVDtalk's John Sinnott and Michael Anders. The fix was reasonably quick but the coordination took a couple of days.

As I'm free of TCM Festival issues I'm going to try to accelerate the number of reviews. I've received a wealth of great product to cover and am going to do it all -- the vendors deserve to get reviews out while the discs are fresh.

Links, yes links ... Gary Teetzel sends along a YouTube link to a vintage Hammer Films TV featurette about the making of the top-rank thriller Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, which includes lots of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with James Carreras and Peter Cushing.

Hill Place has written a nice review of a Savant favorite, Michael Ritchie's Smile. I'm linking to it not only because it's good, but because the site got a written response from one of the amateur actresses who played a 'Young American Miss' contestant in the film. It's worth checking out. Just scroll through the responses down to 'zuzusays'.

And Joe Dante has been circulating this link to an article at The Comics Journal, Superman: The Golden Age Sundays 1943-1946 One of the comics featured has Superman face off with Hitler, Goering, Goebbels and a fourth Nazi -- Himmler? Bormann?

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



April 08, 2014

Well, I'm back from the TCM Classic Film Festival, which was 3.5 long days of work but also quite a lot of fun. I spent most of the time running between theaters and writing and only saw three movies in their entirety. I Never Sang for My Father was much better than I expected it to be, while the 1949 The Great Gatsby was excellent, as was the previously unheard-of Edgar G. Ulmer picture, Her SIster's Secret.

Celebrities? Paula Prentiss was charming. Michael Schlesinger gave the best introduction by far, for Johnny Guitar. Thelma Schoonmaker's intro for A Matter of Life and Death found an appreciative audience. Arianné Ulmer Cipes spoke candidly about her father's unusual career. Kim Novak addressed the cruel reaction to her Oscar appearance, while Alan Arkin proved to be just as sharp-minded and warm as one would expect.

That stretch of Hollywood Blvd. feels like a carnival midway, only less organized. The mobs of festival attendees packed onto the sidewalks already crowded with tourists, costumed characters, hip-hop performers, tour bus hawkers, etc., made moving around very difficult at times. The fun part was occasionally feeling a like a member of an old-time press room up on the 2nd floor of the Roosevelt Hotel. Hosts, photographers, managers and talent wranglers came and went, and a central table had catered food. Myself and local TCM bloggers Nathaniel Thompson, Richard Harland Smith and Jeremy Arnold tapped away on our laptops along with Atlanta TCM writers Anna Davis and Stephanie Thames. We also got to hear the celebrity gossip.

When Robert Osborne was interviewing some personality down in the hotel foyer we were too deadline-busy to go look. All we would hear is a whoop of applause and cheering every forty seconds or so. It sounded just like the French Revolution out there, with the guillotine working overtime. And every couple of hours we had to run out to catch another screening or event. We're supposed to record the experience of TCM, not just write about the movies. We at least need to show up to listen to the speakers and report on whether the presentation was film or digital, what the crowd was like, etc.. Jeremy was laughing when he came back from My Sister Eileen. In it Rosalind Russell has to leave town because she falsified a newspaper review of a school play she didn't want to attend. It seemed more than relevant to our situation.

That's the good news. Right now I'm posting this because my review uploading connection to DVDtalk has broken down again. They're very good now about getting these problems straightened out so I have every hope that I can get DVD Savant up and running again today. When I do I'll post a nice blurry photo a friend grabbed of Kim Novak from Saturday. The reviews will be for Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Let the Fire Burn and Wonderwall.

Thanks for your patience! Glenn Erickson




Tuesday April 8, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Columbia Pictures
Film Noir Classics IV

DVD

This is a delayed review, but who could pass up a film noir collection? Sony/Columbia's latest stack of murder and mystery contains two top rank thrillers, one police drama and two Cold War domestic espionage sagas: So Dark The Night, Johnny O'Clock, Walk A Crooked Mile, Between Midnight And Dawn and Walk East On Beacon! Stars include Dick Powell, Evelyn Keyes, Lee J, Cobb, Dennis O'Keefe, Raymond Burr, Mark Stevens, Edmond O'Brien, George Murphy, Ellen Drew and Nina Foch, and we see films from directors Joseph H. Lewis, Robert Rossen and Gordon Douglas. In DVD from TCM Vault Collection / Sony.
4/08/14

and

Stranger on the Prowl
Blu-ray

I don't know anybody who's seen this rare movie until now. On the run from a subpoena from the HUAC, Joseph Losey directed this Italian movie about a criminal (Paul Muni, very good) fleeing from the law in a port town. Combining noir attitude with Italian neorealism, the show is both grim and sentimental. Joan Lorring has a good part; Ben Barzman wrote the script. Great locations as well. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
4/08/14




Hello!

I'm getting ready for the TCM Classic Film Festival, which may mean my posts to DVD Savant will be sparse next week ... it's a lot of work to do in a compressed period of time. This year it looks like I'll be reporting on appearances by Michael Schlesinger, Nancy Schoenberger Paula Prentiss, Merrie Spaeth, Thelma Schoonmaker, Quincy Jones, Illeana Douglas, David Ladd, Kim Novak, Arianne Ulmer Cipes and Alan Arkin. I'm not a celebrity hound but must admit that it's a nice group of personalities, notables and screen legends.

Meanwhile, Joe Dante sends along this great (and brief) funny video clip, An exclusive alternate scene from Gravity.

Also circulating on the web and located by Gary Teetzel is an unusual Promotional Featurette for Dr. Strangelove that would appear to be narrated by Stanley Kubrick. It's viewable in halves, Part One and Part Two.

Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson



April 05, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Providence
Region 2 PAL DVD

Alain Resnais's masterpiece is a highly accessible puzzle film that (eventually) takes a warm view of its characters. John Gielgud is a famous writer suffering from a possibly fatal condition, who occupies his mind by imagining and re-arranging scenarios using his grown children and other family members as characters. It's an amazing performance in a complex story -- which is also very easy to follow. Dirk Bogarde is Gielgud's son, in a performance that requires him to change characterization as his father rethinks his scenarios. David Warner, Ellen Burstyn and Elaine Stritch fill out the cast. In Region 2 PAL DVD from Jupiter (France).
4/5/14

King Kong vs. Godzilla
Blu-ray

Universal's re-cut and re-dubbed version of Ishiro Honda's lavish original is even more of a farce. Goofy dialogue and Universal stock music peg the classic confrontation of the atomic dragon and the hairy ape as a kiddie attraction plain and simple. The spectacle is there, along with effects that range from sensational (a really impressive octopus) to terrible (ocean skies painted on brick walls). Godzilla is in color for the first time, and his wrestling match with a flimsy, patchwork Kong is played for laughs. In Blu-ray from Universal Home Video.
4/5/14

and

The Hidden Fortress
Blu-ray + DVD

Akira Kurosawa's freewheeling samurai-era adventure is much, much more than the inspiration for Star Wars. Toshiro Mifune must trick two foolish runaway soldiers into helping him sneak a princess through enemy lines. It's high adventure in good humor, breaking even further with formal Japanese historical storytelling practice. It's also Kurosawa's first film in Tohoscope, and he uses the wide screen like a master. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.
4/5/14




Hello!

You know, any review site that can evaluate King Kong vs Godzilla right next to Alain Resnais' Providence has to be doing something correctly...

While lauding the present bonanza of vintage films available on Blu-ray and various streaming outlets, John McElwee of Greenbriar Picture Shows made special mention of the new kid on the block, Stuart Galbraith IV's World Cinema Paradise, "An Oasis Of Cinema Scholarship and Reviewing". I'm really glad that 'WCP' is catching on. Author Galbraith is a discerning editor, and the reviews and articles are consistently interesting.

I've just received a big box of Region B Blu-rays of mostly American movies, from Germany's Explosive Films, among them Prime Cut, Monte Walsh, The Revengers, Backlash, and a really good King Vidor western with Kirk Douglas and Jeanne Crain, Man Without a Star (Mit stahlharter Faust). I checked out two of the titles already (Man Without a Star and Backlash), and have discovered that those two at least are really Region 0 and will play on normal U.S. equipment ! (Thanks to Wade Sowers for that tip.)

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson


Don't forget to write Savant at dvdsavant@mindspring.com.

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