1940s, Blu Ray, CLASSIC, Classic Hollywood, Coleen Gray, crime drama, cult, film, FILM HISTORY, FILM NOIR, Fox, genre, New York City, review, reviews, Richard Widmark, thriller, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Twilight Time, Twilight Time Blu Ray, Uncategorized, Victor Mature

KISS OF DEATH (Twilight Time Blu Ray)

KISS OF DEATH. (Twilight Time Blu Ray) 20th Century Fox 1947. B&W. 99 minutes. Region Free. $29.95 .Limited to pressing of 3,000 discs. https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/kiss-of-death-blu-ray/

People who have never seen the complete film know of it due to the iconic scene of a giggling insane Tommy Udo (essayed by Richard Widmark in his stunning film debut) pushing a helpless wheelchair bound woman (Mildred Dunnock) down a flight of stairs as she screams in abject horror.

 

KISS OF DEATH is a classic example of film noir that needs to be in every film lovers collection. Dark storytelling with the sense that violence and death permeates the entire story. Shot mostly in New York City at many actual locations (though, in my humble opinion, I think the interior apartment scenes and stairwells are sets, as knowing the size of the old Mitchell 35mm cameras, as well as lights needed, that is a heck of a lot of equipment and people to squeeze into such small spaces, not to mention loading in and out). around the city.

Ex con Nick Bianco (Victor Mature, at the height of his stardom) and three others botch a jewel robbery that results in Nick getting arrested.

Rather than turn on his accomplices, Nick is sentenced to twenty years at Sing Sing Prison. Nick thinks that his accomplices will protect his family, but three years into his stretch, Nick’s wife commits suicide and his two daughters are sent to an orphanage. Nick tries to make a deal with the Assistant D.A. D’Angelo (Brian Donlevy) but too much time has passed to make a deal. However, if Nick will help the A.D.A. on another case, Nick will get paroled.

 

 

 

On the streets, Tommy Udo(Widmark)who served time with Nick, tracks down the mother of Rizzo. Rizzo, who is unseen in the film, was supposed to guard Mrs. Bianco, but instead it was hinted that he raped her, which resulted in her committing suicide. Tommy looks up to Nick (and many critics feel an almost homoerotic passion) and so when Rizzo’s mother (Dunnock) lies to him, we end up with the famous stairwell killing.

Udo tries to show off to Bianco, taking him to various establishments and talks freely about his previous crimes, to impress his “friend”. Nick, however, turns the info over to the Assistant District Attorney, who indicts Udo and grants Nick his pardon.

Nick tries to restart his life on the straight and narrow, marrying friend Nettie Cavallo (Coleen Gray ) who used to baby sit his daughters when he first went to prison. However, despite evidence, Udo is acquitted and wants revenge.

The film when it was first released was not an enormous success, but over the years its status has grown to where it is now acknowledged as one of the great film noirs of all time.

The film has been available on video and DVD in previous releases from Fox Video, but TWILIGHT TIME has really gone all out with its definitive release of this classic piece of cinema.

First off, the 1080p High Definition scan has increased the sharpness of the imagery, showing off the beautiful cinematography of Norbert Brodine. Brodine began working in the silent era (including Lon Chaney’s A BLIND BARGAIN, Goldwyn,1922), and during the early sound period he hopped around from major studios to independents (Bela Lugosi’s THE DEATH KISS, KBS,1932; DELUGE, Tiffany 1933) before finding a home at Hal Roach (TOPPER ,1937; OF MICE & MEN,1939; ONE MILLION B.C.,1939).

By the mid-1940s, he went over to Fox, where he had prior to KISS OF DEATH had lensed the noirish HOUSE ON 92nd STREET (1945).and the overlooked gem SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT (1946). His black and white photography has deep blacks and various shades of gray.

The sound is mono (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0) and there is really no need for surround sound, as the music dialogue and sound effects are crisp and crackle free. David Buttolph’s music is sparse but always efficient when used.

As to extras:

There are two audio commentary tracks that are well worth listening to.

Original to this release are popular Twilight Time Film Historians Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman, who have a more conversational style and while knowledgeable, still have the joy of fans.

Kirgo, for example, points out that she grew up in NYC and recalls how it looked somewhat as the film presented it. They also go into the homoerotic feelings that Widmark’s character may have had for Mature (“Ya can’t have fun with dames about”).and how Widmark originally thought the script hilarious (!) and read the script to friends in the voice he used in the movie. It made me wonder if the erotic undertone was added by Widmark, similar to  what Stephen Boyd did years later to Charlton Heston in BEN HUR (MGM,1959).

Ported over from the prior Fox Film Noir series DVD release is the Audio Commentary with Film Historians James Ursini and Alain Silver has a more scholarly tone but never monotonic while delivering so much information on the making of the film and behind the scenes going ons (for example, Miss Dunnock had to be flung down the stairs TWICE because the cameraman was not ready!). They also discuss the (loose )1995 remake.

The music score is also available on a separate audio track. The trailer features legendary columnist Walter Winchell praising the film with hyperbole that must have made the publicity team go crazy about. The optional white English subtitles are clean and easy to read, and follow the dialogue and action.

Get it and add it to your collection or Tommy may have to visit you!

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Kevin G Shinnick

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THE MAD MAGICIAN (Twilight Time Blu Ray)

 

The Mad Magician 2D/3D (Columbia,1954) Twilight Time Blu Ray $29.95   B&W .72min. https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/mad-magician-the-3d-blu-ray/

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Classic horror fans and Vincent Price fans will want to add this often overlooked film.

Created to cash in on the huge success of HOUSE OF WAX (W.B.,1953), this Columbia film not only used 3-D ,but also borrowed the same star and set their plot in the same period. The decision to shoot the film in black and white may have been a cost saving decision (or as is said on one of the Blu Ray extras, an artistic choice),but it may be why this film is not as popular as Price’s previous period horror film with modern audiences.

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In the film’s favor was a superb cast ,led by Price and a director who knew his way around period thrillers. That director was John Brahm. Brahm had directed two of the best Jack The Ripper inspired films of all time ,THE LODGER (Fox,1944 ) and HANGOVER SQUARE(Fox ,1945),both starring Laird Cregar.

The screenplay was by former actor Crane Wilbur (he had co-starred with Pearl White in the original silent serial PERILS OF PAULINE (General Film Co.,1914)turned playwright and screenwriter.

Wilbur had written a Broadway thriller called OUIJA BOARD in 1920 , but his next play is better known.

THE MONSTER (1922) was later adapted into a Lon Chaney film for MGM . Wilbur hopped back and forth from actor to writer to director on stage and screen before settling down as a script writer. He worked on the screenplay for the spooky thriller THE SPIRITUALIST/THE AMAZING MR X (Eagle Lion,1948) (influenced by his early play OUIJA BOARD?), before working for producer Bryan Foy on the political thriller I WAS A COMMUNIST FOR THE F.B.I. (W.B,1951).

Foy obviously liked his work, as he hired Wilbur to write HOUSE OF WAX . Wilbur wrote for Price one more time with his adaptation of the old stage play THE BAT (A.A.,1959).

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Wilbur may have been responsible for Lenita Lane appearing in THE MAD MAGICIAN, as she was his wife in real life. She also appeared in other screenplays by him. A fine actress in her own right, it is a shame we did not see her in more films (her final appearance was in her husband’s THE BAT, which he also directed).

At the end of the 19th Century, Don Gallico (Vincent Price) works for Illusion Incorporated Company, owned by Ross Ormond (Donald Randolph, later General Mark Ford in THE DEADLY MANTIS(Universal,1957)). The company creates stage effects for magicians, and Gallico has decided that he would like to strike out on his own as an illusionist. He is told, however that even though he created the illusions on his own time ,their contract has proprietary rights to any effects that Gallico creates. Ormond has little respect for his valued employee, having cuckolded Gallico by wooing away his wife Claire (Eva Gabor ,most famous for the tv series GREEN ACRES (Filmways ,1965-71)who had tied of being poor.

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To add insult, Gallico is forced to demonstrate his newest creation, a buzz saw that apparently decapitates anyone placed upon tithe Great Rinaldi (John Emery, who portrayed Dr. Karl Eckstrom in ROCKETSHIP X-M (Lippert ,1950) and in real life was often rumored to be an illegitimate son of John Barrymore!) feels that this is just the piece he wants for his act.

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After Rinaldi leaves, Gallico snaps and kills Ormond with the buzz saw device (the murder is not shown just the insane glee on Price’s face ). Luckily, Gallico is also a master of disguise (and obviously the innovator of slip rubber life masks!) and makes himself up to resemble Ormond to set up an alibi and get rid of the remains.

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When Ormond does not appear after a few days ,the police begin to investigate. By coincidence (or screenwriter Wilbur) Detective Alan Bruce (Patrick O’Neal, later himself to star as the baddie in a HOUSE OF WAX inspired period tv film that was released theatrically, CHAMBER OF HORRORS (WB,1966), who is investigating the mystery, is also the boyfriend of Karen (Mary Murphy, the ‘good girl’ from THE WILD ONE, Columbia,1953) Gallico’s assistant.

Gallico commits a few more murders in various disguises ,disposing of one body in a bonfire (similar to a major sequence in John Brahm’s own HANGOVER SQUARE) . The murders also draw the attention of a plucky female writer ,Alice Prentiss (Lenita Lane).Who will survive the vengeance of THE MAD MAGICIAN ?

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A fun ,quick (72 minutes), there is a strong sense of déjà vu if you had seen HOUSE OF WAX, but the film also solidifies the template for the later Price “Vengeance” horror films like THE ABOMINABLE DR PHIBES(AIP,1971) and THEATRE OF BLOOD(U.A.,1973) with elaborate murders and disguises.

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Price relishes his role, and gives it his all. It is odd seeing Patrick O’Neal as a hero in this his film debut (the Actor’s Studio trained actor had appeared on television prior) but he acquits himself nicely. Lenita Lane is sort of an gay 90s version of Lois Lane . The entire supporting cast fills their roles marvelously .

The direction by Brahm is solid ,though many feel he doesn’t take full advantage of the three dimensional process. I and many others feel he used it sparingly to emphasize certain images by dramatic placement rather than always throwing things into the lens(which he also does ,though, during Price’s magic acts).

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TWILIGHT TIME has done an amazing job with this disc. The 50GB Blu Ray is REGION FREE ,and limited to a pressing of only 3,000 . The 1.85:1 1080p transfer is incredibly sharp in either 2 or 3D. The Grayscale is very rich and compliments the cinematography of Bert Glennon (also from HOUSE OF WAX). The film seems to have strong grain but that appears to be from the original negative . The DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono track sound is clear and hiss free.

There are a lot of extras on this disc :

-First off , as mentioned ,the film can be watched either 3-D(you need a monitor and Blu Ray Player that allows this) or in regular 2-D.

Audio Commentary :There is a wonderful running audio commentary by David Del Valle and Steve Peros   , discussing the behind the scenes production of the film and the careers of many of those involved , as well as the 3-D phenomenon of the era. You can hear in their voices that they are truly enjoying this film (and who can blame them?) .

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Isolated Music Score : You can hear the score by Arthur Lange (composer ,music director ,and orchestrator of over 200 scores, often uncredited) and Emil Newman ( brother of Alfred & Lionel Newman, and composer in his own right on such films as UNDYING MONSTER (Fox,1942)),as well as the Theremin played by Dr. Samuel Hoffman, the former violinist whose eerie playing of Léon Theremin ‘s invention graced the scores of films since SPELLBOUND (Selznick Intenational,1945). Dr. Hoffman’s work appeared in films both big budget (THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, Fox ,1951) to low budget (BILLY THE KID VS DRACULA, Embassy 1966), usually uncredited.

 

51332560aefeb575e790ed3e7429bc17Master of Fright :Conjuring “The Mad Magician”- Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, under direction by Daniel Griffith, have been providing some of the best making of bonus features for Shout Factory. Now , also working for TWILIGHT TIME, they continue the superb must watch documentaries that they are noted for .Between this and the audio commentary, you get a wonderful history of this film.

Two THREE STOOGES 3-D Short subjects : SPOOKS and PARDON MY BACKFIRE (both Columbia 1953)normal-randall-spooks

SPOOKS was the 148th of the 190 short subjects that the comedy team made for the studio. The boys (Moe & Shemp Howard, plus Larry Fine) are private eyes whose search for a missing girl (this was actress Norma Randals largest role of note) brings them into contact with Dr. Jeckyl (character actor Phillip Van Zandt, who was Muller in HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Universal 1944) and his brutish helper Mr. Hyde (former boxer Tom Kennedy who was often the heavy to comic greats The Marx Brothers, Laurel & Hardy, and Bob Hope, among others). There is also, of course ,a gorilla (an uncredited Steve Calvert)

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PARDON MY BACKFIRE has the team working as mechanics who capture some on the lam convicts that have the misfortune of pulling into their garage .stooges_pardon_my_backfire

Maybe it was the horror connection, but I felt SPOOKS was the more entertaining of the two. Both films work in 2 as well as three dimension (with hypos, bats, fire, water, and knives being hurled at the audience). The picture and sound quality on both are superb.spookstitle2

-The Original Trailer. Lots of Ballyhoo (That” House of Wax” Man).

themadmagician3d_bdbookletcover_highres__47771_1481961658_1280_1280-Booklet: Once again, TWILIGHT TIME provides another well written information booklet (kudos once again to Julie Kirgo).

THE MAD MAGICIAN leaps to the top of the list for any fan of classic film fans. classic horror fans, 3D lovers, and, of course, Vincent Price followers.

I suggest you order ASAP, as I think that this collectible disc is going to sell out fast!

 HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

Kevin G Shinnickmad-magician-debonair

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Tony Rome & Lady in Cement (Fox) (TWILIGHT TIME BLU RAY)

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Tony Rome & Lady in Cement (Fox) (BLU RAY) original release Nov 10,1967 and November 20,1968 respectively. Blu Ray. Region Free. August 16,2016. Twilight Time. (color) Rated M (now PG). 203 MINUTES. $29.95. Limited to 3,000 print run.

http://www.twilighttimemovies.com/tony-rome-lady-in-cement/

I must admit that I am not a person who is blown away by Frank Sinatra. I know it is nearly blasphemous for anyone who lives next to Hoboken, NJ (Ol’ Blue Eyes birthplace) to admit this. There was always something about him that I just found off putting.

However, as I have gotten older, I am discovering what an amazing natural actor. His performance in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (U.A., October 24,1962) is superb, and he holds his own in this classic political thriller. Sinatra also shows strong acting chops and his own strong persona works in his favor in these two Tony Rome stories, as well as the unrelated THE DETECTIVE (20th Century Fox, May 28,1968), not included in this release. The three films were released previously in nice but frill free DVDs from Fox.tonyromeposter

Sinatra had a certain no-nonsense style and weariness when he played detectives, ending with THE FIRST DEADLY SIN (Filmways, October 3,1980), which was also his final starring role in a film. He turned down the role of Dirty Harry due to fibromatosis crippling his hand. It’s interesting to think of how he might have played the part. Another bit of trivia: thee was a sequel written to THE DETECTIVE written by its author Richard Thorp in 1979. It was called NOTHING LASTS FOREVER (W.W. Norton & Co.,1979). Sinatra turned down the idea of the sequel when it was broached to him. It was finally made in 1988 as a film starring Bruce Willis (who had an uncredited bit in THE FIRST DEADLY SIN) called DIE HARD (Fox, July 20,1988).

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• Now TWILIGHT TIME has given TONY ROME and LADY IN CEMENT a marvelous 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 single disc Blu Ray release.

Tony Rome is an ex Miami cop who has seen it all. He now spends as much time as he can on his boat, making money by doing private detective work. His ex-partner Ralph (Robert J. Wilke,an actor who was best known for appearing in westerns, having appeared in films since 1936.He was one of the outlaws from HIGH NOON ( U.A. July 24,1952)) asks Rome to escort a young woman, Diana Pines (Sue Lyons ,the original LOLITA(MGM,June 13,1962) home after she was left passed out in a hotel room.

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Her father, Rudolph Kostleman (Simon Oakland, best known as Vincenzo, the boss of Kolchak from T.V.’s THE NIGHT STALKER (ABC, January11,1972) is a powerful rich man who is worried about his daughter. She has been acting strangely of late, and he hires Rome to find out why. Diana and her stepmom Rita (Gena Rowlands, soon to win a well-deserved Oscar nom for her star turn in A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (Cine-Source, November 18,1974) also hire Rome to fins a missing piece of jewelry.bt2ee7ymrwhpsd81c3vbxhemjxn6q

Rome ends up getting beaten up, a murder takes place, and Rita is almost killed as well. Can Rome solve the case, and perhaps end up with the lovely Ann Archer (Jill St. John, who had appeared previously with Sinatra in the comedy COME BLOW YOUR HORN (Paramount, June 5,1963))?

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TONY ROME was based upon the novel MIAMI MAYHEM by Marvin H Albert (New York: Pocket Books, 1960.). Screenwriter Richard L. Breen (Oscar winner for his screenplay for the 1953 TITANIC (Fox, April 11,1953)) did a faithful adaptation of the story, with all its little twists and turns.

Director Gordon Douglas was a former child actor who could jump genres with a straightforward no nonsense style (THEM, WB, June 19,1954; STAGECOACH, Fox, June 15,1966; SKULLDUGGERY, Universal, March 6,1970). Obviously, he and Sinatra got along, as he directed TONY ROME, LADY IN CEMENT, as well as THE DETECTIVE.

Extras for this feature include an audio commentary by film historians Lee Pfeiffer, Scarlet friend Paul Scrabo and Anthony Latino. The three keep up a fact filled dialogue about the film as well as director Gordon Douglas (who had directed Sinatra in the comedy ROBIN & THE 7 HOODS (WB, June 24,1964) as well as Sinatra’s film career. They drop little tidbits as that Sinatra was performing at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach at night, and that they used it as a location during the day. That hotel still exists, but it seems many of the other locales are gone.

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The original sound track is available to hear on an isolated music and sound effects track. Composer Billy May had worked with Sinatra since his album, COME FLY WITH ME (January 6,1958, Capitol Records), and the soundtrack has that reflects that brassy sound. Daughter Nancy Sinatra sings the title song.

The original Theatrical Trailer is also an extra.

Sadly, some of the behind the scenes documentaries shot at the time are not added as extras, perhaps due to legal reasons or poor source material. They are available to see on YOUTUBE:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-AS1OT-aQA with Shecky Greene, who plays Catleg in the film, is a behind the scene look at filming. Shecky was a comic who played a lot of club circuits.

Also, a brief b&w silent sequence exists:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gr8RoJYxCxw

By the way, future LAND OF THE GIANTS (Fox,1968-1970) star Deanna Lund, who appears on the poster, was so embarrassed by her role that she asked for her name to be removed from the credits.

TONY ROME was successful enough for the studio to make a sequel a year later.

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LADY IN CEMENT was based upon Marvin H Albert’s second Tony Rome novel (LADY IN CEMENT, Robert Hale, London, 1961. hard cover) was adapted for the screen by Albert and Jack Guss (this seems to be his only theatrical screenplay, working mostly on television shows like DANIEL BOONE (1964-1970, Arcola/NBC. Arcola was one of the producers of the Tony Rome films, so that may be how he connected to the project. Indeed 70 minutes into LADY IN CEMENT, you see DANIEL BOONE playing on a hotel T.V. set.).

Sadly, this film is a big drop in quality from the previous film. While sexism was more to the forefront of the detective films of the period, LADY IN CEMENT seems to revel in it as well as strong homophobia. The film manages to be sleazier yet less interesting than the first film.

In this one, Rome(Sinatra) and a police man friend go diving from Rome’s boat looking for treasure. What Rome finds is a dead nude blonde woman (Christine Todd, of whom this seems to be her only film appearance) underwater, her feet encased in cement.img_20161115_092137img_20161115_092039img_20161115_091942

He alerts the authorities and think his involvement is done. However, a big ex con Waldo Gronsky (Dan Blocker, best known as “Hoss” for T.V.’ s BONANZA (NBC FILMS,1959-1972)*) wants to hire Rome to find Sandra Lomax, who happens to be the dead woman .Gronsky is a likeable lug, and the plot at times echoes FAREWELL MY LOVELY by Raymond Chandler (Alfred A. Knopf ,1940). Indeed, Blocker is one of the best things in the film, and makes the film worth watching until the end.mqdefault

Also in the film is tough guy Richard Conte (returning from TONY ROME as Police Lt. Dave Santini),Richard Deacon (known from T.V.’s DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, Sheldon Leonard Productions,1961-66)as a pervy artist, singer actress Lanie Kazan as a stripper who ends up dead after talking to Rome , and the main reason people remember this film, Raquel Welch. Welch was now an international sex symbol, due to her appearances in FANTASTIC VOYAGE and ONE MILLION YEARS BC (both Fox,1966). Here, she is given little to do but look beautiful, which she does.suq6tbvtza9r9dgjh2wmcugwrro

The soundtrack by Hugo Montenegro (best known for scoring such shows as THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY(Paramount,1970-74), to put it mildly, is grating and repetitive of the level of elevator music ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ywuJh19U5w) and distracts from the action rather than moving it along.

The film just kind of lurches along until the ending with the actors trying gamely to make something of it. The budget was estimated to be about $3,500,000(a bit more than the previous film) and had mixed reviews and middling box office. Due to that, a third Tony Rome novel MY KIND OF GAME (New York, N.Y.: Dell, 1962) remains unfilmed.

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The only extra for LADY is the original theatrical trailer.

TWILIGHT TIME’s BLU RAY does a superb job with the two films. TONY ROME looks a bit sharper, with LADY IN CEMENT appearing a bit grainier. The sound is superb and hiss free. Once again, Twilight Time’s subtitles are clear and follow the action precisely.

Julie Kirgo once again provides nice info in a small enclosed booklet ,illustrated with some fine photos and posters .lady-in-cement2

Limited to only a 3,000 disc printings, I would recommend it mostly because of TONY ROME to fans of hard boiled detectives and Sinatra fans.

Kevin G Shinnick

*Another in -joke, they have BONANZA ‘s opening playing on T.V. with Dan Blocker watching. Indeed, both films are full of in jokes.lady-in-cement-movie-poster-1968-1020206873

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