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Enemy At The Door - The Complete Series [DVD] [1978]
Enemy At The Door - The Complete Series [DVD] [1978]
Dvd ~ Alfred Burke
Price: 20.40

5.0 out of 5 stars A Thoughtful and Provocative Series from the Past, 19 July 2014
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Four and a half stars would be more accurate, for two series which have continually surprised me with their skilful construction, high standards of naturalistic acting by the series' regulars, and thoughtful presentation of what initially seem simple choices and decisions made under wartime occupation, but which turn out to have unexpected and far- reaching implications and ramifications. After a first episode which seems largely concerned with establishing a simple period atmosphere and with presentation of character, subsequent episodes establish an extremely effective pattern. Everyday, almost humdrum, life, is presented in the most naturalistic way as islanders and invaders try to co- exist, but slowly we realise that every action has a counter- reaction, and that the simplest acts by the most ordinary of people throw up moral choices and consequences with often unpredictable outcomes. If you want a series packed with dramatic incident and daring-do, then this not for you: there are few stereotypes here, even amongst the enemy invaders, guns are rarely used, and fight scenes are almost non-existent. At first the style of acting seems very dated -there is little of the dramatic exaggeration so common in today's drama series - but each episode gently takes any viewer who is responsive to language and ideas into its grip, simple situations and characters become increasingly three dimensional as each episode progresses, and by its end, the dramatic and often emotional effect is considerable. The acting style seems at first quite dated, but one quickly recognises that the power of each episode comes from the total credibility of the plot situations and of the human reactions to them. There are very considerable performances from Bernard Horsfall, Alfred Burke, and John Malcolm in particular, and the two series have been a most welcome, unexpected, and rewarding experience.


Icons of Adventure [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Icons of Adventure [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Kerwin Mathews
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: 8.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Childhood Hammers, 18 July 2014
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Good quality prints in original letter box ratios. The two pirate films essentially tell the same story, employing several actors in similar roles, and were designed, when made, for adolescents; now best suited for nostalgia trips, but visually often good, and entertaining, despite occasional cringe-worthy dialogue. "Stranglers of Bombay", the only film here not in colour, was a minor horror film, albeit not without Boys Own elements also, and has scarcely been shown in the UK since its original release, being regarded in part as both as gruesome and risqué, but its Sadean and historical elements are not without interest, and it is the only film of the four to be directed by Terence Fisher, Hammer's most talented regular director. With several extras and at a keen price, this Region1 collection is well worth buying.


Ozu Collection - The Gangster Films (2-DVD)
Ozu Collection - The Gangster Films (2-DVD)
Dvd ~ Yasujiro Ozu
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: 13.09

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ozu with a different flavour, 7 Dec 2013
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With his recurring emphasis on the domestic, familial, undramatic and understated details of relationships, Ozu's reputation with such films as "Tokyo Story" and "Early Summer" is of a great, but essentially Japanese director. His films certainly speak of the universal, but they seem much less "Western" in nature than those of Kurosawa or even Mizoguchi. (The only aspect of these films which seems to make any concession lies in his accompanying music, which often sounds surprisingly westernised.)
So it comes as a surprise to encounter a group of "Gangster Films" by Ozu, and even more to see them in a slip case displaying shadowed handcuffs, and, both front and back, revolvers! The films reveal that Ozu was much more influenced by American cinema and iconography at this early stage in his career than might have been suspected, and certainly these films are replete with the paraphernalia of Hollywood gangsters--fedoras, American movie posters, pool halls, boxing clubs and gyms, posters advertising international bouts, golf courses, fast cars, and faster women!
All three films are silent, made between 1930-33; they are accompanied by the only surviving remnant of a 1929 gangster film (played largely for laughs), and by an exemplary booklet which contains 4 illuminating articles, by different writers, on the three films plus additional information about the added musical score.
The films can be termed "gangster films" only by the broadest definition -- this is no case of "Murder Inc." or professional hit- men. The gangsters here are all young - from street gangs, boxing clubs, or, in one case, a young husband pushed into crime by poverty and family illness. Two of the three prints, "Walk Cheerfully" and "That Night's Wife", are marred by the blotchy signs of early decomposition. This is worst in the former, but "That Night's Wife" (understand it as "the wife on that night") is dramatically so strong that one quickly ignores such intermittent blemishes. It is tightly constructed, the action taking place during one night, with a small cast, and after the vigorous opening, largely one location. It was based directly on an American short story, and, despite plot implausibilities, is dramatic and moving. The early scenes strive visually for the atmospheric expressionism and low-key lighting of film noir, as in fairness does also the final part of the third film with the very un-Japanese title of "Dragnet Girl" , and both films convey a bleak sense of fate and inevitability as they near their conclusions.
Ozu's recurring concern with "family" is evident in all three, although often the family is that of the street gang. "Walk Cheerfully" is to my mind the least successful of the three, largely because of the uncertainty of tone and its romantic core, but all three are interesting in part because of the way Ozu has constructed a totally imaginative and unJapanese world from his Western models, yet one which still comments obliquely on Japanese concerns of the time. Plot elements recur and are re-examined in two of the films (not least, the dropping and retrieving of hats!) in a way which anticipates his later works, and the films reward re-viewing. They are always visually interesting, with much more variety of shot than one has come to expect of Ozu, and with dramatic images carrying strong premonitory associations, hanging handles in a gym for example that resemble pairs of handcuffs. The accompanying illustrated booklet is extremely informative, and the set is thoroughly worth-while.
The soundtracks accompanying the films are more problematic. It is right that the BFI encourages new composers to work for the screen, and we here have a talented composer and lecturer who has provided the scores. The degree to which they augment or work for the films is, to my mind, questionable. The scores do respond to overall changes in mood and tempo, but not to specific moments or particular events on screen, and at times the music stops abruptly as a movement or composition concludes, leaving silence which is quite unrelated to events on screen. The music is "modern" in the sense that, to my untutored ears at least, it is often atonal, un-melodic, discordant and unattractive. My wife termed it "painful" and had to leave the room (although she was not actually watching the films). Four and a half hours of this seems a big ask! This may all be as much of a comment on my musical taste as on the music itself, but unusually, the three films come with a default position of silent play, suggesting that someone else may have had doubts. I found this music more "alien" than any of the scores accompanying Ozu's sound films, and I do not believe he could have intended an accompaniment so far removed from the time and place, real or imaginary, of the films' settings. Nor would he have intended that they should be screened silently. The tracks do not, generally, draw the viewer into the films; their effect is rather of detachment and alienation, yet these films are unlikely to be re-released in any other form for many years, if ever. If the BFI really wants to encourage people to watch and enjoy these films, there really ought to be an alternate and more amenable choice of music available. I am all in favour of encouraging new composers and, in the States, Turner Movies has begun a very successful programme of competitive commission of orchestral scores, but the music must never be a barrier to enjoyment and appreciation of that which it accompanies; at least, not without the provision of an alternative. The first responsibility, in a permanent record of the director's work is to the films themselves and to ensuring their accessibility, not in promoting experimental scores. I might add that I was equally unhappy with the "sounds" that accompanied the BFI release of Pathes "Fairy Tales", but at least each of those was only a few minutes.


Big Trail [DVD] [1930] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Big Trail [DVD] [1930] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ John Wayne
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: 7.52

5.0 out of 5 stars A vast achievement, 5 Dec 2013
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This widescreen Western was made just as synchronised sound came to the cinema. It truly does have epic scope and scale, only hinted at in the standard ratio prints commonly seen in the U.K. Allowances do have to be made for the conditions in which it was made, largely out of doors, generally in remote locations, and of course with early sound equipment, and acting styles and delivery often redolent of the stage. There is also a good deal of "period" colloquialism which is not always easy to pick up, but the print does carry subtitles, which I found invaluable.
All of these caveats become trivial against the visual splendour of the film itself, huge numbers of people, wagons and livestock, dwarfed by the vast and varied landscapes, photographed just before they became compromised by industrial "progress". The choice of camera set-ups and angles shows artistic taste and skill, the print quality is very good, distant details being crisp and clear, and the disc's extras give fascinating details about the enormous creative and physical resources which were devoted to this unique film. There is, I understand, no other feature extant made in this particular panoramic widescreen process, and it is difficult to imagine any other subject so well suited to show it off. For what it is worth, we also seen a youthful John Wayne in his first attempt at stardom, one which failed, not because of his performance, which is generally very good, but because of the physical difficulties in getting the film widely screened. This disc is accompanied by a standard ratio print, rather shorter, but visually better than the standard print generally available in the U.K. Perhaps I should also warn that the violence in the film is remarkably understated, and, an Indian attack on the wagon train apart, played down. This is a milestone in the history of the western, and a film which, once it gets into its stride, fills the viewer with awe; this widescreen print reveals how undeserved its relative obscurity is.


The Naked Island (Masters of Cinema) (1960) [DVD]
The Naked Island (Masters of Cinema) (1960) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Masanori Horimoto
Price: 8.56

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A film to ponder, 19 Oct 2013
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Superficially, this is a detailed documentary charting the annual and perpetual toil of a Japanese couple and their two young boys on an island, as they strive to exist - it is little more than that - cultivating a rocky hillside, with no access to fresh water other than by making repeated journeys by boat to carry it in by the bucket-load from the near-bye mainland to irrigate their meagre crops.These tortuous journeys, and climbs made by each carefully balancing two buckets brimming with the precious liquid on a pole across their shoulders, form the main focus of a substantial proportion of the film, and certainly the film's most abiding image.
Yet this is no documentary: the family members are all actors, and the carefully, and often beautifully, composed shots and sequences in this handsome letterboxed black and white film reveal that there is little here that is not carefully considered and worked upon. The dramatic use of natural sounds and music, and the careful observation of significant and sometimes dramatic details also reveal this, as does the often careful placing of actors and camera to produce patterning and symmetry within the frame. Yet, despite twice here referring to the dramatic, the film as a whole is not conventionally so. With the exception of one tragedy, and its immediate aftermath, which it would be unfair to reveal, the film carries little plot or story, only observation of the daily, and annual, routine. It is even essentially without dialogue, as seem to be the islanders' lives: even at moments of extreme stress, and there are several, not a word is uttered.
It may be a great film - I am not sure - but if it is, it has nothing to do with story or characterisation, but rather with what it suggests and implies -- about the human condition, about relationships between the sexes, about the effects of extreme poverty and isolation even close beside civilisation and relative plenty, about the ageless nature of human suffering and endurance, perhaps even, in a post- nuclear Japan, about the effects on people of being reduced to a subsistence level where all that matters is survival, and there in no space for any form of interaction or activity which is not focused on that. Despite its seeming objectivity, the final effect of the film is almost mythic and symbolic (others have been reminded of the Greek myth of Sisyphus) and certainly intensely moving.


Les Miserables [DVD] [1958] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Les Miserables [DVD] [1958] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Jean Gabin
Offered by RAREWAVES USA
Price: 10.79

4.0 out of 5 stars A Les Miserables of two halves, 16 Oct 2013
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This treatment of Hugo's novel is detailed, of epic length, and, in its letterbox version, full of visual splendour. It stars some great 1950s French actors, including Jean Gabin as Valjean, Bernard Blier as Javert, and Bourvil as Thernadier, and by the end of its 188 minutes the viewer is genuinely moved by the sense of young lives blighted, social injustice, and individual fates being inextricably tangled together, which are so characteristic of the novel. Yet, it is not without major flaws.
The film is presented in two parts separated by a very welcome intermission: the first is, in its entirety, far from satisfying. The action of the story covers Valjean's entire adult life, yet Gabin scarcely seems to age a day, whilst even in this first part, Javert changes from a child into an adult who scarcely looks on the right side of 40. Yet repeatedly both Javert and the Thernadiers fail to recognise the unchanged Valjean when their paths cross!
The performances are strangely unmoving, the direction both of actors and of camera unemotional, remote, detached, and this viewer was uninvolved. Meaningful close-ups and significant details are few and far between. There are many scenes in this first part of poverty, deprivation,human suffering, yet in the main clothing seems spotless, unworn, and what dirt there is seems artfully applied rather than a natural accretion. Gabin's silver hair remains immaculate and undisturbed throughout the entire film,even amidst the carnage of the barricades, and that is largely true of the actor as well. The film's action sequences seem similarly half-hearted and unconvincing.
Things pick-up in the second part. The advent of a new generation brings a new vitality to the action- emotion, hope, idealism, courage- all qualities in short supply before, and Bourvil' s character also gains in complexity. At last the film starts to come alive, thanks largely to Hugo and to some affecting performances from the younger actors who manage to overcome some stodgy direction and stagy sets. So finally, it's just about worth the long slog, but there are far better versions, especially that made for French TV with Lina Ventura and Michel Bouquet, in its complete version.


Noahs Ark [DVD] [1928] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Noahs Ark [DVD] [1928] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Dolores Costello
Offered by RAREWAVES USA
Price: 9.58

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A film for which the term "a cast of thousands" could have been coined., 1 Sep 2013
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In the U.K. at least, this film has been unavailable for very many years in any form other than in a substantially cut abridgement by Robert Youngson with a non-stop added narration. Some have complained that this copy from the Warner archives is incomplete, but this is a lot better than anything seen in the U.K. since the war, and to call it incomplete may be misleading: according to Wikipedia its premier length of 135 mins. was immediately after cut by "about half an hour." That would reduce its original release to about 105 mins, and this copy has a running time of 108 mins., although that includes a prolonged "Overture" of 7 mins.
The film, released in 1928, is largely silent, with original soundtrack of music, sometimes classical, and sound effects, and occasionally with recorded dialogue, which sits uneasily amongst the silent material. The opening overture, in tinny sound and without any musical merit, seems interminable, and forms a bad introduction to the film: my advice for a first viewing would be to omit it by going straight to Chapter 2 . Indeed, generally the principals are not served well by this early sound: their pace is deliberately and unnaturally slow, and their enunciation exaggerated (Guinn "Big Boy" Williams comes out of this with most credit).
The film tells two parallel stories, following in the wake of "The Ten Commandments", one modern, beginning in 1913, through to the end of the 1st World War, and the other biblical: appropriately, the sound dialogue is limited to the first of these, and occupies only a small proportion of that, although it tends to erupt rather without warning. Elsewhere the music and effects are generally successful and contribute well to atmosphere. After an opening Prologue, the modern story takes up exclusively the first hour of the film, and the biblical story, uninterrupted, most of the rest.
The director is Michael Curtiz, who went on to direct "Casablanca" and the best of Errol Flynn's action pictures, and he here takes every opportunity to include action and spectacle: we have the Tower of Babel, the Golden Calf, a spectacular rail crash involving a collapsing bridge, homicide in the stock exchange, first world war battles,-- and a truly spectacular flood which involves that cast I mentioned, and which allegedly caused several drownings. (Curtiz was later blamed for the deaths of horses during "Charge of the Light Brigade".) Indeed, Curtiz manages to include many of what now seem the cliches even of superior 1920s cinema, but does so effectively, convincingly and enjoyably.
The principals each play a similar role in each of the two stories. George O' Brien grins rather too much in the early part of each story for my taste, but this does serve the purpose of indicating a change, especially in the modern story, from gauche and idealistic happy-go-lucky youth, to disillusionment and bitter experience. Dolores Costello is a revelation, at least when we do not hear her speak: her clothes may seem old-fashioned, but otherwise she seems very modern, and is the best single thing in the film (other than the flood), affecting and with real beauty.
The two stories allegedly show "God Almighty's Parallel of the Ages" (to quote the modern cleric who will shortly become Noah), hence Babel equates with modern skyscrapers, the golden calf with America's pursuit of speculative wealth,and "the war itself is a Deluge of Blood drowning a World of Hate". This is all very strained, so don't look for intellectual rigour, but despite all of these grumbles, the film is largely very enjoyable. The modern story is often visually atmospheric and mixes occasional comedy and romance, is well paced, and despite some fuzziness of image, is well shot. The ancient story is unmissable cinematic experience, largely because of scale and spectacle. The disc is without extras, and although NTSC, seems region free.


Dracula (Blu-ray + DVD) [1958]
Dracula (Blu-ray + DVD) [1958]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A definitive issue of this great film?, 30 Aug 2013
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The first Gothic horror I saw in the cinema, a pre-general release print in 1958, and for shock value, atmosphere, pace, music, set design and real excitement, still the best. Cushing's performance, methodical calm punctuated by bursts of frantic and athletic activity, is the highlight of his movie career (he came to Hammer after much experience in television, where in the early 50s he was one of the BBC's leading actors) and Lee's performance is shockingly powerful, the civilised host turning into a bloodthirsty animal, much more so than any of his subsequent appearances in the role. A highlight of post-war British cinema, admirably, intelligently and lucidly described in one of the extras by Sir Christopher Frayling. Other extras include details of the restoration, and the recently discovered footage from Japan, now incorporated into one of the two restorations on these discs, and amply illustrating the difficulties of the restorers' task. A glance at the packaging suggests a booklet, but alas the small print indicates that this is with PDF-DVD only. A very great pity.
This "new", albeit very brief, footage has been one of the main selling points for this 3 disc set, and the implication is that the film is now finally complete. It will probably not become any more complete, but only the final reels were found in Japan, the rest having gone in a fire, and it is not unreasonable to suggest that other material from earlier scenes in the film, not included in the final British release print, might have once existed. I have always remembered, from my original pre-general release viewing, the scene of the vampire woman's staking, shown in shadow.Here we cut away from the silhouette as soon as the first blow is struck, but I remember seeing, still I think in silhouette, a shower of blood spout up as soon as that blow is delivered, then the cutaway. For many years I wondered why I had never seen it again, until I heard of the stronger version for Japan.
The colour work on the restorations is immaculate, and the prints well illuminated.
Two moments of horror which generally go unmentioned. 1 When the vampire woman is thrown to the floor by the count after trying to vampirise Harker, we see her snarl viciously at the camera: at first it seems she is snarling at the count in frustrated anger, but following the eyelines in the next shot, it is clear her venom is directed at Harker--all she is concerned about is drinking his blood. 2 When, back at his castle, the count is interrupted in his attempt to bury a screaming Mina, although we aren't shown the soil landing, his final shovelful is clearly directed at her screaming face, the most contemptuous of throw-away gestures!


Magician [DVD] [1926] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Magician [DVD] [1926] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Paul Wegener
Offered by RAREWAVES USA
Price: 9.58

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A stylish excursion into the gothic, 18 May 2013
In the U.K., amongst most silent film enthusiasts the work of director Rex Ingram, and of his leading lady and wife, Alice Terry, is scarcely known. Ingram is best known for "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse", but copies of his films, even his most popular titles, "Prisoner of Zenda" and "Scaramouche" are almost impossible to find here. Yet he was a great visual stylist, and a cultured artist who, after falling out with MGM set up his own studios on the Riviera, and it is there that "The Magician" was made, not that this is a studio-bound film; one of its virtues is a great deal of location work in the more stylish areas of 1920s Paris and Monte Carlo. Yet this very "contemporary", up-market scenery changes, late in the film, to the most gloomy and gothic of settings; a dark brooding castle on a hill with interiors which foreshadow 1930's "Frankenstein", a shuffling malevolent dwarf, and a devilish practitioner of the black arts who seems modelled on the infamous Aleister Crowley; for this in reality is a horror film, and Paul Wegener (of "The Golem") is intent on using ancient magical formulae for the creation of life, which involve the infusion of a virgin's heart-blood (after removing her heart). This is why Alice Terry was placed in a hypnotically induced trance and spirited away on the eve of her wedding!

Print quality is good, and the orchestral soundtrack works very well, its tints particularly effective in a trance-induced nightmarish scene in Hell where a leering Wegener, his hair transformed to devil's horns, watches as a faun turns into Pan, and a lascivious satyr threatens to make Miss Terry no longer eligible material for the magician's pseudo-scientific attentions!

The film, based on a novel by Somerset Maugham, is an important predecessor of the Universal 30s style, is handsome to look at, and is thoroughly enjoyable, as well as being a valuable introduction to Ingram's work, despite a couple of bizarre examples of humour which do not necessarily work to the film's advantage.

A final note. The eagle-eyed should spot a youthful Michael Powell, working on his first film as advisor and actor, in the scene entitled "The snake-charmer's den".


Two Women - Uncut 186min Edition! - Sophia Loren [DVD] [1988]
Two Women - Uncut 186min Edition! - Sophia Loren [DVD] [1988]
Dvd ~ Sophia Loren

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A second chance to see Loren in Two Women, 14 May 2013
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I bought this DVD in error, not knowing that Loren had remade (for television?) her 1960 cinema classic some 28 years later. I believed this to be a complete version of what had always seemed a heavily edited, if outstanding film, alas now impossible to find in a satisfactory version. The mistake was mine, but I have not regretted the purchase.This remake, in colour and with English dialogue, dubbed in part, is available in two cuts, and I chose the longer of the two, more than twice as long as the original movie (at least, as released). It is on a double-sided disc, but Moravia's original novel is epic in conception, covering as it does the final years of the Second World War, from a domestic Italian perspective, and featuring as background events, the initial toppling of Mussolini, his return to power after German armed intervention, and finally the invasion of Italy by American forces.But these events form the backcloth to the attempts of a mother and her teenage daughter to survive in her home village after fleeing the bombs falling on Rome.

Without the original direction of De Sica, the film largely stands or falls by the performance of Loren, and, to a much lesser degree, of her "daughter", and Loren won a particularly unique Academy Award as Best Actress, the first to be awarded for a performance in a foreign language film, for her 1960 performance. Here, she shows many of the same qualities: an intense maternal love and ability to sacrifice herself, strength, optimism amidst adversity, and a physical grief and sense of betrayal when fate finally turns against her. She dominates this film, as she did the earlier one, in a performance towering above those around her.

In 1960 Loren was originally to play the daughter, so when she took the elder role, an actress was chosen for her daughter who seemed, physically, to be little more than a child, and this fact made events in the later parts of the film the more horrific and tragic, the film ending on a note of despair, of innocence destroyed.The actress chosen to play her daughter in this remake does not quite carry this same sense of pre-adolescence, and her immaturity seems less physical and chronological than emotional and experiential. This subtly changes one's reactions to the film's climactic scenes, for the girl seems less a child than a very young woman: the fact that this version adds a coda which shows the couple's return to Rome also significantly blunts the final effect, making the conclusion less bleak.

One major virtue of this version is that it fills in many of the narrative gaps so evident in the earlier film, although not all, and the slow passage of time is more evident than earlier. Dramatic events in the conventional sense are no more numerous than before, and that in a much longer two part film, and the pace of the movie is slow, but what it at times lacks in drama, it makes up for a closer examination of character and relationships. More time and detail is devoted to the early scenes in Rome before the pair flee, and to the presentation of those they meet both en route and in the village. It makes for a more leisurely examination of the period, and taken as a whole is, although about the war, is in no sense an action movie, but rather a film about endurance, loss , and facing and dealing with disaster. Loren is magnificent! It perhaps requires patience, even stamina, but the effort is worthwhile.
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