Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hawk the Slayer

“This is a story of Heroic Deeds and the bitter struggle for the triumph of Good over Evil and of a wondrous Sword wielded by the mighty Hero when the Legions of Darkness stalk the land.” This unpunctuated mess of a narrated prologue is the opening title card for our movie. We’re in for a winner. Here’s Hawk The Slayer!


Hawk The Slayer was directed by Terry Marcel, who you may remember as the director for such classics as Prisoners of the Lost Universe, and Jane and the Lost City. The art of film direction will forever be indebted to this man. His flawless artistic vision is only complemented by the always subtle acting style of one Jack Palance. This film truly is a classic amongst classics

Who To Know
Hawk – The supposed hero who isn’t likable, isn’t unlikable, and ultimately isn’t really noticeable. Baldin should’ve been the hero. At least he’s clever.
Voltan – The evil brother of Hawk. He looks like the Phantom of the Opera, and wants power.
Ranulf - A supposed warrior that Voltan stabs every time that they come across one another.
Crow – A Spock-like Elf that is great with a bow. He has Elf ears.
Gort – A giant. That’s about it…he’s tall….and he eats.
Baldin – A dwarf that eats…and tricks giants into giving him their food. He has a whip too.

And the story goes...
We open with Voltan threatening his own father for the Key to the Ancient Power. It’s funny seeing Voltan refer to his father as an “old man.” I’d say the guy is probably 5 or 6 years younger than Palance was at this time. It’s like when you have two fat people arguing, and one calls the other fat. There’s no reason for that. Everybody knows that when insulting another person, you must pick something that isn’t true about yourself. I read that in Jet magazine.
 
Long-story-short, Voltan’s brother Hawk, who is about 50 years younger than Voltan, is pounding on the door in an effort to save his father. Dad refuses to give the “last Elvin mindstone” to Voltan, so he stabs his father, and runs. Hawk finally kicks the thin door in, but is too late to catch Voltan. His father gives a sword that has a hand shaped hilt. A glowing rock floats to the hand, the hand comes to life somehow, grabs it, then goes back to being a hilt. Hawk’s ready to slay stuff.
 
After what felt like 20 minutes of opening credits, we see a delirious man, Ranulf, stumbling around. He is taken in by the Sisterhood of the Holy Word, and they are forced to amputate his hand because it’s so badly injured. After he wakes up we discover that “the Devil himself…Voltan” had ransacked his town, killing everybody but him. Convenient. That should add an extra 1.25 hours to the film.
 
Voltan speaks with a wizard for a while about his destiny or something. Then he shows up at the abbey that Ranulf is at to inform the Abbess that he will attack the abbey if they don’t pay him gold. He then throws a knife stabbing Ranulf in the stomach, and cuts a loaf of bread with his sword. Even though Ranulf was just stabbed, he is sent to speak to the head Abbot to find out what he should do. The Abbot says to find Hawk, of course.
 
We cut to a forest to see Hawk save a witch from being burned. Here he does some impressive block-the-arrow-with-your-sword-and-make-it-stick-in-a-tree-fu. We get some Leone-esque close-ups, and the entire time, Hawk does not show any signs of a personality. Hawk has a witch/wizard now too!
 
Meanwhile, Ranulf is still searching for Hawk when he is stopped by forest peasants. He shoots one with a cross bow, then the other one smacks him off of his horse. Seriously, what kind of warrior is this guy? We never see it, but I’m sure the nuns slap him around too. He should stick to farming, or something like that. He’s clearly not cut out for battling. We get a kick-smack music interlude, then Hawk saves Ranulf, while maintaining absolute boringness.
 
Flashback time: Hawk had a fiancé that Voltan believed was his girlfriend before he went to war. That’s the source of all of the animosity.
 
Crow. He's an elf!
Hawk now has to find Crow, Gort, and Baldin in order to fight Voltan. As Hawk discovers, each one is in a real fix, that is until Hawk comes to save the day, because he's our supposed hero. He tells them of the mission, and they each agree to fight. Yay! They return to the Abbey, and have more flashbacks about Voltan killing Hawk’s wife. It turns out Voltan has the Abbess as a hostage now also.
 
Next our heroes come across a disgusting slave trader who spits food on himself when he speaks. An awesome battle scene ensues, and we are invited to bear witness in the choppiest editing that I’ve ever seen. The least they could do is take a couple of different shots of a bow being shot and edit them together. Looping just isn’t doing it.
 
Moving on. Baldin is a trickster when it comes to food. Voltan has a son that he will kill if he holds a knife. And Hawk is still impressively uninteresting.
 
Voltan’s son comes to the Abbey for the gold, but Hawk isn’t feeling it. And, you gotta feel it. So we have another battle scene complete with lots of jump cuts! Voltan’s son is injured in the battle, and Voltan is pist. He kills a soldier that accompanied his son because the sodier survived. That makes sense, I guess.
 
Voltan drops in on the abbey without so much as a phone call, and lets everybody know that they are to give him gold and Hawk, or else the Abbess will be “returned with her innards around her scrowney neck”. Hawk ain’t havin’ it! Crow is out to find Voltan’s hang out, as he runs in slow motion across the land. Luckily in his slow running, he found the blind witch to assist.
 
She shows the group where some of Voltan’s men are camping. We now get to see some of the smokiest fights scenes that have been committed to film! Once finished, Hawk continues to be boring.
 
We get about 5 minutes of the usual. Hawk is worthless, Crow is emotionless, and Gort and Baldin eat. But then a nun drugs some beer and gives it to Gort. No, it’s not “date rape time,” it’s “betray everybody in the convent for your own gain time, and say it’s to help the Abbess time!” This nun allows access to the abbey for Voltan, and is surprised when he betrays and kills her. Holy crap Jack Palance is a ham. Shatner has nothing on this thespian. His speach about killing Hawk's crew brought tears to my eyes.
 
Tied up, our heroes are in great peril. But then, the blind witch enters to shoot silly string on the guard, which is apparently enough to put him and everybody else in the room, besides Hawk's crew, in a coma. Then, the midget dies and we move to a battle with snow and glowing ping-pong balls, and the disco-iest of disco music that I’ve ever heard. I was expecting a biker a sailer and a construction worker to pop on screen. The Indian wouldn’t be there because it’d be too out of place.
 
Hawk and Voltan have their final battler, which is pretty much Voltan swinging his sword wildly while Hawk swats at it. Alas, Voltan is tired, so Hawk moves in for the kill. Voltan’s last words are that he’ll be waiting for Hawk “at the gates of hell.” Holy crap, the dudes even a hard-ass when he’s dieing!
 
When all is said and done, a floating wizard takes Voltan’s body and says that his death will not last because they need him. The blind witch tells Hawk and Gort that some stuffs going down in the south. Looks like it’s time for the sequel, HAWK THE HUNTER!

Bring home the Slayer, in all of his boring glory today!
Hawk the Slayer

Previous: The Wizards of the Demon Sword

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Wizards of the Demon Sword 1991

Most in appropriate cover art ever. Michael
Berryman has a whopping 4 minutes in the movie.
The Wizards of the Demon Sword is another movie that I happened upon on a warm Spring evening whilst perusing Joox for something new to watch. After a quick look over on the always (kind-of) trusty IMDB, I knew it was a definite must see. Directed by Fred Olen Ray!..Oooooh. Produced by Troma Entertainment!...Aaaah. Rated R for nudity and violence!...Yippie ki-yay motherlover.

If you're not familiar with the work of Fred Olen Ray, then you must ask yourself several questions before attempting to watch any of his movies, which range from bad (though in a good way) to awful (in a bad way).
  • Question 1: Do you like breasts?
  • Question 2: Is thinking during a movie important to you?
  • Question 3: Do you view very low production values, and a lack of a plot negatively?

  • The answer to Question 1 should be: Yes
  • The answer to Question 2 should be: No
  • The answer to Question 3 should be: No
If you answered these questions correctly then get ready for some poorly written dialog, extremely sub-par acting, nude women, and claymation dinosaurs that are never on screen with the actors but are still in the movie for some reason!

People to Know

Thane of Hawksridge - The annoying lead character. He claims to be the greatest swordsman ever, and is marginally famous. He has the biggest sword that I've ever seen, and it is only surpassed by his ego. He has a "warrior's cry."

Melina - Daughter of Ulrich the Elder Keeper of the Blade of Aktar. (Geez I'm glad that societies eventually adopted surnames). She's a feminists nightmare in that she's very useless, and pretty much is there for eye candy.

Lord Khoura - The most yuppie looking wizard that I have ever seen. He needs a female virgin (don't we all) to use as a sacrifice to gain ultimate power. He's holding Ulrich the Elder prisoner, and has taken the Blade of Aktar for his sacrificial ceremony.

Damon - Thane of Hawkridge's annoying supporting character. He thinks that he is the best sword fighter in the world, but neither he nor Thane can defeat one another. But who's the best?! The suspence is killing me.

The Seer of Robock - A crazy Ted Kaczynski looking gent. He can shoot lightning from blades, and apparently has a preference for black women.

Selena & Omar - Two of Lor Khoura's henchmen. They are both, no doubt, card carrying member of GLADD.

Ulrich the Elder - Keeper of the Blade of Aktar. He doesn't really have much of a personality.

Gorgon - The best named character in the entire movie...and he knows it.

And the Story Goes...

Geez guys..you gotta want it.
We begin with Melina being chased by three of the laziest pursuers that have ever been filmed. There is a moment where Melina hides under a large rock in an effort to escape her potential captors. The three idiots are standing on the rock, and she is literally 5 feet below them. All they would have to do is jump down, but instead they say "she must have jumped". Oh really? She jumped six whole feet to her imminent death? Jump down and find her jackass!

She is finally captured, but is saved by the always stupid Thane of Hawksridge. He has to be one of the most annoying characters that I've seen. He just talks and talks and talks, and it's always about how great he is. Scemo.

We learn the Melina's father is Ulrich, and that he is being held prisoner by Lord Khoura. As it turns out Ulrich is no ordinary Urich. He's Ulrich the Elder: Keeper of the Blade of Aktar. Holy geez, it's serious now! Why does Lord Khoura need the Blade of Aktar? Why, to obtain "eternal dark power," of course. What an original plot device. He's having problems using the knife, and concludes that he needs "pure new blood", which age doesn't really matter, she just can't have had sex apparently.

Hmm, time for some slave auctions with a man, Lawrence Tierney, who sounds like he's done nothing but smoke premium Turkish tobacco that had been laced with paint thinner for the previous 30 years, solely in preparation for this role. I honestly can't stand the sound of a human voice that is coated in flem and...ah-ha! we get our first booby shot! Impressive. The virgin that he is trying to auction off is taken by Selena without payment. How's he supposed to eat when all of his virgins keep getting taken away? Everybody knows that a virgin is worth 3 times as much as a used wench. Check Kelley Blue Book if you don't believe me!

Thane and Melina go to a brothel to seek The Seer of Robuck(?). I guess it's an appropriate place to look for an oracle. At first the Madam(?) who apparently stands and watches everybody lay around while she smokes a hooka, doesn't seem interested in helping. Eventually she helps, and we learn that the Seer is "north." Oh really? Any particular area north? I mean, the world is pretty big. North covers a pretty large area of Earth.

Next secne: Selena stabs the virgin, and then laughs. That pretty much sums up all that happened there.

Thane and Melina stumble upon the slave trader who gives more vague directions, but somehow they are able to find the Seer. He relates to Melina that she is the key sacrifice to provide eternal dark power, and that Khoura can’t do anything without her. The Seer then Rambles on about how the enlightened ones decided that the knife has to be plunged into that which the Blade Holder cares about most.

Selena then possesses Melina, as she sleeps, by summoning the Spirit of the Never Ending Light, in an effort to try to kill Thane. The two wrestle on the ground as she tries to stab him. Meanwhile The Seer is sound asleep, not more than 6 feet away. Selena’s use of Spiritual transportation angers Khoura, because the powers of darkness must be respected after all. Improper use of the power of darkness is just immoral.
Holy geez Michael Berryman is weird. Gotta love him.
Thane and Melina are back on the road, only to be attacked by highway men while they camp for the evening. Melina is kidnapped so that she can be sold to Khoura, and Thane is tied up and left to die in the desert. Enter the Damon. He cuts Thane free, and they battle to see who is truly the best. It's my belief that they both suck. I’m not even sure that these fight scenes were rehearsed. Anyways, Damon agrees to help Thane because he’s “got nothing to do that afternoon”. Oh, the confidence is plenty.
Khoura tells Ulrich that he knows to use Melina and has plans to sacrifice her. To which Ulrich replies by calling Khoura a “bastard.” Then Thane and Damon storm the castle in the most unexciting way possible. At one point they even laugh that one of the guards is a midget. It's bad when even the characters within the movie question the casting decisions.

Again Thane is captured. What is with this guy? He is always talking about his great fighting skills, but he is captured in every other scene.

Moving on, we see the same scene about 3 times where Khoura threatens to torture Melina in the most painful way imaginable. Honestly, we get it, Khoura. You’re going to torture her. Do it or shut up.

Damon rescues Ulrich and Thane, and they begin to have an another annoying conversation to establish who the alfa male is. There are times that I can’t tell if these two want to go have a beer and watch the game, or to hump each other. Moving on…we have more crappy fight scenes! It is laughable how bad the actors are at trying to fight. Some just stand around waiting for their turn, and they don’t even look interested.

Best scene in the movie.
During the chaos Ulrich frees Melina, but they are spotted by Selena. We think that we might get some girl fight action, but are mistaken when a jerk named Thane comes running in to fight Selena instead. Selena is killed.

Khoura kills Damon (off camera), thank god. This pleases me. Khoura does some wizardly stuff that creates sparks, so everybody runs. Thane and Khoura have one of the most (un)intense fight scenes ever filmed. Thane is able to take the Blade of Aktar from Khoura’s belt, and he stabs him with it. Khoura hams it up for a few while he dies, and the blade is returned to its rightful owner.

Damon is still dead.

Overall

The acting is awful, the dialog is awfuller, and the fight scenes are awfullest. Would I say that it's as unintentionally funny as Tommy Wiseau's "The Room" (which I believe is one of the most unintentionally funny movies ever)? No. But, it is pretty funny. It's worth a watch on a weekend, if there is nothing else to do. Make sure you have the brain cells to kill beforehand though.

There are dinosaurs too. Don't know why, but they're in the movie. And there is no interaction between them and the characters.











Trailer till Wizards of the Demon Sword från rstvideos trailerarkiv.
 
 

Here is it on DVD. Help feed Mr Olen Ray.  

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Devil's Nightmare Review: A Tale of Three Hot Chicks


Ah, 1971's The Devil's Nightmare, or La plus longue nuit du diable, or La terrificante notte del demonio, or Vampire Playgirls, or...eh, there are too many titles for this movie for my lazy fingeres to type them all.

Anyways, I discovered this little Belgian/Italian gem on a cool Autumn day when I was searching Joox.net, back when the site was up, for something new to watch. I've never shied away from Italian horror, especially those that were produced in the 1970's, and after a quick lookup on the semi-trusty IMDB, I decided to give it a go.

I read the synopsis, which basically stated that 7 tourists are in need of shelter for a night after they miss their ferry, and the road is blocked denying their tour bus from advancing in a rural area. They are told by an extremely emo-ish looking man in black that is burning sticks that they may be able to stay in the Castle Rhoneberg  for the night. Each tourist represents one of the seven deadly sins. A succubus is in the castle that they are staying in taking each one out according to their sins. Ok, sounds good to me.


So, the movies begins with what appears to be stock footage of WWII, and a title card that says 1945. It's not what I expected, but if I wanted obscenely predictable movies, I'd watch some of the millions of remakes that are put out every year. This is European horror, and if history has taught me anything, it's that 1970's European horror is hardly ever predictable. We get some basic backstory that in the 12th century Sigfried von Rhoneberg made a pact with the devil, and that every first born daughter of each generation would serve him as a succubus. As is turns out the 1945 Baron von Rhoneberg's wife has just had their first baby...a girl. Oh no, the curse continues! So the good Baron does what any repectable father would do, and stabs his baby daughter (on camera no less). Those Germans are all business. (As a little FYI, the Baron rocked his maid who had his daughter, but he is unaware. This daughter would be the first born, and would ultimately be the cursed daughter).  
 
Next scene = opening credits with some P.I.M.P.-ASS music by Italy's own Alessandro Alessandroni! Pictures of castles with Alessandroni's music is the stuff dreams are made. Well, that and boobies, I suppose. We eventually get some of those too, so this film truly has it all!
 
So, next it's 1971, and the Baron who killed his daughter, and doesn't seem to have aged since 1945, is speaking to a reporter about a curse that has been placed on his family, but he doesn't want articles written on the family curse. Hmm, you're cursed, and don't want anybody to know, but you're going to tell a reporter and then tell her that she can't write an article with that information in it? Sounds logical to me! Anyways, she then asks to take pictures of the castle, which again the Baron tells her that she's not allowed. Why did he even have her over? She can't report, can't take pictures. What the hell is she even there for? Being a reporter, and a women (bring it feminists), she ignores his requests and takes pictures anyways. Then a trident looking pole stabs her tire, at which point she runs, and is murdered by a camera. Goodbye unimportant character.
 
Now that that's over with we get to meet our tourists! Lets see, we have a priest- Father Alvin Sorel, an old curmudgeon- Mason, an overweight bus driver- Max Ducha, a jealous wife-Nancy, an aldulterous husband- Howard, a hot blond- Regine, and a hotter brunette- Corrine. So, they end up at Castle von Rhoneberg, and it turns out to be pretty creepy. The usual stuff, doors that open and close by themselves, rain, and a strange staff running the place. It may give them the creeps, but as long as they don't try to take pictures, the camera may spare them.
 
The butler tells them that their rooms are ready because somebody phoned the castle to let them know that the tourists were coming...but who?! As he shows them their rooms we learn that Father Sorel is in fact not a Father, but is in training. He just like to wear the outfit to trick people I guess. We also learn that the mark of the devil is on the floor of the falso preists floor. The butler just kind of gives this piece of information away. The residents of the castle seem adamant about keeping this curse a secret, but at the same time they tell anybody that they come in contact with about it. On to more interesting topics. The two hot characters are both scared, and decide to room together. Oh dear! Two women sharing a room in 1970s Euro-sleaze? Some craziness will ensue.
 
Ah-ha, Baron von Rhoneberg is alchemist. I knew it! We get a view of his impressive 1930s-ish Universal horror lab, complete with boiling beakers and sparks flying. You know, I had a feeling that the Baron maintined his wealth with the help of mysticism. More time than not, European nobility will ensure the continuous growth of their wealth with...whoa lesbianism!
 
Now we move to Howard and Nancy having a lovers quarrle. Nancy believes that Howard is trying to get up in Corrine. You know, all relationships take effort from both parties involved. It is often difficult for one to place absolute trust in another. This lack of trust can cause the jealous partner to see things that in a light that may not be correct, causing much pain to that of their lover who....whao more lesbianism already!
 
Dinner time. The Baron takes time to make small talk with all of his guest before dinner. We get to learn more about each of the characters. For instance, Mason is a prick to virtually everybody that he comes into contact with, Max really likes food, and Corrine is a huge whooo-ore. She claims to collect men, especially married men. Everybody needs a hobby.
 
This is all fun and everything, but something is missing. I don't know what, but it seems like there is an element that isn't present. What could it be? Oh, I know...the succubus!
 
Enter the succubus- Lisa (Erica Blanc). On first appearance Lisa appears to be nothing more than a woman in need of shelter. She enjoys the post dinner festivities with the guests, and gets to know them. Meanwhile Howards is making plans with Corrine to get to know each other a little better behind the staricase to the attic at midnight. I personally couldn't think of a more appropriate place or time, and I would challange you to.
 
We continue on with strange things happening, such as doors that will not open and blood dripping from the ceiling (which turns out to be a cat impaled on spikes). The entire attic is filled with torture devices. Not uncommon for most German households from what I hear. Also, Lisa keeps appearing in the not-priest's room wearing sexually arousing clothing. He eventually has enough, and moves to the library to keep from thinking of the hot ho that keeps appearing on his bed. Uh-oh, here she comes to the library. The seduction continues, though the quasi-priest stays strong, and does not succumb to Lisa's tactics. You're safe for now Senore Falso.
 
But guess who isn't safe. The man who likes to eat. Lisa shows her true colors starting with this poor sap. Oh, what's that? You like to eat? And eat you shall. Seriously, watching this man eat is one of the most difficult things that I've ever had to watch. And that includes the abortion video that I was forced to bear witness to in my health class in High School.
 
Next is Nancy. She loves-a the gold. Don't worry Nancy, Lisa will help you find the Baron's gold. In all seriousness, Old Jack Plissken has always considered himself a greedy fellow, I'd bang a goat in front of a group of Japanese business men for $5, but this stronza makes me look like the most ethical and generous mofo on the planet. She is pissed at her husband for trying to bang Corrine, but is cool with it if she can find the Baron's gold and steal it. You get what you deserve "Nancy the Greedy."
 
Poor Howard and Corrine. Howard is stuck in a loveless marriage, while possessing and insatiable appetite for vagina. Corrine is a whoo-ore. With todays slutty standards, I'm sure that most of us know people like these anways, but this is the 1970s kids. (I don't know what that's supposed to mean). 
 
Moving on. (about) Time for Mr. Mason. I hate this character. He reminds me of a boss I once had. Dude was a prick everybody, but for some reason the company wouldn't fire him. I mean seriously, if a person is having conflicts with everybody within an organization, then it is the responsibility of the company to intervene. I mean you can't just allow this to continue! It isn't fair that everybody else has to succumb to this bastard, and nothing is done! I mean what the fu...I'm sorry, I'm still a little passionate about that subject.
 
So, it's time for the sloth AKA Regine. I'm sorry everybody, but this one hits a little close to home. She likes to sleep. Is that a reason to kill her? That's just mean.

Not-Father Alvin time! Lisa can't take Alvin, so Skinny Devil has to make another appearance. Honestly, he's not a very impressive devil. He looks more like a pedo than a devil, but I have a feeling the producers didn't have the cash to find somebody more devilish. Sean Connery must have asked for too much.

Finally! The showdown between almost good and kind of evil! Time to bargin with the devil. Wouldn't somebody who is training as a priest know that the devil is a trickster that will not live up to end of the deal? I mean, the Prete Falso even mentions that he will go on to save many souls, and thus rob the devil of them. So, wouldn't that make more sense from an efficiency stand point? Jack Plissken understands that these were people that the man had developed a quasi relationship with, but what about all of the others? I don't know, I just seems kind of strange to make a weird deal like that.
 
All in all this is a good movie, with a great soundtrack. If you haven't seen it, but like 1970s European horror and exploitation, then you will probably find something enjoyable with this movie. Erika Blanc is great. Alessandro Alessandroni delivers. And I would recommend this to fans of atmospheric horror.   



Wow! The Devil's Nightmare and Messiah of Evil on 1 two feature set?! That 100% deal.




Previous: Lionheart

Lionheart Movie Review - The Beacon of Hope

Van Damme looking extra liony in
Lionheart
The legacy of Lionheart shall forever remain in our hearts. Lets pay tribute to this monumental achievement in cinema.

The pain felt from the loss of a brother that was burned to death in a drug-deal-gone-wrong is all too familiar to most of us. The majority of us feel powerless to express our overwhelming grief in the face of such events, which only nourishes our desire to seek those that know and understand our pain. Our species has forever, and will forever, develope relationships with others in an effort to help us work through our most difficult moments. Not content with reaching a limited amount of people in need, the team of Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sheldon Lettich and S.N. Warren set out with a legitimate desire to relay our stories, and reach out to those who need their help most. The result was a therapeutic film that was simply titled Lionheart. For those who have been touched by this film, there is no satisfactory level of gratification that we could express to these three brave men. For those who have not been given visual and emotional ecstasy with this film, I am truly sorry, and hope my words will encourage you to view it.

 If you are one of those who are in the minority of never experiencing the mortal burning of a sibling, there is no need to fear. Lionheart covers many controversial topics such as race relations, homo-erotic bare knuckle fighting, and tricking people to accept money from you when they don't want to accept it. There is no doubt that there is something for everybody in this film.

From the moment that we see Leon stab his mail with a large knife in an attempt to scare the mail delivery boy, we see his unflinching devotion to his brother, as well as his effort to go AWOL from the army that he clearly does not want to be in. Who among us have not been soldiers in the French Legion that is stationed in what looks to be somewhere in Africa, only to desert once we find out that our brother has been burned alive? Clearly, we are being met on an emotional level rarely achieved in 1980's action films.

We are then transported to the world of human smuggling, with Leon assuming the role of the smuggled goods. For all of us who feel empowered by Leon's defiance of his rude smuggler, the scene plays like magic. Pure art is the only way to describe the beauty of dialog, camera work, and music that are forever embedded into our tortured hearts.

We are challenged with the question of how far would we each go to earn money to give to our sister-in-law that hates us when Leon decides to fight a bunch of people, and assume a foul-mouthed American as a manager. As we hear Joshua, brought to life by Harrison Page, yell over and over "give me the money mother-fucker" and "mother-fucker, come back...hey wait, mother-fucker", we can sense how close these lines are to the soul of the actor. Never have I been brought to tears the way that I was with each delivery by the embattered Joshua. The two men, Leon and Joshua, prove to us that race should never be a concern when people who have nothing in common develop relationships with each other. I find myself stumbling to find the words when attempting to descibe the manner in which this film captures the human spirit.

Another topic covered is the perception of men in our modern world as nothing more than fighting sex objects. Women need to understand that we are more than just bodies here for their sexual enjoyment, and come to terms with the fact that we have minds, and can contribute to society. When Cynthia's (played by Deborah Rennard) inappropriate advancements were made on Leon, his response of not banging her relentlessly was his way of saying "hey, I may be a man, but that does not give you the right to try to have sex with me without first buying me dinner." This brave act is inspiration to all of us who have had sexy older women try to hump us. Disgusting. Burn your boxers proudly.

Finally, we move on to Leon's fight with Atilla. We must all face our fears, and Atilla is the living representation of these fears. I remember the first time that I fought an opponent to the death in order to try to earn money for my sister-in-law and niece. I was scared, but I knew that their futures were limited since my brother was burned to death in a drug deal gone wrong. Sure, he may have been much bigger than I was, and he sported large porkchop sideburns, but I was able to overcome him, and make him submit instead of killing...because I'm a swell guy.

This story proudly displays the idea that any goal can be achieved, even with broken ribs, if you have heart. Even the two Legion guys that are tracking Leon so that they can capture him, and take him back to the French Legion fall victim to his heartfelt actions. They ultimately decide to place their own jobs on the line, and let him continue to live with his brother's wife and daughter. Follow your dreams, and you could be the next Leon Gaultier.

Holy geez! A Van Damme 4 pack?! That's value if I've ever seen it. It's one of the best purchases that I've ever made. And that includes my Russian mail order bride!
Van Damme Four-Feature Film Set


Previous: Thunder in Paradise

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thunder In Paradise Review: Hogan's Answer to Airwolf

Few characters in cinematic history have been able to capture the public's imagine on a subconscious level that we are all able to identify with. With only the slightest mention we can all conjure memories of these characters that have touched us so deeply. Characters such as Rick Blaine, Forrest Gump, Travis Bickle, and of course R.J. "Hurrican" Spencer will forever hold a place in our hearts. One could hardly argue the notion that even the best character would be found wanting the hands o f an inept actor. Hower, the world was blessed when one of the finest thespians in modern history brought to life this memorable performance that we all fell in love with. Terry Gene Bollea, or Terry Hulk Hogan to our less cultured readers, was responsible for allowing us to see the subtle beauty of Hurrican Spencer in Douglas Schwartz's Thunder in Paradise. Never for a moment are we unable to feel an emotional connection with Spencer as he stumbles his way through life. Have we not all felt as though we were falling without a strong shoulder to support us in our time of need? Hogan's subtle acting nature provides us with the tools needed to look deep inside ourselves, and to evaluate what we see without bias. From the moment we see Spencer, baring his eyepatch that no doubt represents the mask he uses to cover his conflicted soul, all of his internal conflicts are apparent to us. Who is this man? He is strong in the physical sense, but can he overcome his inner demons? These are the questions that must be asked, and ultimately answered by the viewer.
Thunder In Paradise is Hogan's vehicle to provide a timeless performance, but one can never deny the environment that Douglas Schwartz had provided him to achieve his Oscar worthy example of what is possible in film. From the opening credits with women performing various actions, such as lying on a boat or running down a beach in slow motion, we question how we would act in this environment. The tiltle implies that we are in paradise, but what actually constitutes paradise? Could thunder actually be the crash of reality as we discover that "paradise" is not what we expected? The intention of Schwartz as he presents the lack of validity in reality is ever apparent, and never without doubt. He presents to us an alternative to what we believe is reality...an alternative that can be all but debated.


Never one to shy away from controversial topics, Hogan accepts the roll of a man that must decide between continuing his profession as a mercenary, or accepting a less attractive, though more secure, position in order to raise his motherless daughter. Dare I say, this is a similar decision that most of us face on a daily basis. We crindge at Spencer's decision to enter a loveless marriage, not to provide his daughter with a much needed mother, but rather to gain money to save his boat. This may seem heartless, but once we understand that Thunder is actually a representation of the family structure that he desires, we can fully comprenhend his seemingly selfish choice. His desires may seem misplaced, but he is obviously blind to this reality, a flaw that we must accept in our hero. Schwartz is forcing the audience to challenge their conventional notions of what is ethical and moral. Signs of a true auteur have never been more present.

Spencer's desire to maintian seperate lives is tested when his daughter's necklace, which he retrieved from a sharks stomach, is stolen by the villain in the movie. Could the shark's gutting be a representation of Spencers inability to maintain that which he thought was his? Unable to protect his daughter from being robbed of her necklace, Spencer is torn in the realization that he proves inadequate at protecting her from losing that which she cares about most. In essence he is powerless at preventing the wolf from attacking little red riding hood.

At last Spencer is able to retrive his treasure, but is trapped in a hole in the process. The hole is his pit of despair. We can see his world growing dark as he desperately creates ideas to escape, and save himself and his friends. We can feel the weight of the world weigh on his shoulders as all look to him for deliverance. Never fear, salvation shall come, and our messianic figure shall provide it.

If you have not seen this treasure of cinema, do so immediately. Rent or buy, and be prepared to see Hogan do what he does best. As a viewer you will enter an imperfect example of the human species, and finish the film with an enhanced understanding of both yourself, and the world around you.

Here's a link to purchase Thunder In Paradise 1-3. Never has a deal of this magnatude been presented willingly. Watch, Enjoy, Learn.

Thunder in Paradise Collection




Previous: Snake Plissken

Monday, August 2, 2010

Snake Plissken



The Life and Times of Snake Plissken

A somewhat detailed discussion of the biography of one of cinema's greatest characters. No bias is taken as we attempt to uncover the man that they call Plissken.

Every avenue is taken and every resource exhausted in an effort to find out just who Snake Plissken is. The goal of this page is to educate and enlighten both people that know of Snake, and those that are new to his world.

 
Snake Plissken: The Early Years
(Before WWIII)
 
The details of Plissken's childhood are a deeply classified secret. We know that his name is S.D. Plissken. Aside from this information, the facts of his early life are shrouded in mystery. The lack of "transparency" within the Special Forces will probably keep the masses from ever knowing Snake's background and identity. We will continue to fight to know, but until there is Change, we may never discover the early life of this hero.

It is also possible that Snake was not "born" in the traditional sense that normal humans are, but that he was, in fact, created by a secret government program using 1 part "hardcore" and 2 parts "badass". This could explain his ability to take the large amount of punishment that he receives in each story.

However Plissken was conceived, it is clear that he possesses a higher sense of courage and descructive ability than the average person.

Where Does the Snake Lead
Entrance to a Life of Crime

Snake was allegedly in college when the war with Russia began. This information is based on government records. Again, I feel that it is important to note the lack of credibility when using goverment information, and that it is possible that Snake's history was created to conceal his true history.

Eventually Snake enlisted as a Lieutenant in the Army Special Forces unit "Black Flight". He was awarded many awards, and was the definition of the commie bashing American Hero Soldier. His life would change during the Leningrad Ruse of 1990, as we all know. This was the era that Snake received his phalic tattoo, and his signature eyepatch.

Upon returning to his home, Snake discovered that the United States Police Force was made of poodies, and had killed his parents during an operation to capture criminals. This is the final element that made Snake snap and resort to anti-social activities against the government. He began robbing banks, and the man who was once seen as the model soldier became the model criminal. Amongst the criminal element, Snake has become something of a legend, and almost a folkhero for them. His anti-establishment attitude makes him the perfect candidate for the representation of freedom.

In Kansas city Snake and Fresno Bob were cornered by the United States Police Force during a robbery. They were left behind by a cowardly Harold Helman, or Brain as he would later be known. Snake was able to escape, but was witness to the torture of Fresno Bob by the USPF. This created a lot of hatred for Hellman in the heart of Snake, and the tension could be seen once they encounter each other in New York.

It is in 1997 that Snake was finally captured after an ambush. The events after his capture are very well documented on Escape From New York.

Escape From New York
Snake's stay in the most magical place on earth




After Air Force One was hi-jacked and crashed in Manhattan, which by this time was in a state of anarchy and a prison. Government officials had no choice but to rescue the president, and retrieve the tape that he carried that would make the United States the sole superpower left in the world. There was only one man with the perfect combination of ability and street cred that could pull the job off. That man was Snake Plissken.

Plissken's ability to fly glidders into any sitution regardless of the environment proved useful in providing access for him into Manhattan. He was able to gain access without alarming the Duke of New York, though it probably wouldn't matter becuase Snake could at any time bitchify the Duke and take his woman. It took Snake some time to find the Duke and the President, but rest assured he can fight his way through anything. We see Snake hide when the crazies from underground are running through the streets, but I believe it is because he doesn't want to kill that many people. Perhaps he doesn't want the city to stink of death while he's looking for the President. That would be an inconvenience, and Snake doesn't have time for inconveniences.



One interesting note is Snake's compassion for Brain. Here is a man who left him and Fresno Bob behind to be killed, and Snake continues to allow Brain to ride along, even when they were about to escape. A lesser man would've left Brain behind to face his punishment from the Duke of New York. However, Snake said to himself "I hate this man, and Fresno Bob was tortured because he left us behind, but two wrongs do not make a right, and nobody deserves the torture that the Duke will inflict on Brain if he is caught". Or, he just wanted to get the hell out of new york, and Brain knew the fastest way out. Snake can be a "user" like that.

I can't fully explain all of Snakes qualities in detail, because frankly I'm not that talented as a writer. Rent or buy the movie to see Snake's biography from the "New York Era" as it should be known.

Snake Plissken hates crazies the way Glen Beck hates anything not American. 


Escape From LA
Plissken in Time

Escape From L.A. picks up where we never left off. Any fool who claims that this is the same movie as Escape From New York is clearly delusional, and probably doesn't think well. For instance, in Escape From New York, Snake is looking for the president. In Escape From L.A., Snake is looking for the president's daughter...that's completely different. Another simility that people site is that in both movies he finds a semi-love interest that dies five minutes after meeting Snake. First of all, do you think that with all of the women that want Snake, that a couple of them won't die after a few minutes? It's not Snake's fault.

Rarely in cinematic history has tension been created that would be on par with the scene where Cuervo Jones forces Snake to play basketball, or die. One reviewer wrote "Even when my own premature son was born and on the brink of death, I did not experience the stress that I felt during Snake's basketball scene". Wow, powerful stuff.

Snake is an all out tour de force in this adventure. You get to see him surf a tidal wave alongside Pipeline, a character brought to life by the always willing to accept a roll if it will him attention, Peter Fonda. You may remember Peter as the younger brother of the communist loving traitor Jane Fonda. It doesn't get any better than that! Watch the trailer to get a feel for this biopic on the life of the great Snake during the period that I like to refer to as "The L.A. Era".







Previous: Jim Jarmusch II

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Jim Jarmusch - American Auteur

The Complete Works of Jim Jarmusch: Part II

This page is a continuation of Jim Jarmusch - An American Auteur: Part I. We'll look at the the last five films that Jarmusch has offered: A Night On Earth, Dead Man, Ghost Dog: The Way of The Samurai, Broken Flowers, and The Limits of Control.

We've seen his beginings in the colorized Permanent Vacation, and his transition to black-and-white films. With Mystery Train Jarmusch went back to color, though he continues to aternate between black-and-white and color. It continues to be dificult to describe his complete style due to the fact that he often switches structure and geres between each film. There is always a the breath of fresh air within each of his movies, and you can never be certain that you have it figured out. We can always look foraward to viewing something new each time we watch a new Jarmusch film.

Below are summaries of his last five films. I placed my opinion in them to try to help the reader decide if they like them. Though, if you are reading this, then you are probably curious to begin with. If you new to the world of Jarmusch, then perhap Ghost Dog or Dead Man would be the best options to start with.

If you would like to learn more about Jim, besides the interviews that I have posted on Part I of this article, then I would suggest that you check out jim-jarmusch.net. They have a lot of good information such as news updates and a biography.

Night On Earth
5 Segment Anthology

Coming Soon!


Back to Black and White

With Dead Man Jarmusch tackles the Western genre. Westerns have been a dying for many years, and perhaps Johnny Depp's character, William Blake, is the representation of the death of the Western? Anyways, we see different type of Wild West, without all of the glitz and pizzaz of the typical hollywood Western. It's raw, dirty, and the closet thing to a hero is the Native American, Nobody, that is leading William to his destination. In other words, this is not John Ford's or Sergio Leone's version of the West.

We begin with Blake on a train headed to the town of Machine. He is given an upleasant welcome by a mysterious train fireman as men aboard the train shoot the buffalo as they pass them. When he arrives, Blake discovers that the company that said that they would hire him had already given the job to somebody else.

Disappointed, he meets a prostitute and ends up in her room. Her ex-boyfriend discovers them and tries to kill Blake as he lies in bed, but he shoots the prostitute instead. The bullet ends up in Blake's chest, but does not kill him. Blake kills the man, who we discover is the son of the rich owner of the company that Blake was supposed to work for. He then flees town because he knows that he will be considered a murderer and hung.

The rich owner hires three fronteer bounty hunters to find Blake. From this point He wakes to find Nobody, an Indian, trying to dislodge the bullet from his chest, though unsuccessfully. Nobody knows that Blake is "the walking dead", and agrees to escort him to where he needs to go. They encounter the bounty hunters and a group of strange people on their way to their destination, all of which are comical. Blake finally arrives to his destination on the verge of death.


 
There is much more to this story than the brief description that I provided above. There are many visual, as well as verbal statements made that are typically comical in nature. This film is definitely worth renting or purchasing. It's not your typical shoot out at the coral adventure, it's on another level.
Dead Man
 

Ghost Dog: The Way of The Samurai
Jarmusch's Urban Samurai Vision
 
Ghost Dog is a hitman that follows the ancient code of the samurai. He lives in simplicity says very little, and has a whole lot of street creditibilty. He spends much of his time on his rooftop cottage with his carrier pidgeons, or conversing with his French speaking friend, an ice cream salesman that does not understand English. Ghost Dog does not understand French, but they seem to understand each other. He is loyal to a mobster that he claims saved his life years ago, and performs hits for him when he is ordered to.

He is sent on a mission, but is discovered and becomes a liability to the mob. They decide to track him down and kill him to eliminate the possibility of the developement of any problems. Eventually the mobsters find his cottage and kill his pidgeons. Ghost Dog knows that he's going to have to kill the entire mob in order to survive, which he does with the exception of the man that saved his life.

In the end, the man finds Ghost Dog, who is then forced to decide between staying loyal to the code, or killing his master in order to survive.
Ghost Dog - The Way of the Samurai

Broken Flowers
The Return of Murray

Broken Flowers follows the events of an aging ladies man, Don Johnston. As his girlfriends breakups with him, a letter is slid throught the door. He reads it to find out that it is from a former lover. The letter claims that he had a son with her, and that the son may be trying to track Don down. The letter is not signed and Don concludes that it could only be one of four possible women that wrote the letter, or could be hoax.His neighbor convinces him to seek out the women, and to find out who his son is.

The first of the four possible candidates, Laura, has a daughter, Lolita, that tries to seduce Don by entering a room that he is sitting in, fully nude. (Lolita could be a reference to the novel or the film.) Don is able to resist and enjoys dinner with Laura and Lolita. He ends the night by sleeping with Laura, and concludes that she is not the person that wrote the letter, and moves on to the next.

Dora is the second possibility, but he believes that she did not write the letter after an awkward dinner with Dora and her husband. After Dora, Don travels to the workplace of Carmen to find the answer. She clearly tells him that she never had children, and there are allusions that she has a relationship with her female secretary. The final option is Penny, who is offended at the question, and punchs Don in the face. After which he is beat up by two of her friends and left in a field in his car.

As the film ends Don returns to his hometown and begins to see possible sons everywhere. It's an enjoyable film, and Murray is good as always. The soundtrack complements the film well.

An interesting side note is that there were claims that Jarmusch stole the idea and themes from a man that had circulated a similar idea earlier. The courts found no reason to believe that Jarmusch had stolen anything, and the case was released.
Broken Flowers

The Limits of Control
A New Bond

Jim Jarmusch's latest film, The Limits of Control, is a film that I personally really enjoyed, but many find to be too slow. The filming locations are beautiful. The dialog is slow, and often time cryptic, but I viewed the film as a mystery, and found it very watchable.

We start with a Lone Man in an airport. He is sent on a mission, though we do not know what for. He is told to go to a cafe to meet somebody. Once in the cafe that person gives him a matchbox with a code, and then tells him where to go next. He follows this pattern until he finally reaches his destination. In order to finish his mission he must use his imagination, which can sum the film up entirely.

The Lone Man plays the French speaking Haitian in Ghost Dog, and has one of the most interesting faces on film. It's funny that this mechanical person, who doesn't even have sex "when working", uses his imagination to achieve his goals. Much can be said and discussed about this film, as there is a lot of symbolism, and a lot is open to interpretation. This is a down played spy film that doesn't appear to work for everybody. If "slowness" is a problem, try to rent before buying.
The Limits of Control

Night On Earth Trailer


Dead Man Trailer


Ghost Dog Trailer


Broken Flowers Trailer


The Limits of Control



 

Previous: Jim Jarmusch









Jim Jarmusch - American Auteur

The Complete Works of Jim Jarmusch: Part I

In a world of popcorn flicks with their hyperactive editing and over-the-top computer generated effects, it can be easy for a true artist like Jim Jarmusch to fall beneath the radar. Staying out of the limelight allows more creative control, and one can't help but wonder if this is the way that he prefers it. Money never seems to be a concern with Jarmusch, and even Harvey Weinstein, the producer for many "independent directors", couldn't persuade Jim to allow Miramax to cut his film with the promise of a national release.

Whether you love or hate his films, you must admit that they will usually stay with you. Many movie-goers are not used to unorthodox narrative structure, and the stagnate nature of the motionless deadpan camera work that is prominent in Jamrusch's films can be offputting to many. When viewing his films, you must be ready to enter a strange world, often beautiful, often ugly, and always filled with symbolism. Jarmusch uses film the way it was meant to be, not just visually stunning, but also thought provoking.

This is part 1 of Jim Jarmusch's full feature lenght filmography. I plan to cover all 10 of Jim's feature length films, levaing out titles that he directed segments of, and the documentary about Neil Young. Much of information that I have is from "Jim Jarmusch Interviews" and "Dead Man" (The book), both of which are linked below. Either purchase these or see if your local library caries them to get more or an insight into Jarmusch's work.


Jim Jarmusch: Interviews (Conversations With Filmmakers Series)
Dead Man (BFI Modern Classics)



Permanent Vacation
Not a good starter film for those unfamiliar with Jarmusch 
 
Permanent Vacation is the first feature length film that Jarmusch directed. Shot on a 16mm camera, this film does have an amateurish feel to it. Obviously Jarmusch was still very young in his career when he made this film. I think that it may be more interesting for those familiar with this work to view this to see his early work. Even his fans have been known to say that Permanent Vacaton was somewhat boring, which leads me to believe that this is not a great starter film.
 
The story follows, Allie (Aloysius), as he travels through New York and tries to find meaning. Allie is played by Chris Parker, who according to Jarmucsh is musch like this character in real life. We see Allie encounter various characters, including a veteren of the war between the US and China. It is clearly a different version of New York, with a different history than what we know. The characters have experienced events that we have never experienced, but at the same time, they are not unlike ourselves.
As mentioned earlier, for anybody that is unfamiliar with, but is curious about Jarmush's work, this may not be a good film to start with. Boring is not how I would describe Permanent Vacation. In my opinion is it not as good as Jarmusch's later work, but it can still be enjoyable for fans.

Permanent Vacation [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.0 Import - Australia ]

 
Stranger Than Paradise
Second Round With John Lurie
 

Stranger Than Paradise is a great display of Jarmusch coming into his own as a director. The film began as a 30 minute short, but was later expanded into a full length feature. The film once again follows members of a subculture that is serperate from the world that most of us know. Dingy and dirty, we see what the characters see in drab black and white as they leave Willie's tiny New York apartment and travel across the drab landscapes.


The original soundtrack was penned by the the actor who plays the leading character of the story, John Lurie. What set this film apart from most films of the period was Jarmusch's choice of casting non-professional actors. He used a jazz palyer: Lurie, the drummer from Sonic Youth: Richard Edson, and a Hungarian violinist: Eszter Balint for his three main characters. This gives the film a different feel as the actors respond to situations differently than trained actors.
 
The story begins in Willies NYC apartment. He is notified that his cousin, Eva, will be arriving and staying with him for a couple days. At first he and his friend Eddie are not thrilled with this, but they eventually come to enjoy having Eva around. She moves to Cleveland to stay with an aunt, and Willie and Eddie soon join her. They decide to take a trip to Florida togther but a series of events unfolds that seperates them from each other.


I'm not good at summarizing stories, but this is definitely and enjoyable film. If you enjoy deadpan films and independat flicks, then this will no doubt be enjoyable for you.

Stranger Than Paradise - Criterion Collection

 
Coffee and Cigarettes
Murray, Benigni, Waits, Pop...Too Many To Name!

Coffee and Cigarettes is actually a series of short films that were strung together into one feature. Again, Jarmusch chose to shoot in black and white for each segment. Each segment is about characters and their interactions with each other as they make small talk. Coffee and Cigarettes definitely will not be interesting to everybody, but if you enjoy dry, sometimes absurdist humor, then this may be enjoyable.


The big names that come to mind in this film are: Roberto Benigni, Steven Wright, Steve Buscemi, Cate Blanchett, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits and of course Bill Murray. The disk from the link below is pretty chaep, but if you're not sure if this would be worth purchasing then rent. Give it a shot and see if you like it. Some of the segments can be pretty funny, and some are just ironic. I really enjoy the segment with Iggy Pop and Tom Waits.

Coffee and Cigarettes

Down By Law
 
Down By Law is one of my girlfriend and mine favorite Jarmusch films. All three of the main characters are played by actors that Jarmusch had worked with in the past, Lurie, Waits and Benigni. They all seems to have a chemestry together that feels like friends working together to create something, and Tom Waits was in Benigni's movie, The Tiger and The Snow a couple of years ago, which supports my theory.


All three are somewhat unscrupulous victims of circumstance, which utlimately places each in jail, and even in the same cell. They develope a somewhat uneasy friendship from being kept in the same cell for such a period. Eventually they hatch a plan to escape from prison, and do so successfully. They're camaraderie is tested a few times, but they work together to maintain freedom. Roberto finds love along the way on his flight for freedom.


There are many funny scenes, espeically from Roberto Benigni. Tom Waits maintains a comical presence, and John Lurie's performance is good as well. Some may find this movie boring, but I believe that a good portion of people find something funny here.

Down by Law - Criterion Collection

Mystery Train

Finishing the 80's on a strong note

1989's Mystery Train ended the era of black-and-white for Jarmusch. It was also an experiment for him in narrative structure. Mystery Train is an anthology film, but unlike Coffee and Cigarettes, where all the stories were seperate and individual, Mystery Train's stories are all connected and intertwined. The use of actual actors this time changed the feel, and this movie will definitely have a more traditional structure to it than his previous four films.


"Far From Yokohama" is my favorite segment. (Be warned lazy people that you will have to read, unless you speak Japanese, because this is all in Japanese, and subtitled.) We follow two Elvis obsessed Japanese teens as they travel through Memphis. The language barrier is strong, and their reactions to all of the situations are funny. Mitsuko's sitings of Elvis in statues and celebrities is hysterical.

"A Ghost" is the second segment. The lead roll is played by Roberto Benigni's real life wife. She meets another woman, and they end up sharing a room for the night (not for sexual reasons). Luisa finally is able to fall asleep and is visited by Elvis.


"Lost In Space" is the final segment, and it stars The Clash's Joe Strummer as Johnny. Johnny and his friends try to rob a liquor store, and end up fleeing and sharing a room for the night at the same hotel that the Japanese teens and Luisa are staying in. A gunshot is heard and Johnny's friend is shot in the leg. They flee to escape imaginery authorities.

Mystery Train (Criterion Collection)

Famous Dance Scene From Permanent Vacation


Stranger Than Paradise Trailer


Coffee and Cigarettes Trailer






Down By Law Trailer



Mystery Train Trailer


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