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The Archie Situation Comedy Musical Variety Show

Good fun for fans of the comic!
I saw this show back in 1978 and never saw it again though I often dreamed about it. It left a lasting impression. Thank heavens that someone recently put it on Youtube. The memories came flooding back. This was basically a variety show along the lines of Donny and Marie, using the Archie characters. There were songs, long skits and quick joke skits. The comedy wasn't that great. The gags were mostly of the "groaner" variety. Still, to see the characters come to life was a real treat. Also, they added Big Moose and Midge to the Archies rock band. I did notice a few odd things. Moose was considerably less "stupid" on the show. I don't think he even said "D'uh!" once. Reggie seemed more neurotic than nasty. Archie seemed a bit uptight and not as likable as in the comics. The Jughead version on this show seemed to like girls which is considerably different than the Jughead I grew up with. The skits dealt with the gang having to dissect frogs in Miss Grundy's class, Archie and Betty debating an important decision (the kind they never even hinted at in the comics), Archie debating with his dad (Gordon Jump-AKA Arthur Carlson from WKRP in Cincinnati!) about his freedom to buy a car and Veronica misplacing a set of tickets. There were lots of quick jokes in between and a few songs. The main one was called (I think) "Smile on Your Face". There was one in which Betty sang of how unfair it was that Archie preferred Veronica to her. It was almost like a musical soap opera. My favorite was called "Gotta Break Our Date Tonight" in which the gang took turns calling each other to either set up or break a date for the evening. It was very creative. The show was a pilot (actually the second pilot) for what would have been an Archie TV series but it never happened (sadly). The show then seemed to disappear completely. There would later be a (disappointing) TV movie in 1990 based on the comic strip but the characters were all grown up by then and a lot of changes had occurred. This show, although not perfect, is a real treat for anyone who grew up reading the comics and digests. It is also a good artifact of 1970s entertainment. culture.

Evil Stalks This House

Not quite a movie and not quite a TV show
I saw this back in the early 1980s on First Choice Superchannel Pay TV. If I remember correctly, it only aired once or twice. It's basically a filmed stage play but a pretty good one at that. The story is about Palance, a passing motorist and his two small children (though he looks more like their grand-father than their dad), stopping at the isolated, rural home of two old women when he has car trouble. He gets the idea that the house is full of valuable antiques and that the two old women are senile. He decides to stay on for awhile and makes the two kids help him with his plan to loot the place though they clearly do not want to. Needless to say, the two old women are not quite as helpless as they seem. It's cheap looking but manages to sustain interest, no small feat given the very limited number of locations. The film takes place almost entirely in the home of the old women. There are no real special effects or stunts but the film contains a sense of eeriness and nastiness which many bigger budgeted movies do not. Palance is known for having played many schlock roles but he is genuinely menacing here as the evil father. The IMDb lists Christopher Lee as being the "host" but in the version I saw, there was no host/narrator. According to one book that I read, this was made as a pilot on videotape for a proposed television series (a la Tales from the Darkside/Twilight Zone) which never came to pass. It deserves more attention. Even now, over 20 years later, certain scenes, especially the surprise finale, remain clear in my memory.

My Pleasure Is My Business

Directed by the King of Kensington
This is not a porn film, nor is it a biography on the life of Xaviera Hollander, whose book based on her experiences in the world's oldest profession was big stuff at the time. (for that story, check out The Happy Hooker with Lynn Redgrave-1975). This movie is a low budget, Canadian made sex farce in which Xaviera is deported from the USA and has to find a new place to set up camp. Many countries will not allow her to stay as she is "too sexy". She finally lands in a fictional European country where she soon reverts back to her old madame-ish ways. There is a fair amount of exposed flesh but nothing too explicit. The film is more silly than anything else. The comedy is outrageously bad. It has an air of "what-were-they-thinking-at-the-time?" including a slapstick bicycle chase which I guess was meant to be like the silent movies but can't even measure up to those. The odd part is that it features several veteran Candian performers: Henry Ramer as the nasty official who opposes Xaviera, Jayne Eastwood as his libidinal wife, Marvin Goldhar playing various detectives, Colin Fox and Jackie Burroughs are also thrown in for good measure. The movie was directed by the late Al Waxman and is a good indication of why he didn't direct many features afterwards. In his biography, he talks about this movie with pride as it was a money maker in it's day. Today, it has a campy, cult-ish quality but not much else.

Night Magic

Someone thought this would be successful?
This movie involves a fair amount of talent, both in front of and behind the camera but little of that transcends to the finished product. The movie has no real coherent narrative. It deals with a man, Mancuso, putting together a show at a theater. He receives inspiration from a trio of angels. One of these angels, Laure (who looks great, as usual and is probably the best part of the movie)falls in love with him and becomes human so that she can be his wife (echoes of "The Little Mermaid") The movie is basically a rock opera with little spoken dialogue. Most of the music isn't even that memorable and the general tone is more European than Canadian. Night Magic seems so offbeat and experimental, that it makes you wonder what sort of audience the film makers were hoping to attract.

The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie: Daffy Duck and Porky Pig Meet the Groovie Goolies
Episode 15, Season 1

How can you pass up a combination like this?
This aired on the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie. It's a pretty wild concept: The Groovy Goolies are big fans of the Looney Tunes characters and so, when they hear that a King Arthur movie that Daffy is making, is being sabotaged by a mysterious Phantom character, what comes next? Why, they rush off to Hollywood to help Daffy, Porky, Sylvester, Tweety and the others. Oddly, Bugs Bunny is absent from this project. Petunia Pig plays one of the performers in the movie and a gossip columnist with her own TV show as well. Her voice is a lot different than the one I remember her having. She sounds almost sensual! Oddly, it's Daffy and not Porky who plays her romantic lead. It's interesting to see two widely different assortments of cartoon characters in the same picture together. Come to think of it, how did the producers skirt around the legal issues? The highlight comes near the end when Drac, Frankie and Wolfie chase the villain (who's dressed as Hauntleroy) through a magic mirror and they all emerge on the other side as,,,,,, live action actors! There is then a slapstick chase which may remind you of those Mack Sennett comedies of the 20s. The sequence is so surreal that it may have you pinching yourself to ensure that it's not a dream. The actors soon go back through the mirror and become their animated selves within a few minutes but this part alone makes the film required viewing for anyone who's a fan of the Goolies, who sad to say, do not sing in this outing.

The Hard Part Begins

Life on the Road!
This early 70s effort is about the ups and downs in the life of a country-western singer (Rhodes from Danger Bay) as he travels throughout the country (in this case, small Ontario towns) It's slow moving and cheap looking like many Canadian movies but it does contain a 70s ambiance and is packaged in a more professional way than most Canadian products. The storyline, dealing with Rhodes' relationships with his band mates, groupies, family (which he abandoned years earlier) and various sundry characters he meets up with, is realistic though the tone is somewhat downbeat. The lack of glamor and sunshine depicted here compliments the melancholic nature of Rhodes' character. The late Paul Bradley plays Rhodes' band mate, fellow womanizer and best pal. It's nice to see him in one of his rare lead roles and he adds a certain manic energy to the proceedings. His "Goin' Down the Road" co-star, Doug McGrath, plays a small town lout with a score to settle with Rhodes. McGrath only has a small role here but, like Bradley, also hints at a level of talent he never really got to show. This was the third Bradley-McGrath pairing (the other one being "Wedding in White" in which they again played interesting characters). Actors like these make you wish that Canada had the kind of star system the USA does so as to properly recognize our talent (and keep them from heading south!).


Canadian After-School Special!
This movie is basically like an extended after-school special and not even a good one at that. The title character is an adolescent girl who is a rebel at her school (by G-rated, 1981 standards that is, today, she'd hardly be noticed) As she and her re-married mom are not clicking, the girl ends up going to stay with her dad, Logan, who lives up in the northern wilderness. So what happens when this surly, irresponsible, self-centered girl is thrust into nature for the first time? Will she change her rebellious ways, learn self-respect and respect for others? Anyone over the age of 6 should be able to guess. In fact, the change happens so quickly that there is no real drama. Everything in the film is played completely straight and even the locations are dull. It's about as exciting as an average episode of Danger Bay or one of those hour long Walt Disney animal specials they used to show in the 60s/70s. It's another example of how Canadian film making has come a long way since the early 80s.

Tom Sawyer

Pedestrian Retelling of a Classic
Being a TV movie, this naturally has a cheap look about it, especially given the fact that it was made in 1973. The two lead kids who play Tom and Huck fail to convey any real sense of mischief, charm or good-heartedness. Their performances are flat and uninspired. Huck Finn is presented in a far less rebellious/courageous way which removes much of his charm. Not that the adults fare much better. Ebsen seems to be sleepwalking through his role as the town drunk. McGiver overdoes it as the sputtering, fussy judge and Morrow, who's supposed to be Injun Joe, talks in an unintentionally funny accent and has bizarre make-up and costumes. At least the film is short and uses a narrator to ensure that no one gets lost. It was shot in Upper Canada Village which explains the presence of Canadian veteran Chris Wiggins and the young Sue Petrie, who had done a few soft core Canadian porn films before this. Stick with the musical version of Tom Sawyer which came out the same year.

The New Archies

A Wacky Take-Off on the Comic Strip!
This was a short-lived, hardly seen cartoon of the late 80s. The original Archies cartoon was a hit back when it began in the late 60s but this version was definitely inferior. Even the theme song left much to be desired ("We're the Archies in a brand new show") It featured the Archies at middle-school age. The cartoon was almost amusing in it's amateurishness. The voice-over artists had very similar sounding voices, making it hard to tell who was speaking at times and most of the lines were delivered in a flat monotone to begin with. The facial expressions of the cartoon characters seldom matched the situation that was going on. Archie and Betty might be seen smiling broadly after just having learned that Reggie and Veronica had played a nasty trick on them. There were often long pauses in between the dialogue and action, giving the impression that the characters needed 30-40 seconds to react to everything. There was no real music on the show and the characters, who had been around in comics since the 1940s, were extremely bland and had no appeal. Stick with the original Archie cartoon ("Everything's Archie, Archie's here!") if you're a fan of the comic.

Hitting Home

A Must for Canadians!
If you are a fan of Canadian entertainment, you should really check this out. It's sort of a psychological drama about the after-effects when a child is killed by a hit and run driver. Saul Rubinek plays the driver from the USA who flees back there to avoid facing the consequences. The bulk of the film deals with the boy's mom, Kerrie Keane, trying both through legal and unusual channels, to bring Rubinek back to Canada to face justice. Veteran French-Canadian actor Daniel Pilon plays the boy's dad who tries to help. Alan Thicke plays Rubinek's lawyer. Jacob Tierney (well known to Canadian youths from late 80s/early 90s TV) plays Rubinek's son. The late Colleen Dewhurst plays the judge. How can you ask for a better cast than that? The film does have that Canadian look (that is, it appears to have the budget of an average American made-for TV film) but the story is engaging and deeper than expected and the performances are satisfying. The film covers ground that few other movies have. It's one of the few films in which the Canadian content and locales actually work to the film's advantage. There are even references to the TV show "Danger Bay"! If that's not enough, how could any fan of Canadian film or TV turn down a chance to see Daniel Pilon tackle Alan Thicke?

Archie's Funhouse

Ahhhhhh, the good ol'days!
This was one of the first cartoon shows I ever saw and it is one of the few which I can still remember 30 years later. It was quite inventive for it's time. The Archies were already familiar fixtures on the Saturday morning circuit when this began. It basically took the characters and transplanted them into a Laugh-In/Saturday Night Live (well, a G-rated form that is) type of show. There were lots of one-liners, 1-3 minute sketches and recurring characters, like say, several segments in which Big Ethel would demonstrate a foolproof method to snag Jughead as he walked by, but naturally, Ethel would inevitably fall victim to the Wily Coyote syndrome. There were also frequent songs on the show which were presented in a style which may well have inspired the MTV station. These songs (from "The Giant Juke Box")were a bit deeper than the typical Archies bubblegum selections. Some of their songs dealt with racism ("We're One Big Family") and environmental pollution ("Mr.Factory"). All in all, a fun show that was fast paced, creative and sometimes topical, yet inoffensive (as all 70s cartoons were!). Hope it comes on video soon!

Dynamite Brothers

The Inspiration for "Rush Hour"?
This is a very cheap 1973 actioner which pits a black man (Brown) with an Asian man (Tang) who is searching for his brother in LA. The two spend a period cuffed together and dealing with racist morons before they eventually meet up with the main villain. Tang, an Asian martial arts star, has no real personality and the fight scenes have obvious sound effects added on which doesn't help. Other stunts in the movie look obviously fake and are almost amusing. The film was originally titled "Stud Brown" (after Brown's character) and was billed as a blaxploitation film but that was misleading as Tang has more screen time and deals with most of the action. Ray,a former big name star, plays a corrupt cop. He appeared in scores of cheap features throughout the 70s but at least here, he has a half decent character and actually gets to emote a little. As expected, there are some amusing hairstyles, sideburns, sunglasses, funky instrumental music and slang like "That's where it's at baby!" The video box tries to convince that the 1998 big budget actioner Rush Hour was derived from this film but that's like comparing a penny to a quarter.

Fabulous Funnies

A Smorgasboard!
This cartoon featured several other short cartoons within it. It was hosted by Foozy and featured marginally beloved characters like Broom Hilda, The Katzenjammer Kids, Nancy and Sluggo. Oddly, Foozy's own Alley-Oop cartoon was seen less often. The cartoons usually featured a moral of some kind: things like being kind to animals, being responsible in school and in one case, using the Broom Hilda characters, alcoholism (seriously!)It was very tame and easy to take. Even as a kid, I was able to tell that the same voice actor was doing different characters in the same show, sometimes even in the same scene. Those who recall the Katzenjammer kids were probably surprised at how much tamer the pranks of the boys were and how little the Captain and the Inspector had to suffer when compared to earlier versions of the comic. In fact, it was probably a combination of the moral-themed storylines and the tameness which kept the kiddie viewers away. Unlike other 70s cartoon, it didn't have any real central figures to create a lasting impression and was quickly forgotten before the end of the same season in which it began.

Monkeys in the Attic

Brings new meaning to the word "weird"!
Canada has produced many odd movies that have no commercial appeal whatsoever but this has to be one of the strangest, not just among Canadian movies but movies in general. There is no real rooting interest. The storyline is very scant and basically plotless. It involves one night in the lives of 4 people with varying mental problems sharing an apartment together and what happens when an unsuspecting pizza delivery man shows up. (Hey! Maybe this movie inspired that old porno flick chestnut!) Louis Del Grande plays a character teetering on the edge of sanity and explosive violence. It is quite a radical departure from his work on "Seeing Things". The film features some rather explicit nudity and sex, some of which borders on an X rating, at least for this time period. Some scenes involve dream sequences and may well give the viewer the impression that the film makers were high when the scenes were shot. Monkeys in the Attic is a curiosity at best and has little to recommend about it. Most of the cast went on to do far better work in projects of far higher quality which leads one to wonder what attracted them to a project like this as they had some credits to their names. One may also wonder how such an oddity like this was financed in the first place. The end result is like something that one of the 4 mentally challenged people might have dreamt of.

U.S. Of Archie

Bad, Bad Idea!
In the early 1970s, the Archies were very popular in cartoon form and the Bicentennial was approaching. The producers of the Archie show decided to create a spin-off in which the gang re-enacted various key moments in American history through fantasy (things like the invention of the telephone, women being allowed to vote, the Underground Railroad)adding their own stylings to each moment. The intention was noble enough but the end result was awful. This cartoon stripped the Archies of their music and comedy. They came across as little different than characters you might see in an educational short shown at a local school. I can still recall the opening which featured a parade in which Jughead (playing the drum) marched along with Archie (holding the flag) and Reggie (playing the flute) while fireworks went off. Needless to say, kiddie viewers stayed away in droves and the cartoon soon found itself playing on Sunday mornings instead. Fortunately, the producers soon saw the error of their ways and returned the Archies to their proper time period. The message: that Saturday morning cartoons and educational content do not go hand in hand, as any five year old will tell you.

Willie Dynamite

Different from the rest!
The ad and plotline for this movie may give you the impression that Willie Dynamite is a typical blaxploitation actioner with heavy doses of violence and sex but that is not the case. Willie Dynamite deals with a NYC pimp (Orman) who must deal not only with the police and a dedicated social worker (Sands), but also his fellow pimps who resent his increasing level of power within the city. There is not much in the way of nudity or blood or even profanity. During the last third of the movie, the story switches gears as both Orman and Sands go through some major changes which cause them to alter their outlook and approach to their lives. In doing this, Willie Dynamite goes in a different (and less sensational) direction than many films of this period chose to go. The film also takes on a higher level of believability which helps to bring the two main characters to life. Both Orman and Sands are impressive in their roles. It is sad to note that Sands died shortly after making this as she was a very talented woman. Orman, believe it or not, went on to become a staple on TV's Sesame Street as Gordon! Now that's a change of pace. His fur coats and fur hat add some unintentional laughs to the story, though at the time this was made, they were probably in vogue. In fact, Willie Dynamite has a great early 70s ambiance that many of the bigger movies of the time did not contain. Willie Dynamite may not be the best known of the blaxploitation genre but it deserves more attention than it got.


Aldo at his wackiest!
This film was in most video stores during the 80s but hasn't been seen much in the past few years. Though it's no horror classic, it does have a unique flavor. It was filmed in 1976 but only released 3 years later. It's better than most of the many made-for-video horror fests. Haunted is set in a desert ghost town and features great photography. The storyline is about an attractive female visitor to the town who looks just like a woman who was executed in the same area 100 years ago. Haunted is very low budget. There are only about a dozen people in the cast but the film is still competently made and has some eerie moments. It also has some unusual folk songs (in fact,a soundtrack from this movie was released, how many horror movies can say that?) The film's poster is a bit misleading as it shows a person impaled on the letters in the title. However, the film's body count is very low and the blood and guts is almost non-existent. Not that it matters though as the story will keep viewers hooked. Haunted's chief asset is Aldo Ray. Once upon a time, Ray worked in major Hollywood productions but by this time, he was taking any part that was offered. At the start, Ray's character is nasty. He then gets nastier and nastier while the film goes on. By the end, he is really off the deep end. One may wonder if he is acting or going nuts in real life while the scene is being shot! In any event, Haunted is one of the few obscure horror films that is worth your time!

Cherry Hill High

Typical drive-in fare!
Despite the title and the cover ad, this is not a porn film. It's basically an ordinary sex comedy which was a few years ahead of it's time but deserves no more than an R. The plot is built around a group of teenage girls who make a pledge to lose their virginity in the most creative ways possible. You would think that this would make for an interesting premise but the production values are so low and the performances so amateurish, that interest quickly fades. Despite the concept, there is limited skin. The film makers seem to be trying for an anything-goes movie as they end up throwing in a sex scene in a shark tank (featuring the fakest looking shark you'll ever see!) an alien spaceship and a Let's Make a Deal take-off. The end result is an easily forgettable sex farce that doesn't really succeed in any department.


Childhood Dream Lost!
Back in 1974 when this TV-Movie first aired, I saw the first twenty minutes or so and was enthralled by the premise: A submarine trapped at the bottom of the ocean with a pack of deadly snakes slithering around. It seemed like a can't miss thriller. Because I was a kid though, I had to go to bed! I recently found the film on video and was ecstatic to finally see the whole show. However, I should have let my childhood dream of a can't miss thriller be as this movie was incredibly bad. It is very cheap looking, even for that time period and the actors play their scenes with so much indifference that it's hard to care about their plight. The biggest mistake is that the snakes are only peripheral to the plot. Most of the movie is taken up with the crew's attempts to dislodge themselves from the rocks they are trapped against, making it more of an adventure film than a thriller and it's not even a good adventure film. At least I now know why the film was so hard to find all of these years. WKRP fans might want to check it out for an early look at Frank Bonner (AKA Herb Tarlek) as the dopey sailor who brings the snakes aboard the sub.

French Quarter

Pretty Complex for a Drive-in Movie
This is one of those hard-to-find drive in movies of the 70s which is worth seeking out. The basic story concerns a young woman (Fontaine) who comes to the French Quarter, badly in need of work and ends up dreaming that she is back in another century, or is she in fact an 19th century woman dreaming that she is in the future? The other characters around Fontaine are played by the same actors from the contemporary story. The sets, costumes and ambiance are incredibly detailed (it was shot on location). It features a lot of sex and nudity but at the same time, there is far more plot than usual. In fact, it may take more than one viewing to fully notice, understand and appreciate the nuances. It must have surprised drive-in audiences of the 70s who were probably expecting something far more basic. The actors are reasonably good and the dual storyline is well handled. Some of the scenes may have bordered on an X-rating back when it first came out. Star Bruce Davison did quite well for himself and is still active in Hollywood but most of the rest of the cast did little else after this film. It occasionally shows on late night cable and is worth the wait. An added plus is the jazz score as well as the very offbeat narration.

Extra! Extra!

Better than most
This was a 30 minute live action kid's show which was made in Montreal and aired on Saturday mornings in the late 80s. The premise was that a bunch of kids ran a newspaper and organized it according to the tastes of kids. It was fairly low budget but the kids were decent enough performers and the program was fast paced with jokes, puzzles, skits and occasional interviews. On one episode, one of the kids interviewed Brian Mulroney, just a short time before the GST was passed. (it'd have been interesting to know if that segment would have aired after Mulroney passed the GST and most of Canada was down on him!) The show I think was only shown in Eastern Canada and is mostly forgotten today but it was a good example of how a half-decent show could be produced on a low budget for a certain target audience, though it's unlikely a show of this nature would appeal to most of today's kids who prefer special effects and animation.

Bad Guys

Good Natured Fun
This came out when the Wrestlemania craze was taking hold. It's a low budget comedy about two dopey cops (Baldwin and Jolly) who get suspended from the job and decide to take jobs as wrestlers to pay the bills. Adam Baldwin is a good actor and though the film is beneath him, it's nice to see him in a lead role. The wrestling scenes aren't that impressive but the film moves along quickly and contains some decent laughs. Michelle Nicastaro is appealing eye candy as the love interest whom both the guys take a shine to. The film is also an amusing time capsule for those who grew up in the 80s. If you're willing to put your brain on hold, check it out!

Underground Aces

A real curio!
This was a minor comedy that I'm pretty sure never made it to theatres. It is basically a Car Wash style comedy only with parking valets instead. It may have sat on the shelf for awhile as the opening theme song is very mid-70s ish. Most of the plot deals with the zany PG and PG-13 slapstick shenanigans of the guys and an obligatory romantic subplot involving a shiek masquerading as one of the valets in an attempt to win over a girl. There's plenty of knockabout humor and stunts. What really makes this film a curio is the cast: Dirk Benedict (The A-Team) Melanie Griffith (who would be a major movie star in a few years) Robert Hegyes (Welcome Back Kotter) Frank Gorshin (the Riddler) Michael Winslow (Police Academy,yes he does get to do his sound effects in this movie as well) and TK Carter (Punky Brewster) It's fascinating to see all of these actors together in one movie, mind you, Gorshin has an awful role. Another odd thing is that the actor playing the shiek, who is far less known than the other cast members, seems to get more screen time than them. The film as a whole isn't much and is fairly predictable. Oddly, the film doesn't turn up very often on TV and few seem to remember it, or even know of it's existence. Though no comedy classic, Underground Aces deserves a better fate.

Bye bye chaperon rouge

Kiddie Cult Film
This is a weird and sometimes disturbing take-off on the beloved fairy tale. In this one, the main girl is far more whiny and petulant. She has a boyfriend (who is somehow able to come and go into the forest from the city with no visible means of transport) and she is able to communicate telepathically with the wolf. There is a sub-plot about the girl's divorced parents which doesn't really make sense and the film features a very odd development towards the end. The forest scenery is gorgeous and the film is professionally made but it's hard to tell if this was made for kids or not as it contains so many odd and questionable elements. It's definitely not the story that most people grew up with.

Canada's Sweetheart: The Saga of Hal C. Banks

Social Studies Lesson
This film is a true life account of Hal Banks, an Al Capone-like union leader who practically ran the Canadian shipping industry with an iron fist in the 50s and 60s. The film explores his rise to power through physical force as well as the many political contacts he made along the way which no doubt helped ensure his success. The film comes off as realistic but on the other hand, it has a 60 Minutes like feel which pervades throughout. Much of the action takes place in black and white. For a Canadian film, it boasts a half-decent budget and it is professionally made. The film's greatest asset is the casting of Maury Chaykin in the title role. Chaykin not only displays his considerable talents as an actor but also delivers the explosiveness and intimidation required to make this character real. It's one of his few lead roles which seems odd given his versatility. The film as a whole is overlong at almost two hours. Though it sometimes feels like a Social Studies lesson, it does show an unusual side of Canadian history.

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