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Classic Coming Attractions by Barrie Maxwell

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Classic Reviews Round-Up #35 and New Announcements (Continued)

The year 2007 is shaping up as a good one for Doris Day fans as Warners has a second collection of her films scheduled for release in April with rumours abounding that her entire list of films will be available on DVD by the end of the year. Contributing to this is Fox's recent release of three CinemaScope titles: Do Not Disturb, Caprice, and Move Over, Darling.

Do Not DisturbCapriceMove Over, Darling

Each has been accorded a new restoration presented on DVD in a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer and endowed with a generous helping of supplementary material. For example, Caprice (1967) features an audio commentary, an interview with the film's costume designer, two featurettes, photo galleries, and radio interviews with Doris Day and Richard Harris while Do Not Disturb (1965) includes four new featurettes and photo galleries. I looked at the best of three - Move Over, Darling (1963) - in detail and found it to be a diverting timepasser though not nearly on the same level as the original sound version with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne (My Favorite Wife, 1940). Interestingly, this remake was originally planned by Fox as a vehicle for Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin to be called Something's Got to Give, but that effort was abandoned when the studio became fed up with Monroe's frequent absences. Shortly thereafter, Fox tried again with James Garner and Doris Day assuming the lead roles and Move Over, Darling was the result. The story involves a man who has his wife declared legally dead after she had disappeared during an ocean-going tragedy five years previously. He remarries only to have his original wife finally show up after spending those five years stranded on a remote Pacific island. The film is a slick production and the lead performers (including Polly Bergen, Thelma Ritter, and Chuck Connors) play their roles with obvious relish. The situation is contrived, but there are plenty of chuckles and a strong supporting cast that includes Fred Clark, Don Knotts, and Edgar Buchanan helps plaster over the weaker sections, although some of them, notably Knotts, are sadly underutilized. The film may pale in comparison to the original, but on the other hand, compared to what passes as film comedy now-a-days, it's a riot. Fox makes it even easier to take with a superb restoration that looks bright, clean, and vibrant. The mono sound has also been cleaned up nicely as well. The supplement package is very thoughtful and is highlighted by what still exists (about 33 minutes) of D.W. Griffith's Enoch Arden, a 1911 silent film drawing on the Tennyson poem that is the basis for it and the subsequent sound films. Other supplements include featurettes on the fate of Something's Got to Give, a comparison of Doris Day and Marilyn Monroe, a short conversation with Polly Bergen, a restoration comparison, and a photo gallery. The other two Doris Day releases in this grouping (Do Not Disturb and Caprice, as mentioned above) are lesser vehicles, particularly Caprice which is one of numerous films of the time that attempted to piggy back on the then-current spy craze. A spy spoof, it's cringingly unfunny throughout. Due to Fox's fine efforts, Doris Day completists will be very happy with all three of these presentations, but the casual fan or someone looking to take a chance need only consider Move Over, Darling and probably as a rental.

Fiddler on the Roof: Collector's Edition

With MGM ramping up its DVD release program once again now that its distribution arrangement with Fox is fully operational, one of the early results is a new two-disc Collector's Edition of Fiddler on the Roof. I'm not going to review the film itself for it's had two DVD incarnations from MGM already and I suspect that most people know that it's a superb Norman Jewison-directed musical. If you haven't seen it, you've missed a real treat. The real question, though, is whether there's any reason to consider a purchase of this new Collector's Edition. The previous SE version released in 2001 (a double-sided presentation) was already a pretty good effort with a very nice transfer, a great audio commentary with Jewison and actor Topol, and a number of supporting featurettes and other materials. For the new Collector's Edition, we get two discs but the transfer appears to be the same as the one previously available. All the supplements from 2001 have been carried over to 2007 (the Norman Jewison Filmmaker documentary, the Norman Jewison Looks Back featurette, historical background, deleted song, storyboards, photos, etc.). New material, totaling a little over 50 minutes, consists of four featurettes; John Williams: Creating a Musical Tradition, Topol's Daughters, Set in Reality: Production Design, and Songs of Fiddler on the Roof. Each is an interesting piece that does add to the information available on the film, but in total they don't provide a compelling reason to upgrade if you already have the previous SE release. If however, you've somehow not managed to acquire a disc version of Fiddler on the Roof before now, this new Collector's Edition is the one to buy and in those circumstances is highly recommended.

Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

The early days of DVD did quite well by the "angry young man" British films of the late 1950s and early 1960s, a time of resurgence in British film with its emphasis on realism and social desperation. Prime examples such as Look Back in Anger, The Entertainer, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and Room at the Top have all been available for quite a while (although Room at the Top may now be OOP). One of the movement's key figures, director Tony Richardson who had been responsible for Look Back in Anger and The Entertainer, had a brief fling in Hollywood in the early 1960s before returning to Britain for his biggest commercial success, Tom Jones. In between, he made Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), which has now been released on DVD by Warner Bros. Based on a short story by Alan Sillitoe, who also wrote "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning", the film tells the story of a young man from Nottingham who is sent to Borstal reformatory school where his affinity for cross country running leads the Borstal warden to encourage him to win an upcoming race. In a series of flashbacks that are well integrated with the rest of the film, we learn the background to the young man's current incarceration as well as following his ongoing running progress. The nature of the film's end becomes fairly evident well before it occurs, the only thing remaining in the balance being the decision that the main character will ultimately make. Despite an at-times off-putting overuse of French New Wave techniques (undercranked scenes, jerky editing, jump cuts, overlapping dialogue), the film is a mesmerizing portrait of youth in conflict with the establishment. The portrait of social conditions typical for lower class families at the time is uncompromising in terms of the stifling living conditions and the general air of hopelessness prevalent. Tom Courtenay makes a smashing film debut as the runner, his lack of film-star-like beauty adding much to the film's realism. Michael Redgrave plays the reformatory warden or "guvner" and does a wonderful job of embodying a paternalistic, "there's a good chap", "you play ball with us; we'll play ball with you" establishment. The images of Courtenay running alone along wet pathways, through swampy ground, in almost continually gray, overcast conditions emphasizes the sense of an unrewarding present and lack of a bright future that pervades the film. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer looks nicely framed even though the film was likely originally intended for projection at 1.66:1. The image is sharp and very nicely detailed, but there is some speckling evident at times. The mono sound seems slightly muffled on occasion, but is quite workable for the most part. The only supplement is a theatrical trailer. Recommended.

The Ernest Hemingway Film Collection

You know, it's quite unfortunate that Fox seems to have no interest whatsoever in really publicizing its classic releases. Even more so than Warners recently, Fox has been issuing interesting classic choices on DVD, including a surprising number of films that one might have secretly hoped to have released but never really believed would actually appear - films such as the Will Rogers ones or the forthcoming Michael Shayne mysteries or 1930s Jeeves titles. It would be a shame to see such initiatives go unrewarded in the market place due to lack of consumer awareness, even more so when one considers the superior efforts that Fox puts into its supplementary material as well. A current case in point is The Ernest Hemingway Film Collection, which has made a last minute appearance just in time for inclusion in this column. Yes, it does contain a title previously released by Fox - the overblown 1957 A Farewell to Arms - but that's a minor quibble, when one considers what else has been included. How about Darryl Zanuck's second independent production of the mid-1950s, the ambitious and sumptuously-filmed The Sun Also Rises (1957), with fine work by Tyrone Power and Errol Flynn and a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer that is close to if not the best looking one that I've ever seen from a standard definition DVD (in fact, almost high definition-like at times). Or, a beautiful presentation of The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952, with Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward and Ava Gardner), a film until now only available in poor-looking public domain releases. Or two titles never before available on home video, 1962's Adventures of a Young Man (an impressively diverse cast) and 1950's Under My Skin (with John Garfield) - both at least interesting films if not quite as successful as one might have hoped. Fox's restoration work on these films is as good as anyone is doing in the industry; it also presents them with the correct aspect ratios, anamorphically enhanced as appropriate, and its attention to supplementary material is first rate. In fact, if you like audio commentaries with your classic films, you're more likely to find them on Fox discs than anyone else's. In this Hemingway set, three of the films benefit from the solidly informative and entertaining work of film historians Patricia King Hanson and Frank Thompson (Adventures of a Young Man, The Sun Also Rises, The Snows of Kilimanjaro) while Anthony Slide provides his thoughts on Under My Skin. Aside from A Farewell to Arms, which offers nothing new to distinguish it from its first release, the other four discs all provide new making-of documentaries and new featurettes focused on several of the key filmmakers or on Hemingway himself. Restoration comparisons, still galleries, and trailers round out each disc. Very highly recommended.


New Announcements

The highlight of this column's new announcements section is the news of Warner Bros.' future plans as revealed in a chat recently held by senior Warner executives with the Home Theater Forum. Those wishing to read the full text of the chat may do so here, but for others who may just want to know what was said about classic titles, I've summarized the results under four headings, as follows:

2007 releases

-there will be a June release of some films that will likely be in the western/adventure genre, and/or possibly early CinemaScope films
-Caged coming very soon with a bunch of other fun and highly desired titles
-Joan Crawford collection waiting in wings for announcement (just pending a few mastering issues)
-Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland box set this summer
-Forbidden Hollywood #2 later this year with six films (will include some Norma Shearer) plus a new documentary on pre-Code films
-Burt Lancaster set later this year (hope to include Twilight's Last Gleaming in it)
-will celebrate John Wayne's 100th birthday this year with a two-disc set of Rio Bravo and six new-to-DVD titles (See below for the official announcement which Warners has now released)
-more classic horror (no titles specified)
-Kubrick collection by Christmas
-Trog (Joan Crawford, 1970)
-Deliverance 35th anniversary 2-disc SE
-O Lucky Man (1973)
-Cool Hand Luke 40th anniversary SE
-Royal Wedding being rescued from public domain
-The Jazz Singer (1927) in Super Deluxe 80th anniversary edition

2008 releases

-CinemaScope Kismet and Pete Kelly's Blues, both restored and in 5.1
-Jack and the Beanstalk, Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd, Rio Rita in early 2008
-two Forbidden Hollywood releases planned for this year and in succeeding years
-Quo Vadis probably around Easter time (in Ultra Resolution)
-The Magnificent Ambersons (found new elements) and Journey into Fear (will include alternate cuts)
-more classic horror (no titles specified)
-more Cagney, Bogart, Robinson, Garfield
-hope to have Philo Vance, Perry Mason, The Saint and The Falcon
-Busby Berkeley Volume 2 (Gold Diggers of 1937, Gold Diggers in Paris, Varsity Show, Hollywood Hotel)
-Brewster McCloud being considered
-John Garfield collection (six films) early in 2008
-The Prize (1963, Paul Newman)
-Lon Chaney Collection Volume 2 will have a Tod Browning documentary as centerpiece
-more Ann Sheridan
-first of several Andy Hardy box sets
-roadshow version of Raintree County for the 50th anniversary
-How the West Was Won fully restored
-Goodbye Mr. Chips (1969) maybe in 2008
-Lana Turner set maybe in 2008
-Light in the Piazza (1962) for Valentine's Day
-Complete Show Boat (1929, 36, 51 versions-latter in Ultra Resolution) maybe in 2008 (definitely not 2007)
-Natalie Wood box set (Inside Daisy Clover, Sex and the Single Girl, Splendor in the Grass, others)

Miscellaneous

-I Died a Thousand Times being considered
-Hit the Deck coming and other non-musical scope/stereo epics
-WB does not have rights to Drum Beat anymore (possibly reverted to Alan Ladd estate?)
-Abe Lincoln in Illinois definitely planned but timing most likely 2009
-still searching for better source material on the Bowery Boys films so they won't be coming in 2007
-no longer own rights to Fanny (1961)
-no date set for the Spencer Tracy Collection yet (it will include Northwest Passage)
-Torchy Blane set will be dependent upon how well the Nancy Drew set does (coming this June)
-another James Stewart collection is planned (will include Carbine Williams) but will not appear in 2007 for sure
-Lubitsch's Merry Widow is in the plans
-Greed (1923) won't be much longer and will include the theatrical release as well as the reconstruction
-Robert Redford has recorded a commentary for The Candidate but no date on a release
-new edition of The Man Who Would Be King in the works
-more Greer Garson and Norma Shearer over the next 18 months
-still considering Chan films Warners controls
-Captain Nemo and the Underwater City (1970) being considered
-no plans for Altman's Countdown (1968) or an SE of McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
-the Wheeler and Woolsey films from RKO are in bad shape and need restoration, costs for which are currently being considered
-no plans to revisit Wait Until Dark for 40th anniversary in 2007
-silent titles such as The Wind, Scarlet Letter, The Big Parade, Show People, The Crowd were restored in the 1980s and need to be redone from scratch for DVD. No timing indicated
-no plans for a new version of National Velvet
-Mame (1974) coming soon and in the original mono (could not do a stereo version as hoped)
-big MGM musical promo coming shortly and hopefully an Eleanor Powell set by the end of the year
-no Hedy Lamarr set planned
-working on No Time for Sergeants but no timing available as yet
-Camelot being revisited especially audio mix, but don't expect anytime soon
-Eddy/Macdonald films need extensive restoration which will be done but don't expect anytime soon

HD news

-North by Northwest needs to be remastered for HD, likely in 2009 for the 50th anniversary
-Quo Vadis around Easter time 2008 (based on Ultra Resolution effort)
-Deliverance 35th anniversary later in 2007 in HD and BD
-BD version of Forbidden Planet is planned but no date set
-Kubrick on HD and BD before the end of 2007
-The Music Man needs to be redone and hope to have in 2008

Other News

Now we get to the rest of the new announcements. The Classic Coming Attractions Database has been updated as usual and sources for this edition include studio press releases and websites, personal contacts, internet newsgroups, online retailers, and DVD news sites (The Digital Bits, the Home Theater Forum, DVD Times, TVShowsonDVD, and inthebalcony.com among others).

In Criterion news, it appears that Lindsay Anderson's If... will be released in June. This release is apparently related to the same arrangement with Paramount that gave Criterion access to Robinson Crusoe on Mars as is the news from various sources that a Criterion release of Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole is a certainty with a July date currently being targeted. The third entry in Criterion's Eclipse line will appear on June 12th. It's entitled Late Ozu and will include five titles by director Yasujiro Ozu: Early Spring (1956), Tokyo Twilight (1957), Equinox Flower (1958), Late Autumn (1960), and The End of Summer (1961).

Classic Media will offer 1964's Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster and 1965's Invasion of Astro Monster on June 5th. Both releases will include the original Japanese versions as well as the English re-edited ones, audio commentary (by David Kalat and Stuart Galbraith IV respectively), featurette biographies of key crew members, poster galleries, and the original Japanese trailer.

Fox's May releases due on the 22nd also include the studio's usual spring western releases and a couple of other miscellaneous items. The westerns are: Fury at Furnace Creek (1948, with Victor Mature), Broken Arrow (1950, with James Stewart), Convict Stage (1965, with Don "Red" Barry), Fort Courageous (1965, with Don "Red" Barry), and White Feather (1955, with Robert Wagner and Jeffrey Hunter in CinemaScope). The miscellaneous others are Sam Fuller's Hell and High Water (1954, with Richard Widmark in CinemaScope) and The Third Secret (1964, British mystery with Stephen Boyd and Jack Hawkins). Fox kicks off June with a mixture of new classic releases and special editions of previously available titles. On June 5th, expect The Neptune Factor (1973, with Ben Gazzara), The Sand Pebbles: Special Edition (1966, with Steve McQueen, 2 discs incl. audio commentary), Twelve O'Clock High: Special Edition (1949, with Gregory Peck, audio commentary), and Von Ryan's Express: Special Edition (1965, with Frank Sinatra. 2 discs incl. audio commentary). Then on June 12th, scheduled releases include Charley's Aunt (1941, with Jack Benny, audio commentary), The Hustler: Collector's Edition (1961, with Paul Newman. 2 discs incl. audio commentary), the Jeeves Collection (Thank You, Jeeves! [1936] and Step Lively, Jeeves! [1937], both with Arthur Treacher), and The Three Musketeers (1939, with Don Ameche and the Ritz Brothers). Finally, in a recent issue of his "Noir Sentinel", Eddie Muller indicates that Fox will have three more entries in its Film Noir line, but he makes no mention of the titles or timing other than to suggest that Boomerang and The Brasher Doubloon will not be among them.

On April 3rd, Genius Products will follow up last year's Gojira two-disc release with a similar presentation of Godzilla Raids Again, the 1955 sequel. Content includes the original Japanese version as well as the English re-edit, audio commentary, a special effects featurette, and a poster gallery.

Those who have the first two volumes in the Treasures from American Film Archives series, issued through Image Entertainment, should be aware that a third volume is planned for release this coming autumn. Treasures from American Film Archives III: Social Issues in American Film 1900-1934 is planned as a four-disc set comprising 12½ hours of material. The Godless Girl (1928) and Redskin (1928) are among the titles expected to be included. The autumn of 2008 will see a fourth volume (a two-disc set), Treasures from American Film Archives IV: The American Avant-Garde Film 1945-1985.

Looser Than Loose Publishing will offer The Larger World of Laurel & Hardy: Volume 5 - Almost Hats Off on March 13th. This volume of the series exploits the central gag of the lost short Hats Off and the celebrated The Music Box with two shorts that focus on the staircase that featured so prominently in those films. The shorts are Ice Cold Cocos (1926, with Billy Bevan and Andy Clyde) and It's Your Move (1945, with Edgar Kennedy). Also included is His Musical Career (1914, with Charlie Chaplin) and a 1997 video tour of Laurel & Hardy locations in Los Angeles and Culver City.

As a follow-up to its first DVD serial release of Tailspin Tommy in the Great Air Mystery, Hermitage Hill (again in conjunction with the Serial Squadron) will release the 1944 13-chapter Universal serial Mystery of the Riverboat (with Robert Lowery) on March 27th.

Image plans to release the 1941 Gene Autry film The Singing Hill on May 1st.

For those who care, Legend Films will make available The Little Rascals In Color on March 26th. This will be a three-disc set containing 15 shorts and a nice selection of bonus material. All the shorts will be presented in the original black and white as well as colourized versions. The shorts are: Our Gang Follies of 1938, Washee Ironee, Shrimps for a Day, Choo-Choo!, Night 'N' Gales, School's Out, Free Wheeling, For Pete's Sake, Divot Diggers, Waldo's Last Stand, Fly My Kite, A Lad an' a Lamp, The Kid from Borneo, Hi Neighbor, and Hide and Shriek.

MPI plans to release the Fifth (and final) Season of The Doris Day Show later this year. Reportedly, it will include commentaries on some episodes by Doris Day herself.

Paramount and Warner Bros together will be celebrating what would have been John Wayne's 100th birthday with a pile of new and recycled releases on May 22nd. (For the Warner Bros. part of this announcement, see the Warner Bros. release paragraph below.) Paramount will offer a True Grit: Special Collector's Edition which will include audio commentary by Jeb Rosebrook, Bob Boze Bell, and J. Stuart Rosebrook; a four-part making-of documentary (True Writing, Working with the Duke, Aspen Gold: Locations of True Grit, The Law and the Lawless), and the theatrical trailer. This new edition, which will be available separately, will also be packaged along with 13 other previously-released Wayne films in three ways: all together in a 14-title John Wayne Century Collection and in two smaller sub-collections - the 9-title John Wayne Western Collection and the 5-title John Wayne Adventure Collection. The 14 titles in total are as follows (with the particular sub-collection they're also in shown in brackets): The High And The Mighty: Special Collector's Edition (Adventure Collection), Island In The Sky: Special Collector's Edition (Adventure Collection), True Grit: Special Collector's Edition (Western Collection), Hondo: Special Collector's Edition (Western Collection), McLintock!: Special Collector's Edition (Western Collection), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Western Collection), The Shootist (Western Collection), Big Jake (Western Collection), Donovan's Reef (Adventure Collection), In Harm's Way (Adventure Collection), Hatari! (Adventure Collection), Rio Lobo (Western Collection), The Sons Of Katie Elder (Western Collection), and El Dorado (Western Collection). (I wonder if Paramount now regrets giving the Republic catalog back to Lionsgate. Just think of the new John Wayne titles it could have had for this promotion instead of all the recycled material it's announced.) Paramount also has Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C: Season Two set for June 26th.

Reelclassicdvd.com has announced the availability of two new releases. Raffles, The Amateur Cracksman is the 1917 version of the adventure comedy with John Barrymore and Frank Morgan. It's accompanied by the 1922 two-reel short The Leather Pushers: Round Three - Payment Through the Nose. Original music scores are composed and performed by Richardson Price. The other release is The Our Gang Collection: Volume One, which contains five shorts with original music composed and performed by Ben Model. The shorts are: Derby Day (1923), Big Business (1924), Monkey Business (1926), War Feathers (1926), and Love My Dog (1927).

Sony has delayed the release of the new versions of The Caine Mutiny, The Guns of Navarone, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and Lawrence of Arabia from March 20th to May 8th.

Universal apparently has Legacy Series releases of Hitchcock's The Birds and Psycho in its September plans.

As revealed at inthebalcony.com, VCI is apparently working at restoring the lost serial Brenda Starr, Reporter (Columbia, 1945 with Joan Woodbury) for a fall 2007 release. Other serial plans include a May release for Scouts to the Rescue (Universal, 1939 with Jackie Cooper) and The Royal Mounted Rides Again (Universal, 1945 with Bill Kennedy) with plans for the three Dick Tracy sequels (Dick Tracy Returns, Dick Tracy's G-Men, Dick Tracy Vs. Crime Inc.) in the summer and a reissued Captain Video, Master of the Stratosphere (Columbia, 1951). VCI will be introducing a budget line of discs (each $6 SRP) in April. Many will be minor post-1970 titles, but included are a number of TV series compilations of six episodes each (My Little Margie: Volumes 1-4, I Married Joan: Volumes 1-4, Annie Oakley: Volumes 1-2, One Step Beyond: Volumes 1-2, The Littlest Hobo: Volumes 1-2). All the latter are set to street on April 24th.

Warner Bros. and Paramount together will be celebrating what would have been John Wayne's 100th birthday with a pile of new and recycled releases on May 22nd. (For the Paramount part of this announcement, see the Paramount release paragraph above.) Warners will have Rio Bravo in a new two-disc Special Edition and an Ultimate Collector's Edition, The Cowboys in a new Deluxe Edition, and six new-to-DVD titles in the John Wayne Film Collection. The Rio Bravo SE will feature a new digital transfer from restored picture and audio elements, audio commentary by director John Carpenter and film critic Richard Schickel, the 1973 documentary The Men Who Made the Movies: Howard Hawks, two new featurettes (Commemoration: Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo and Old Tucson: Where the Legends Walked), and a John Wayne trailer gallery. Added to this content for the Ultimate Edition will be press book, Dell comic book, and lobby card reproductions. The Deluxe Edition of The Cowboys features a newly restored and remastered transfer, audio commentary by Mark Rydell, two featurettes (one of which is new), and the trailer. The John Wayne Film Collection contains Allegheny Uprising (1939), Big Jim McLain (1952), Reunion in France (1942), Trouble Along the Way (1953), Tycoon (1947), and Without Reservations (1946). Each title (all of which will also be available individually) will have a short and a cartoon for supplements. On June 19th, Warners will release The Lucille Ball Collection which will include five films: Critic's Choice (1963), Dance Girl Dance (1940), DuBarry Was a Lady (1943), The Big Street (1942), and Mame (1974). All titles (each will also be available separately) will have vintage shorts/cartoons and trailers as supplements. Also being released widely the same day is Best Foot Forward (1943), which was previously only available as an Amazon exclusive.

In HD news, Warner Bros. has announced April 10th as the release date for Dog Day Afternoon (1975, with Al Pacino). Both HD-DVD and Blu-ray versions will be available and all the supplements of the SE standard DVD release will be included. On April 17th, The Dirty Dozen will come to Blu-ray. Universal has an ambitious series of High Definition releases planned over the spring and summer months, but there's not a classic title in sight.

Well, that's all for now. I'll return again soon.

Barrie Maxwell
barriemaxwell@thedigitalbits.com


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