September 30, 2012

SEPT 29, 1967 ANNIVERSARY

It was forty-five years ago on September 29th, 1967 that two groundbreaking programs made their debut: Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner and Gerry Anderson's Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. If mystery/adventure of the early-to-mid-1960s captured the youthful energy of a new jet-setting generation, these two programs marked a deepening sense of consequences and darkness for the space-age agent.



McGoohan's Danger Man had been on the air since September 11, 1960. His stories often exposed a sense of the sacrifices needed to help the common good. His John Drake, though slightly insubordinate, presented the image of a man who could recognize but look beyond the distasteful consequences of his job in order to carry out his duties. As a viewer, I felt that this sense of distaste rose to a boiling point that finally exploded in The Prisoner (1967-1968). His character, a now unnamed spy, resigns as a matter of principle. He is then kidnapped and placed in the Village, where he undergoes constant psychological torture. And in this later-60s perspective of doubt, he never knows if his torturers are the enemy or his own people. In celebration of this 45th anniversary, Network is having a Prisoner sale on DVDs, Blu-ray, and soundtracks until Monday afternoon. 



Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation programs, high-octane cocktails of Sci-Spy thrills, had appealed to kids throughout the 1960s. His greatest international success came with Thunderbirds, which ran from 1965-1966. The show had his familiar mixture of futuristic gadgets and intrigue, but now presented in a blockbuster package. The stories were also wider in scope, now focusing on a network of global rescuers determined to keep the world safe.



Anderson's next project, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967-1968), begins with a team of space explorers discovering a mysterious city of energy. They are excited and filled with wonder, as most viewers would have been as the Space Race progressed. The sense of consequences and darkness, that also began to prevail with the escalation of the Vietnam War and the Cold War, set the dramatic conflict for the series. In a single act of misunderstanding, the explorers mistake an innocent Mysteron gadget as a weapon and swiftly obliterate the city. As it turns out, the aliens can re-create any matter that has been destroyed. The city returns and the Mysterons vow to take revenge on humanity for its cruel and violent nature. Even Captain Scarlet himself begins the series as an alien-constructed double agent assigned to assassinate the world's president (there is even a devastating suicide-bomber scene). Once he is killed, he is able to regenerate and escape the alien control. Thus established the arc of each episode, where the hero ultimately met a brutal death and resurrection. His colleague, Captain Black (below), remained a rogue killer-agent for the enemy. Children's programming? Dark indeed!



If these two programs illustrated transitions in the popular imagination, the trend seemed to see an odd turn by the following year. In a recent visit to the 1968 Exhibit in Oakland, I was struck by the odd juxtaposition of truly violent historical experiences in the news, public anxiety and protest, and the strange effort of mainstream TV to create a lulling oasis from the chaos. By nature, filmmakers have had more liberty to present subversive programming, which is illustrated by the new wave of young directors and writers who were given a chance to create films like Easy Rider, The Monkees Head, and Night of the Living Dead. Without losing their power as main characters, I think what figures like The Prisoner and Captain Scarlet showed us is a society trying to cope with the circumstances of the times within a mainstream medium. Whether it was questioning freedom and individuality, consequences and culpability, maybe these programs, especially The Prisoner, stand the test of time because they weren't afraid to ask the questions and to frame them in ways that evoked excitement and empathy. Prisoner images from DVDBeaver.



Check out our recent posts, including Neil Armstrong: One Last StepCelebrating 450,000 visitorsInterview with Playboy Bunny Deana, and our series, For Your Shelf Only, where guests share stories about collecting and show us some of their treasures. Series links: Jon GilbertRaymond BensonJeremy DunsPeter LorenzDavid FosterRob MallowsRoger LangleyCraig ArthurFleming ShortMatt Sherman. Check out my books Counting Sheep and Mort Walker Conversations

September 28, 2012

THE PRISONER ANNIVERSARY SALE

The UK distributor Network is celebrating the 45th anniversary of The Prisoner. This weekend only, fans can pick up their comprehensive DVD, Blu-ray, and soundtrack box sets of Danger Man/Secret Agent and The Prisoner at discount prices. As a special bonus, Network is also streaming a rare interview with Patrick McGoohan. Sale event ends Monday. More info on the sale page here.


Check out our recent posts, including Neil Armstrong: One Last StepCelebrating 450,000 visitorsInterview with Playboy Bunny Deana, and our series, For Your Shelf Only, where guests share stories about collecting and show us some of their treasures. Series links: Jon GilbertRaymond BensonJeremy DunsPeter LorenzDavid FosterRob MallowsRoger LangleyCraig ArthurFleming ShortMatt Sherman. Check out my books Counting Sheep and Mort Walker Conversations

September 26, 2012

BOND 50 BLU-RAY

Spy Vibers, check your mailboxes. Bond 50 on Blu-ray has arrived! The 22-film collection is housed in two hard-cover cases that fit into an outer slipcase. It's surprisingly compact on the shelf, which should satisfy my fellow collectors who still have the series in its past released formats. Fans on the Commander Bond Network have been discussing a few titles sequences that seem to have been filmed in slightly different aspect ratios than the movies, but everyone seems to be raving about the quality of the transfers. I believe that most, if not all, Bonus features have ported over from the 4-volume DVD sets, and the new box includes a bonus disc with a number of short features. I've looked at most of them, and found them a great way to amp up the momentum for a Bond marathon. They focus on the Bond actors, the Designing-Bond exhibit, and video celebrations of elements like the title sequences (watch them all in order!), villains, women, gadgets, locations, and vehicles from the franchise. The Skyfall video blogs also add context and anticipation for the new film. See the reviews on DVDBeaver for more details. I'm very excited about finally seeing my fave 007 film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, in Hi-definition, not to mention two runners-up also new to blu-ray, The Spy Who Loved Me and The Living Daylights. My only complaint so far in looking at SWLM is that dialog sounds great at a setting of about 33 and music and sound FX sound good at about 25. This is not exclusive to Blu-ray, of course, and I wish people who mix movies would correct this trend. I find that I either have to use subtitles or constantly change the volume. Fans who pre-ordered Bond 50 also received an abridged version of the new James Bond poster book. The edition is 74 pages (compared to the complete book listed at 304 pages on Amazon). I'm waiting to hear from readers who have both editions for a clear comparison. Image below from DVDBeaver.


Check out our recent posts, including Neil Armstrong: One Last StepCelebrating 450,000 visitorsInterview with Playboy Bunny Deana, and our series, For Your Shelf Only, where guests share stories about collecting and show us some of their treasures. Series links: Jon GilbertRaymond BensonJeremy DunsPeter LorenzDavid FosterRob MallowsRoger LangleyCraig ArthurFleming ShortMatt Sherman. Check out my books Counting Sheep and Mort Walker Conversations

September 22, 2012

DR. NO SCREENING MONDAY

The James Bond film series began on October 5th, 1962. In celebration, AMC is screening the debut film, Dr. No, this Monday night (9.24.12) at theaters around the country. Round up your agents and enjoy this special event. While supplies last, theaters will also be giving away full-sized commemorative posters. More info at AMC.


Check out our recent posts, including Neil Armstrong: One Last StepCelebrating 450,000 visitorsInterview with Playboy Bunny Deana, and our series, For Your Shelf Only, where guests share stories about collecting and show us some of their treasures. Series links: Jon GilbertRaymond BensonJeremy DunsPeter LorenzDavid FosterRob MallowsRoger LangleyCraig ArthurFleming ShortMatt Sherman. Check out my books Counting Sheep and Mort Walker Conversations

September 21, 2012

BATTLE OF THE BOND BOOK COVERS

Andrew Losowsky hosts a side-by-side comparison of new James Bond book cover designs today in his feature on the Huffington Post. Going head-to-head in a dynamic slideshow, readers can view the UK Vintage and US Amazon designs, as well as Losowsky's commentary. Ian Fleming's novels are currently being printed in three different editions in the UK and US, all with their own motifs. Which designs win? Check out his choices here.


Check out our recent posts, including Neil Armstrong: One Last StepCelebrating 450,000 visitorsInterview with Playboy Bunny Deana, and our series, For Your Shelf Only, where guests share stories about collecting and show us some of their treasures. Series links: Jon GilbertRaymond BensonJeremy DunsPeter LorenzDavid FosterRob MallowsRoger LangleyCraig ArthurFleming ShortMatt Sherman. Check out my books Counting Sheep and Mort Walker Conversations

LEE PFEIFFER HOSTS 007

Cinema Retro editor-in-chief Lee Pfeiffer will introduce a special double-feature screening of Dr. No and Goldfinger at Loew's New Jersey on September 29th. The screening will be on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the first Bond film, Dr. No, which premiered on October 5th, 1962. Pfeiffer is the co-author of The Essential James Bond, as well as a number of 007 and classic film books, DVD commentaries, and booklets. Lee also contributed to out Set For Adventure set-list countdown. More info at Cinema Retro



Check out our recent posts, including Neil Armstrong: One Last StepCelebrating 450,000 visitorsInterview with Playboy Bunny Deana, and our series, For Your Shelf Only, where guests share stories about collecting and show us some of their treasures. Series links: Jon GilbertRaymond BensonJeremy DunsPeter LorenzDavid FosterRob MallowsRoger LangleyCraig ArthurFleming ShortMatt Sherman. Check out my books Counting Sheep and Mort Walker Conversations

September 17, 2012

ULTIMATE 007 POLL RESULTS

Bond fans around the world have voted and the results are coming in. 007 Magazine has announced that On Her Majesty's Secret Service has been voted the #1 Bond film of all time. Congrats to George Lazenby! Out of 24 movies in the running, the 1967 spoof, Casino Royale, was voted the worst. No surprises here! Most of the top-five were produced in the 1960s, with Goldfinger at #2 and From Russia With Love at #3. I agree with Jon Gilbert (Ian Fleming: The Bibliography) and would have switched those two positions. Although Goldfinger influenced the wider international spy boom and had cool gadgets, I've always preferred the storytelling and suspenseful atmosphere of From Russia With Love. Luke Williams talks with a number of Bond alumni (including George Lazenby) about the results and more here

Here are the top 10: #1 On Her Majesty's Secret Service, #2 Goldfinger, #3 From Russia With Love, #4 Casino Royale, #5 Thunderball, #6 Dr. No, #7 The Living Daylights, #8 The Spy Who Loved Me, #9 Goldeneye, #10 For Your Eyes Only. Spy Vibers, which Bond movie has the best STYLE?


Check out our recent posts, including Neil Armstrong: One Last StepCelebrating 450,000 visitorsInterview with Playboy Bunny Deana, and our series, For Your Shelf Only, where guests share stories about collecting and show us some of their treasures. Series links: Jon GilbertRaymond BensonJeremy DunsPeter LorenzDavid FosterRob MallowsRoger LangleyCraig ArthurFleming ShortMatt Sherman. Check out my books Counting Sheep and Mort Walker Conversations

September 16, 2012

NEW EERO SAARINEN BOOK

A new monograph focusing on the furniture designs of Eero Saarinen has been published and is available at Design Within Reach. From the DWR press release: "Pre-order your copy of EeroSaarinen: Furniture for Everyman by Brian Lutz. Available at Design Within Reach, the first 50 copies of this book will be signed by the author. You’re also invited to meet the author at our Flatiron Studio in NYC on September 27.


One of the most celebrated, prolific, and unorthodox architects and designers of the 20th century, Eero Saarinen has become a beacon of American modernism. While famous for his sculptural and bold architecture, such as the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the TWA Terminal at the JFK International Airport in New York, Eero Saarinen: Furniture for Everyman is the first monograph to focus exclusively on his furniture.


Published by Pointed Leaf Press, the book includes a preface by Florence Knoll and an essay by Saarinen’s protégé Niels Diffrient. Inside you'll find hundreds of rare and never-before-seen archival photographs of Saarinen, his friends and family, as well as advertisements, patent drawings and design sketches. It's a must-have for every modernist's library." The book is also listed on Amazon. Spy Vibers may remember Brian Lutz as the author of Knoll: A Modernist Universe

September 14, 2012

HISTORIC BBC BROADCASTS

The Beatles performed live for 52 radio broadcasts by the BBC between March 7th, 1962 and May 26th, 1965. The programs offered a mixture of rare performances, often of tunes from the group's early stage shows that were never officially recorded, and charming interviews. The presence of classics by Elvis, Buddy Holly, and Chuck Berry, juxtaposed with Beatles originals, is a kind of time capsule that captures the 1950s pop music the band found when they arrived on the scene, and where they took music as innovators into the 1960s. A small percent of those recordings was compiled into a 2-cd set in 1994. Listeners who missed the original shows were able to hear most of the remaining tapes in a 1982 radio documentary, The Beatles at the Beeb. This project added interesting history and insider commentary to the Beatles radio shows. Many bootleg cd and lp collections of the group's performances followed, including an excellent 9-cd anthology box set. The Beatles at the Beeb is airing once again on BBC Radio 6. Don't miss it!


Check out our recent posts, including Neil Armstrong: One Last StepCelebrating 450,000 visitorsInterview with Playboy Bunny Deana, and our series, For Your Shelf Only, where guests share stories about collecting and show us some of their treasures. Series links: Jon GilbertRaymond BensonJeremy DunsPeter LorenzDavid FosterRob MallowsRoger LangleyCraig ArthurFleming ShortMatt Sherman. Check out my books Counting Sheep and Mort Walker Conversations

September 8, 2012

NEW JAMES BOND EDITIONS


At last! Amazon has revealed the cover designs for their new Ian Fleming James Bond series. In the tradition of Raymond Hawkey, the new covers are beautifully minimal and have an avant-garde flair. Each story is represented by a black and white graphic, reminiscent of modern design and architecture, with a subtle red accent. Although some readers may feel the designs lack a sense of adventure, I feel they place 007 in a stylistic time period that captures the artistically modern voice of Ian Fleming in his time period. If the Museum of Modern Art in New York had celebrated his novels in the 1950s, these could have been the posters! I was not moved to buy either of the new UK sets published this year, but Amazon has chosen a lovely motif that is worth collecting. Pre-order prices are $8.97 for print and $7.99 for Kindle editions. The publication date is set for October 16th. You can pre-order the books at Spy Vibe's secure Amazon Store pages 31-33. More info at Amazon's new series page. Image sets below from The Book Bond.


Check out our recent posts, including Neil Armstrong: One Last StepCelebrating 450,000 visitorsInterview with Playboy Bunny Deana, and our series, For Your Shelf Only, where guests share stories about collecting and show us some of their treasures. Series links: Jon GilbertRaymond BensonJeremy DunsPeter LorenzDavid FosterRob MallowsRoger LangleyCraig ArthurFleming ShortMatt Sherman. Check out my books Counting Sheep and Mort Walker Conversations

September 5, 2012

PETER WYNGARDE BIO

Beloved actor Peter Wyngarde, celebrated among Spy Vibers for his roles in The Prisoner, The Avengers, Department S, and Jason King, is the subject of a new career-spanning biography. The book was written by Roger Langley, author of the Patrick McGoohan biography, as well as one of the organizers of Six of One Prisoner Appreciation Society- and a contributing agent for Spy Vibe (see Roger's edition of For Your Shelf Only). Roger and I recently had a virtual chat about Peter Wyngarde and the new book.


On screen, I feel that Peter radiates so much charisma, intelligence, playfulness, but also a vulnerability. I wonder if you can describe the essence of the man you have come to know through interviews and writing the biography?

Peter certainly radiates charisma, intelligence, playfulness, but also at times a degree of vulnerability. In his big screen part, in the movie "Night of the Eagle" (aka "Burn, Witch, Burn!") he conveyed well the desperation of an intelligent man, a teacher, having to confront the possibility that his wife is not only practising voodoo but that there is some real power behind it. In the end, he is forced to employ the same sort of methods in an attempt to save her life. Also, in his TV plays, Peter portrayed characters with a great deal of sensitivity, and when required, injecting humour as well. In contrast there is his portrayal of the very realistic essence of evil which was depicted in the film "The Innocents". Although he had no dialogue, his appearance as the figure whose spirit possesses the mind of a young boy was extremely scary. He told me that as his demonic face appears at a window it was created by a simple stage effect. He was on roller skates and was given a push so that he glided gently up to the window. If I had known this at the time I saw the movie on its first release I would not have found it so frightening!


Peter is a very well-read and intelligent man who has over several decades remained unjustly typecast as the flamboyant character Jason King from the TV series of that name and the earlier "Department S". He has a wonderfully distinctive voice and it is no surprise that he was chosen as the voice behind some famous British TV commercials for a box of chocolates, carried by a stunt man through dangerous settings and left secretly with an anonymous calling card. Peter smoothly delivered the sexy line "And all because the lady loves Milk Tray". He is also very artistic and inventive and has not only directed plays but has produced his own album of spoken 'music' tracks as well as contributing to other audio projects. When interviewed on TV chat shows he presents as a very personable figure and all of these things I have said about him show the sum of the parts which make up the actor's appeal and personal magnetism.

To what degree did Peter participate in the biography project?

I spoke with Peter at times over several years and also corresponded with him but he did not directly participate this year in the biography project. However, I immediately sent him a copy of the book and he is delighted with it, describing it as "a true labour of love" and thanking me for "a magnificent effort". He told me he was speechless when he first received it and thanked me for putting his career in print in this way. So I suppose the book is retrospectively ‘official’!

How is the book structured? Does it follow Peter's life, project by project in chronological order?

The bio is completely chronological, starting with Peter’s origins, birth background and his early years confined in a Far Eastern internment camp during the second world war. The story continues with his return to Britain, education and initial work assignments, before turning to his first acting engagement. From then, in the 1940s, through to this decade, the biography covers his acting career in film, television, theatre and his public life. There are appendices listing all of his work on screen and on stage and other projects are covered, with around 100 pictures. There is an introduction, eight main chapters and a closing ‘finale’.


To what extent does it cover Peter's personal life?

I included aspects of Peter’s own life; contemporary with the work he was doing at various times as an actor or star. I have presented the entirety of his career and public life, with his personal background details, but not his private life. I adopted the same approach with my Patrick McGoohan biography, which found favour with him and also his many fans. I am gratified that Peter has endorsed the book and is delighted with the content.

What are some things you learned about him that you found inspiring or surprising?

I think the aspect which I find most inspiring about Peter is his ability to overcome difficult times in his life. Whether these concerned relationships, financial situations, personal problems or health etc., he always bounced back, ready to give his best and to take on any new project. He was extremely popular in Australia at the height of his TV stardom and went there twice, being mobbed by thousands of fans. As for what is so distinctive about Peter, I would say that perhaps not many people are aware of his great ability to play comedy parts. He took the role of Gary Essendine in Noel Coward's "Present Laughter" a few times, both on stage and on TV. The play is available on the DVD "A Choice of Coward" and Peter's performance almost leaves you breathless given the speed of it, the amount of dialogue, the long takes and his unique facial expressions.


Peter was one of the actors who played #2 in The Prisoner. What thoughts does he share about the concept and politics of the show?

Peter extolled the merits of Patrick McGoohan's cult TV series “The Prisoner” on several occasions. He described the show as always a conundrum and a surprise. His part as No. 2 arose because McGoohan actually requested him to take the role. Peter felt that his character as leader of the Village, compared to the show's other sinister and sadistic officials, was more persuasive and also deceptively friendly and sympathetic. This I feel was perhaps more of Peter's own character being put into the part and not a case of him being strictly required to follow the script and direction. He even used karate in one scene in “The Prisoner” which I believe was probably his own idea. He was proud of the scene and said that his manual strike to break a block of wood was totally authentic. He insisted that he had practised for an hour each morning and later expanded the martial arts theme for the “Department S” show. He described how McGoohan loved authenticity. The star told Peter to play the part "as yourself" and this horrified Peter as he felt it was quite difficult to be just oneself and much easier to be acting.


Of the star, Peter thought McGoohan was a fruitcake although he trusted his judgment even though the star was very secretive about the project. I was surprised to hear Peter say that he was friends with McGoohan for years, long before “The Prisoner”. Later, when Peter was sent many repetitive scripts for new shows, he always compared them with the striking originality of “The Prisoner” and would turn down scripts which did not come up to that standard of originality. I felt that there were parallels between McGoohan and Wyngarde, as neither of them completed formal dramatic training, they both became almost typecast by their characters Number 6 and Jason King respectively, and yet both of them pursued roles they wanted to take, even turning down scripts and maintaining their artistic integrity. At the time of McGoohan’s passing, Peter said, “He was a private man, a formidable actor, and a free spirit. His body of work... probably will be accepted as the most imaginative of all television series, in time to come."

Peter also played Jason King and appeared in “The Avengers” and other shows - always with outstanding flair. What does Peter have to say about the playful or colorful nature of the Swinging London era?

Peter’s many and varied TV roles were always delivered with great flair and, when required, flamboyance. His portrayal of the whip-wielding rogue in the “Avengers” story about the Hellfire Club "A Touch of Brimstone" was remarkable and his other “Avengers” multi-roles in the episode "Epic" gave him a real opportunity to show off his wide-ranging acting talents. He injected comedy into his roles in “The Saint” and played also a variety of crooks and characters in other TV shows, including often foreign characters, once or twice even wearing dark make-up to present a Middle-Eastern look. The TV shows of the sixties did not really propel Peter into the showbusiness limelight but his role at the end of the decade in the 1969 "Department S" and the follow up "Jason King" shows brought him international stardom. He received hundreds of fan letters every week and made many public appearances. He enjoyed this time of huge popularity and gave many interviews to magazines and was always filmed with a glamourous actress or model on his arm. However, there was always the private side of Peter and as I have put in my biography, he once said "I prefer to be a man without a past, and my entire philosophy is based on that. Each phase of my life has been lived and is dead."


I think, in summary, Peter has never been happier than when he is totally immersed in some new part. When he was doing film, he longed to do TV plays, when he was appearing on TV he wanted to get back to the stage to appear live in plays. I have been able to source rare and unseen photos of him in Shakespearean and other productions which show the great diversity of roles he took over many years. In fact, his first film appearance was in the late 1940s and his stage debut was as a young lad. The fact that his career has spanned over half a century, during which time he has had many leading and major roles, makes it seem strange that he is remembered mostly for the part which made him internationally well known, that of Jason King. At least he had a great time in that role as he told me that he injected so much of himself into it, he never knew each day when he woke up whether he was Peter Wyngarde or Jason King! More information can be found at the official book website.


Check out our recent posts, including Neil Armstrong: One Last StepCelebrating 450,000 visitorsInterview with Playboy Bunny Deana, and our series, For Your Shelf Only, where guests share stories about collecting and show us some of their treasures. Series links: Jon GilbertRaymond BensonJeremy DunsPeter LorenzDavid FosterRob MallowsRoger LangleyCraig ArthurFleming ShortMatt Sherman. Check out my books Counting Sheep and Mort Walker Conversations

September 4, 2012

STUDIO ANNIVERSARY

50 years ago on September 4th, 1962, The Beatles had their first full recording session as a band with George Martin. Although Martin had opted for a session drummer on their initial date, Ringo joined them at Abbey Road on the 4th, where the group recorded P.S. I Love You, Ask Me Why, Please Please Me, and their first single, Love Me Do. The tunes launched the band's success on the charts and the world is still listening! Read more about the session at Bruze Spizer's website.


September 3, 2012

JAMES BOND AUDIO BOOK SET

For those fans of Ian Fleming and James Bond who have not yet ordered the new audio books from Audiogo UK, Amazon in the USA has listed the first volume of a new box set that compiles the series in one neat package. 


007 Reloaded James Bond Collection part one includes seven complete and unabridged readings: Casino Royale (Dan Stevens), Live and Let Die (Rory Kinnear), Moonraker (Bill Nighy), Diamonds Are Forever (Damian Lewis), From Russia With Love (Toby Stephens/Die Another Day), Dr No (Hugh Quarshie), and Goldfinger (Hugh Bonneville). The pre-order price is currently $89.84. Spy Vibers can also listen to samples and order the audio books in CD or download editions from Audiogo UK. Below are some samples posted by the company on Youtube. Part two of the collection will include readings by Kenneth Branagh and David Tennant. 

Amazon announced in the the early summer that they would be publishing the Ian Fleming novels in the US in August and September. Mysteriously, there has been no word ever since, nor have any cover designs been announced. We'll announce news updates as soon as we hear something.


Check out our recent posts, including Neil Armstrong: One Last StepCelebrating 450,000 visitorsInterview with Playboy Bunny Deana, and our series, For Your Shelf Only, where guests share stories about collecting and show us some of their treasures. Series links: Jon GilbertRaymond BensonJeremy DunsPeter LorenzDavid FosterRob MallowsRoger Langley, Craig Arthur, Fleming Short, Matt Sherman.
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