TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MAUSOLEUM (1983)

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MAUSOLEUM (1983)

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Early 80s horror finds young Susan (Julie Christy Murray) running from her mother’s funeral and finding her way to a creepy mausoleum. There she becomes possessed by a demon which remains dormant until she becomes an adult. Years later, with Susan (Bobbie Bresee) now grown up and married, the demon emerges when men get aggressive with her and, as a result, are gruesomely murdered, as is anyone who stands in her way. Can her husband Oliver (a somewhat restrained Marjoe Gortner) and her psychiatrist Dr. Andrews (Norman Burton) free her of the demonic curse which has plagued her family for generations?

Gory flick is directed sadly with a very by-the-numbers style by Michael Dugan from a story and script by Katherine Rosenwink, Robert Barich and Robert Madero. Despite all the supernatural hi-jinx, the flick is very slow paced and doesn’t nearly use it’s B-movie premise to the fullest. It is saved somewhat by some cool monster make-up by John Carl Buechler, some very graphic and abundant gore and some generous nudity from the shapely Ms. Bresee, who was a former Playboy Bunny. There are some wonderfully cheesy visual effects to go with the terrible dialogue and entertainingly bad acting and some always welcome added 80s nostalgia. It’s amusing for all the wrong reasons and there is nothing wrong with that. Hard to hate a movie featuring a female demon equipped with two creature heads as boobs.

Not a great movie by any lengths, but it is a fun one. The acting and dialogue is terrible and the directing is disappointingly pedestrian. The flick needed a director, like Jim Wynorski, who could milk the premise more, but it does have a cool monster, a lot of graphic gore and plentiful nudity from it’s beautiful leading lady. Not a classic, but a cult favorite that mixed with your favorite brews can be part of any cheesy 80s horror night.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 Marjoe Gortners (out of 4) in one of his less restrained moments.

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE UNNAMABLE (1988)

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THE UNNAMABLE (1988)

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80s horror is based on an H.P. Lovecraft story and finds some college students relating the tale of an old house and the creature that supposedly is imprisoned inside…a story we are treated to in an opening flashback. As college students in 80s horror movies were wont to do, they find reason to enter the old house only to discover the legend is gruesomely true.

Late 80s horror is directed by Jean-Paul Ouellette from his Lovecraft based script. Lovecraft’s story is used as a starting point to which the flick then turns into a more formula 80s slasher with the creature of the title stalking and killing the coeds within the old house, one by one. There are some bloody kills and it is fun, though it never gets really scary. The creature itself is well rendered in prosthetics and make-up and the gore is also well done and quite abundant. The characters are typical 80s horror types with a few characters from the original story as part of the group, such as Randolph Carter (Mark Kinsey Stephenson). Today the film has a bit of a following and while it could have been better, as we continually wonder why they don’t just simply leave the house, it is still bloody and fun. Add in some 80s nostalgia and that it does deliver on the boobs and blood and it is certainly an entertaining enough watch.

The cast, including leads Stephenson and Charles Klausmeyer, are all suitable enough, though no awards will be given out. Katrin Alexandre performs an imposing creature with Alexandra Durrell and Laura Albert making suitable eye candy as Tanya and Wendy.

Maybe not a great flick, but a fun one with some nice gore and a cool monster. It is just as much a creature flick as it is a routine slasher, though one that’s not particularly scary. It’s based on a classic H.P. Lovecraft story and tries hard to provide some atmosphere. While it has it’s flaws, it succeeds in being a good time, especially if 80s flicks are your thing.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 Unnamable’s.

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SCARECROWS (1988)

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SCARECROWS (1988)

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80s horror has a group of heavily armed thieves robbing a military base and hijacking a plane to escape. One of their number betrays them and parachutes out with their cash. The group lands in pursuit, along with the hostage pilot (David Campbell) and his daughter (Victoria Christian) and trace the traitor (B.J. Turner) to a deserted farmhouse. Lost money and traitorous partners become the least of their worries as the farm is home to an evil presence and it uses the ominous scarecrows that guard the cornfield to gruesomely slaughter anyone who trespasses.

Flick is a somewhat lesser known 80s slasher, but one that has earned a bit of a following all these years later. It’s directed a bit by-the-numbers by William Wesley from a script by he and Richard Jefferies. It’s not all that scary, but it has some spooky visuals and when the scarecrows begin to hunt crook and captive alike, there is some very effective and abundant gore. Obviously having our thieves carry the latest technology and weaponry was taking a cue from Aliens, but it doesn’t help against something so supernatural and so there is little question that most of this gang isn’t going to make it out to count their money. Wesley doesn’t built much tension or suspense and the acting from the cast isn’t going to win any awards. In it’s favor, the action is plentiful once it gets going and there is some nice 80s nostalgia, too. It could have been a little more atmospheric considering it’s setting, but at least the scarecrows are effective villains.

Overall, Scarecrows is not a great movie, but not a bad one either. The film is never very suspenseful or scary and the acting won’t impress from any of it’s cast. The titular title characters are effective and their carnage is quite gruesome and abundant. A middle grade horror when all is said and done, but one that time has been kind to in terms of fan appreciation. Also stars, as our remaining gang of thieves, Ted Vernon as Corbin, Michael David Simms as Curry, Kristina Sanborn as Roxanne and Robert Vidan as Jack.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 scarecrows.

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SILENT MADNESS (1984)

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SILENT MADNESS (1984)

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Part of the 80s 3D revival, Silent Madness has an error at a mental hospital releasing psychopathic killer Howard Johns (actor and stuntman Solly Marx) back onto the streets instead of inmate John Howard. Johns returns to the scene of his original slaughter, a college sorority and begins killing again. Pretty Dr. Joan Gilmore (Belinda Montgomery) refuses to be part of the cover-up and heads to the sorority house to stop him. This all occurs conveniently while the girls are leaving on holiday, so no one notices when his victims start to go missing and everyone thinks Gilmore is the crazy one.

Lesser known 80s slasher is directed by Simon Nuchtern from a script by Bob Zimmerman and Bill Milling, who also co-produced with Nuchtern. The result is a very tame slasher with a good deal of it’s kills happening off-screen and those we see, being rather underwhelming. You can count on one hand the times the film throws something at the screen to take advantage of the 3D and one wonders why they even bothered except to take advantage of a current craze. Belinda Montgomery does make for a perky and pretty heroine. She’s both final girl and damsel in distress and, of course, no one believes her that Johns is on the loose, including the lazy town sheriff (Sydney Lassick) and the sorority house mother (Viveca Lindfors). There is little suspense or scares and the ending big reveal isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, as the slasher craze was running out of gas at this point. Even Solly Marx’s silent killer (hence the title?) is kind of dull. Most of the usual 80s slasher tropes are present, so there is that, though not very effectively used by the by-the-numbers direction of Nuchtern. One curiosity is that some of the shots look like they are attempting a Suspiria/Argento look here and there, but even that is handled lamely.

Overall, this was a very pedestrian slasher and one that seemed to be made solely to take advantage of the 3D and slasher crazes of the era. It has the feel of a lazy production and only veterans Belinda Montgomery and Viveca Lindfors put any real effort into their performances. There is very little blood, much less gore and the kills are unimaginative and lame. If you are an 80s completest, it’s worth a look, but definitely a lesser known slasher for good reason. Also stars 80s scream queen Elizabeth Kaitan as a skateboarding babe who winds up one of Johns’ earlier victims.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 mistakenly released psychopaths.

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE SOLDIER (1982)

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THE SOLDIER (1982)

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James Glickenhaus’s follow-up to The Exterminator finds a special black ops operative code-named “The Soldier” (Ken Wahl) called into duty when rogue KGB plant a nuclear weapon in a Saudi oil field. Their objective is to force Israel off the West Bank, or they will destroy half the world’s oil supply. Aided by an Israeli agent (Alberta Watson), The Soldier’s objective is to stop them at any cost.

James Glickenhaus writes and directs what basically is a grind-house version of a James Bond movie. As such, we just wish it was a bit better, even if it does try hard. There is plenty of action, but Glickenhaus hasn’t completely honed his craft yet and there are some moments of sloppy filmmaking that hold it back. Where Bond has style and class, this film has graphic violence and the subtly of a sledge hammer. That would be fine if it didn’t get more and more ludicrous as it goes along, yet is taken a bit too serious to have a fun time with it. It’s also disappointing that it’s climax is almost action-less and The Soldier himself is barely involved with the proceedings, while his team takes desperate…and ridiculously far-fetched…measures. As for the globe trotting locations, they are used so poorly the whole thing could have been filmed here in the US and no one would have noticed the difference. There is still some amusement, like a ski chase that begs the question, if you all had guns why didn’t you pull them out to begin with and a U.S. President (William Prince) who seems a little too trigger happy to go to war with our Israeli allies. There is also a cool soundtrack by 80s soundtrack specialists Tangerine Dream and a brief appearance by Klaus Kinski as a double crossing agent. As for Wahl, he tries hard but just doesn’t have the charisma for a big screen leading man…not that any of the other cast members should win any awards, for their work, either. A sad disappointment as this could have been a lot of fun had Glickenhaus just went with the absurdity of it all.

Overall, while a grind-house James Bond flick sounds like a blast, Glickenhaus drops the ball with a ludicrous script taken way too seriously. He also has a few sloppy moments, probably by trying to accomplish too much on a small budget and it’s climax is more silly than spectacular. Despite some globe trotting locations, they are used so poorly the whole thing could have been film here in the US and no one would have noticed the difference. Glickenhaus would make up for it with his underrated Shakedown six years later.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 bullets.

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE CHURCH (1989)

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THE CHURCH (1989)

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Italian horror tells the story of a church that was built over the mass grave of devil worshipers, slaughtered by a squad of knights in medieval times…the era, not the restaurant. In modern day, new church librarian Evan (Tomas Arana) discovers the catacombs beneath the church floor and opens the seal. It unleashes the evil trapped below and locks everyone inside with it. Now possessions, demon manifestations and all sorts of demonic hi-jinx ensue as valiant Father Gus (Hugh Quarshie) tires to stop it.

This is a stylish, if not a tad silly, horror flick from Dario Argento protégé, Michele Soavi. The director and co-writer (along with Argento and Franco Ferrini) acted and worked behind the camera for both Argento and Fulci and at least visually, he learned well. The Church is never really scary and at times there are some unintentional chuckles, but design-wise there is some very creepy stuff here and some startling imagery. Soavi does give it some atmosphere, that is occasionally undone by the bad dialogue and sub-par acting, but also doesn’t skimp on the blood and isn’t afraid to show us some very disturbing sights. We have Evan pulling out his own heart, a man attacked by a fish creature in the holy water basin and a goat-headed demon having it’s way with pretty heroine Lisa (Barbara Cupisti). It’s an entertaining flick, though one probably must have a taste for Italian horror to really appreciate it. These spooky shenanigans are supposedly based on a book, The Treasure of Father Abbot Thomas by M.R. James, though after reading the synopsis, it doesn’t sound like there is much of a resemblance to the source material here.

There is no point discussing the acting to any degree, as no one here is going to win any awards. Hugh Quarsie is a noble enough hero as Father Gus, Tomas Arana is creepy as a possessed Evan and Barbara Cupisti is a cute and quite nubile heroine, who shows some alluring skin during her demon nookie sequence. There is also a small role by a very young Asia Argento as Lotte, the daughter of the church caretaker (Roberto Corbiletto).

Overall, this is creepy fun. It has some very effective imagery and atmosphere that helps even things out with the less than stellar dialogue and acting. There is some gore to go along with it’s demonic manifestations and director Soavi keeps things moving, so we don’t have much time to ponder too many questions. An entertaining Italian horror from the director of Cemetery Man.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 candles which are like everywhere in this movie.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CRITTERS 2: THE MAIN COURSE (1988)

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CRITTERS 2: THE MAIN COURSE (1988)

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Sequel to Critters finds the Crite eggs seen at the end of the first film finally starting to hatch two years later at Easter time. This gets bounty hunters Ug (Terrence Mann), Lee (Roxanne Kernohan and Eddie Deezen) and Charlie (Don Opper) summoned back to earth. At the same time, Brad Brown (Scott Grimes), whose family had moved away, is returning to Grover’s Bend to visit his grandma (Herta Ware). Now in greater numbers, The Critters descend on the town and only Scott, Harv (Barry Corbin replacing M. Emmet Walsh) and the bounty hunters are all that stand between feast or famine for the fanged alien fur-balls.

Sequel is the directorial debut of Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers, The Stand) who wrote the script with David Twohy (Pitch Black and it’s two Riddick follow-ups). As such, it’s somewhat fun, but the material is already running out of gas, as it’s basically the first film all over again just bigger. The FX are still cheesy and the gore and brief nudity do again stretch the boundaries of it’s PG-13 rating, but the sequel, otherwise, plays it safe story-wise. There is a romantic interest for Brad, named Megan (Liane Alexandra Curtis), but otherwise there is little new as The Critters make mincemeat out of anyone that crosses their path. There is still some fun to be had, but the novelty, of something that is technically already a Gremlins clone, is definitely wearing off. The film under-performed at the box office, but still spawned two more direct-to-video sequels…the third being the acting debut of one Leonardo DiCaprio.

The cast seem less enthused than the previous film. Grimes tries hard, but it’s a bit off-putting that he seemed to be playing a much younger kid only two years earlier and now is playing a young man of his real age (17 at the time) with love interest and all. The film literally takes place only two years later and the difference seems odd. Mann and Opper repeat their roles fine with Charlie now being a bounty hunter and it is fun to have Lee zero in on an identity straight out of Playboy magazine, in the form of statuesque beauty Roxanne Kernohan. Barry Corbin is now playing Harv and makes the character his own to the point where it didn’t really need to be Harv, when all is said and done. Liane Alexandra Curtis makes a cute love interest/sidekick for Brad, as teen reporter Megan and Lin Shaye is back hamming it up as Sally.

It’s not as fun as the first film, which in itself was basically a rip-off of another flick, but is far from terrible. There are some laughs and some amusing gore and even a touch of nudity this time, despite a teen friendly rating. The FX are still amusingly cheesy, though the cast seem to be just running through their paces in this one. It’s still worth a look and does make a good double feature with the first flick, but it’s not quite the equal fans would have hoped for.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 critters.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CRITTERS (1986)

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CRITTERS (1986)

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Critters is a 1986 sci-fi/horror/comedy that owes as much to the creature features of the 50s as it does Joe Dante’s Gremlins. The flick opens with alien beings called “Crites”…furry little creatures with LOTS of teeth…escaping from an interplanetary penitentiary with shape-shifting bounty hunters Ug (Terrence Mann) and Lee (various cast members) in hot pursuit. The Crites land on Earth in Grover’s Bend, Kansas near the farm of the Brown family and they are very hungry. Now mom Helen (Dee Wallace), dad Jay (Billy Bush), teen daughter April (Nadine van der Velde), young son Brad (Scott Grimes) and drunken handyman Charlie (Don Opper) come under siege by the carnivorous Critters, who have chosen them as their next course. Will the bounty hunters arrive in time before this quaint family all become alien happy meals?

Despite being derivative this is a fun movie as directed by Stephen Herek from his script with Domonic Muir. Herek gives the flick a bit of a Spielbergian touch and it works well for the material. It has a fairly even mix of horror and humor and the bloodshed does push the boundaries of the PG-13 rating, while delivering some laughs. The Critter FX by the Chiodo Brothers (Killer Klowns) are enjoyably rubber prosthetics and the visual FX are delightfully cheesy. The action is limited to in and around the Brown farm with inept police deputies (Ethan Phillips) and visiting boyfriends (Billy Zane) showing up to become Critter fodder. The film is very 80s, no more of an example than a music video featuring star Terrence Mann, whose cheese metal rocker Johnny Steele becomes the face adopted by changeling Ug. It’s a bit overplayed, but is 80s hair metal to the core. The film wisely doesn’t wear out it’s welcome either, cruising in at an economical 85 minutes.

The cast are having a good time. Dee Wallace is the quintessential 80s mom next door, but despite playing a humble Midwestern housewife, she has a quiet sexiness that makes her hot. Billy Bush is the all-American, Midwest father and is the subject of a lot of Critter abuse. Nadine van der Velde doesn’t get much to do but scream and find herself in peril, but she is cute and is a fine damsel. Grimes is the hero of the film and does a good job as the nerdy kid who rises to heroic status. Opper is funny as the drunk, conspiracy theorist handyman, Charlie and Terrence Mann is solid as the terminator-like Ug and MTV idol Johnny Steele. The flick also has small roles with familiar faces, like M. Emmet Walsh as Sheriff Harv, horror icon Lin Shaye as his receptionist, Sally and the before mentioned Billy Zane as April’s ill-fated boyfriend, Steve. The Crites are all puppets and are voiced…complete with subtitles…by voice actor Corey Burton.

Sure, it was most likely inspired by Joe Dante’s classic from two years earlier, but stands up on it’s own thanks to some fun direction by Stephen Herek and a cast that knows how to play the material. The FX on all levels are nostalgically cheesy and the film has the right mix of humor and horror to entertain. It’s also delightfully 80s and shows what kind of movies New Line Cinema churned out before The Lord of the Rings trilogy turned them into a mega-studio. It was a modest hit for New Line and a sequel was paraded out two years later. Fun movie and worth a watch for 80s nostalgia fans.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 critters.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN (1982)

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THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN (1982)

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Schlockmeisters Goran and Globus of Cannon Films entered the 80s teen sex comedy craze with this raunchy cult classic. The film has gained notoriety over the years, mostly because of it’s sad, bummer…and let’s face it, more realistic…ending. The film has nerdy virgin Gary (Lawrence Monoson) trying to get laid with pals Rick (Steve Antin) and David (Joe Rubbo). Gary falls head over heels for new girl Karen (Diane Franklin) who has fallen for the slicker and more handsome Rick. Movie then follows Gary as he pathetically and sometimes creepily, bemoans Karen and Rick’s romance until opportunity knocks to try to win Karen over.

Flick is written and directed by Boaz Davidson based closely on his own Israeli film Lemon Popsicle. It follows the usual 80s teen formula of a nerd trying to win a pretty girl, though here the film deviates by not supplying the predictable happy ending. Also, in most of these features the nerdy guy is a likable hero, here Davidson makes Gary a bit pathetic and creepy at times. Was it intentional or not, it’s hard to say, but Gary at times does seem like he’s a little too weird, like potential serial killer weird. It’s a little hard to want to see the sweet Karen with him, even though she is with Rick who turns out to be a real jerk. While not typical of teen comedies, it certainly seems more realistic in terms of how life works out in these situations, especially at that age. There are some fun bits, but there are also some sleazy ones, such as when the boys hire a hooker, who proceeds to humiliate the inexperienced Gary. The cast are all fine for this sort of thing, especially Franklin who makes for an appealing girl-next-door and there is a great soundtrack of 80s classics.

This flick is a cult classic and while it’s routine in some aspects, it breaks the traditional format by having a hero who is a bit of a creep and a bummer of an ending. It touches on some subjects, like abortion, that most films like this avoided yet does have the constant pursuit of sex by a group of horny teens that many of these comedies based their meager plots around. There is a lot of 80s nostalgia attached to it now, especially with a classics filled soundtrack and you could do much worse for an example of this popular 80s film trend.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 condoms.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: RAWHEAD REX (1987)

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RAWHEAD REX (1987)

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Rawhead Rex is a 1987 British horror based on a short story by Clive Barker. It has a pagan demon (Heinrich von Schellendorf) being unleashed from his tomb in Ireland when a farmer removes a protective stone. The creature goes on a killing spree, claiming victim after victim, till he murders the son (Hugh O’Conor) of an American researcher (David Dukes), who vows to find a way to destroy the monster once and for all.

Flick is lamely directed by George Pavlou from a screenplay by Barker himself. The director fails to bring any scares or intensity to the tale, even with Rex reigning bloody terror on Ireland’s trailer parks and tourists. You’d think that with this local legend being so well known in a small town, to the point of being included in a church stained glass window, that a local farmer would known better than to remove the stone that has imprisoned the beast for centuries. The creature himself is extremely rubbery and when it roars, you can see actor Heinrich von Schellendorf’s own mouth inside it’s maw. The monster is dressed like he’s a member of a Danish heavy metal band, complete with mohawk and there seems to be little rhyme or reason for his killing. It’s very random. There is also little explanation as to why or how Rex gains control of a local priest (Ronan Wilmott) by pissing on him. The acting from a cast of basic unknowns is quite underwhelming and despite the amusement of abundant gore, the make-up and visual FX are all quite cheesy. The climactic confrontation with Rubberhead Rex is also silly and we get little explanation as to why things work out the way they do. It seems made up as they go along…like the rest of the movie, to be honest.

I never understood the love for this flick. It has a decent fan-base and is fondly remembered, but I am not a fan. A recent revisit didn’t change my mind, even with laughably cheesy FX and a lot of 80s nostalgia. It’s not scary. It’s not intense. It has a very thin story that really doesn’t go anywhere and it’s creature is too rubbery and silly looking to be the least bit effective. There is a lot of bloodshed and heads ripped off, but otherwise, little to recommend. For it’s fans only.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 rubbery Rexs.

 

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