The inane ramblings presented here by Scott Foy (aka The Foywonder) are strictly his own opinions
and do not necessarily reflect those of any other sane or insane person living, dead, or otherwise.
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MY NAME IS SCOTT FOY AND I PAID TO SEE F/X2: THE DEADLY ART OF ILLUSION
Oscars have been handed out. The Razzies have been handed out. Most
importantly, my annual top ten list of the worst direct-to-DVD horror
movies of 2010 have been handed out. Join Dread Central's Uncle Creepy
and yours truly as we laugh and vent for about an hour over the ten
straight-to-DVD horror movies that stole precious minutes from my life
that someday on my death bed I will so very much wish I had back. This
extra special tenth edition of the Foycast also includes actual sound
bites from some of the skewered stinkers. Plus, the fun of getting quoted
out of context on DVD releases (I have since been informed that the
UK Asylum release I speak of was not the case after all), why bad movies
that know they're bad aren't nearly as much fun as bad movies that aren't
designed to be so, and a very special appearance by freight trains -
lots of them.
This month's Foyeurism takes us back to an era before DVD. They used to say "Make it a Blockbuster night!" Now when anyone refers to Blockbuster they say "bankruptcy court" and "corporate restructuring". I cannot mourn too much for the death thralls of Blockbuster since that conglomerate helped kill off most of the mom & pop video stores. As a kid in the dawning days of the VHS era, back when local video stores were right around the corner, back when "Be Kind, Please Rewind" stickers were on every tape, I spent entirely too much time exploring the shelves of these stores, taking in all the eye-catching artwork for movies, many of which I had never heard of, and, in many instances, was too young to rent no matter how much I begged my mom to let me do so. Many of those movies still have not found their way to the digital world of DVD and a large percentage probably never will - with good reason in many instances. As great as Netflix is and as convenient as Red Box may be it's just not the same as browsing those VHS shelves and never will be. There's something to be said for scouring the shelves at a video store and coming across some title you've never heard of. Those diamonds in the rough are finding it rougher and rougher to be found these days. That's one of the reasons why I still possess a large collection of movies on VHS, the majority of which have yet to receive a proper DVD release. I've decided its time to dive deep, deep, deep into the tapes to showcase some of those lesser known titles you might have stumbled across on the shelf of the local video store back in the day.
But first, a special public service announcement pertinent to this month's Foyeurism
This insipid little PSA encouraging people to rent more movies from video stores was produced by Paramount and appeared on certain VHS releases of theirs circa 1992. The comedic irony that seems to be lost on all involved is that if you were seeing this PSA on a movie you had rented it meant you had already rented a movie and did not need a PSA encouraging you to do the very thing you'd already done.
RED BOX BLUES
Odds are you have never heard of NOMAD RIDERS. Odds are you will never watch NOMAD RIDERS. Odds are you are better off.
NOMAD RIDERS is one of those VHS boxes I always saw on video store shelves growing up but never bothered to rent it - thank goodness. I didn't even realize I had a copy in my VHS collection until late last year when I came across it sorting through some videos in search of another video. You know you have too many old movies on tape when you come across a video in your collection and you have neither watched it nor have any recollection as how it came into you possession. A surf over to IMDB turned up no reviews or viewer comments for this forgotten 1981 obscurity. To me, no reviews on IMDB is an enticement - a dare. Someone has to take the NOMAD RIDERS challenge. Might as well be me. Why does it always have to be me?
After watching NOMAD RIDERS I realized immediately why this movie is forgotten, will remain forgotten, will probably never see the light of day on DVD, and probably should have remained in my VHS collection unwatched. The VHS box would have you think this is going to be a cross between MAD MAX and DEATH WISH. It should have billed itself as a cross between DIRTY HARRY and a cure for insomnia. MAD MAX? Just because the hero is a cop out for revenge against violent bikers marauding the desert that murdered his family does not automatically make your movie in the vein of MAD MAX.
There are only two good things about NOMAD RIDERS: the spectacularly cheesy Cassio keyboard theme music that I suspect plays on a loop in Atari 2600 hell and the bad ass hero cop boasts the porntacular name of Steven Thrust.
Steven Thrust, baby! That's a name that denotes masculinity and virility all in one swoop.
Steven Thrust is a tough cop and a dedicated family man. Steven Thrust is a cop willing to take the law into his own hands when the law fails him. Steven Thrust looks like David Brenner. Do you know who David Brenner is? If not, stop here for a moment and Google "David Brenner". Find a picture of David Brenner from the early Eighties and imagine him looking slightly more rugged and wearing a pair of oversized sunglasses - that's Steven Thrust. That is not the look of a bad ass cop. That is not what I imagine any man with the name Steven Thrust looking like.
Steven Thrust looking like a Jewish stand-up comic instead of a bad ass cop is not nearly as disappointing as the leader of the biker gang he's after. The main villain of NOMAD RIDERS is a whiny wimp that looks like magician Doug Henning dressed in a Civil War uniform riding a motorcycle. Barnaby Jones could have kicked this guy's ass.
NOMAD RIDERS does open promisingly enough, at least in hopes of a so bad it's funny action flick. That ridiculous midi music alone had me wishing the film had been shot entirely from the point-of-view of a side-scrolling video game.
We begin with Steven Thrust on holiday in the desert with his family. By holiday I mean he's up in the air soaring around in his one-person plane while his wife and son get to enjoy the view of him having all the fun. Three bikers ride up, force the wife and son into a tent, douse the tent with gasoline, and drop a hand grendade for good measure. No set-up. No introduction to any of these characters. No motivation for this brutal double homicide. Sometimes a movie confuses you in such a way that you wonder if it skipped a reel; usually one does not experience this sensation in the opening three minutes.
Steven Thrust lands his plane, runs over towards the tent just in time for his family to go up in a fiery kaboom, slow-motion roars in emotional agony. This is some five-star slo-mo anguish here. The kind of slo-mo anguish that wins soap actors those Daytime Emmys.
The bikers celebrate by driving right into some old ladies living room and peeling out all over her floor and furniture as she sits on the couch looking on expressionless. Now I had the sense that the film had skipped two reels in under five minutes.
Thus concludes the entertainment portion of NOMAD RIDERS. It is all downhill from there. Just shut it off and take a nap or keep watching until you fall asleep, which probably won't take long. I know I mentally zoned out soon after. Point-and-shoot gun fights, slow speed chases, and plotting that wouldn't even make for an especially compelling rerun of "Banacek" should lull you to la-la land in no time flat.
The bikers will turn out to just be henchmen working for a crimeboss for whom Thrust has been a thorn in his side for some time. Those bikers were only supposed to send Thrust a message, not murder his family in cold blood, thus provoking Thrust to turn in his badge and go vigilante after all of them. The crimelord is pissed off at the bikers for not following orders and making matters worse. The police captain is pissed at Thrust for going into business for himself. The bikers are pissed off at almost everybody they associate with. I'm pissed that I watched this snoozer.
Hey, wasn't this whole killing spree because Thrust wanted revenge against the murderers of his wife and son? So who is that lady Thrust is living up to his last name with less than hour after we watched his family go up in flames? If he could get over his widower's grief so fast as to move on to a new piece of ass you'd think he could also get over his vengeance-fueled rage as well. Kind of made me no longer want to root for Thrust to get his payback.
I don't think I'm spoiling anything to tell you Steven Thrust kills all the bad guys. The hell you say? I know; shocking twist ending and I just spoiled it.
NIGHT OF THE KICKFIGHTERS combines martial arts and horror to create one of the strangest movies you'll ever see. An American Buddhist college kid is backpacking in the woods of Thailand as part of his spiritual journey. On this particular night - a night of a full moon - he encounters a seemingly deranged Muay Thai kickboxer that proceeds to knock him unconscious with a vicious kick to the face. The young man later wakes up in a Thai hospital relatively unscathed outside of a bad headache. The self-proclaimed pacifist soon comes to realize that he suddenly has newfound kickboxing skills he did not have before and whenever the moon turns full he too becomes a rampaging psychotic Muay Thai kickboxer that goes on the prowl fatally kickfighting everyone that crosses his path. An old monk informs him that the only way to break the dreaded were-kickfighter curse is to find the original were-kickboxer that kicked him in the face and kick its head clean off. Then and only then will peace and tranquility return to his life. Off into the jungle he goes to find th...
Okay, you got me. I'm making all that up. Movies should never use "NIGHT OF THE..." in the title unless it's going to involve monsters, horror, sci-fi, or at the very least be an old timey murder thriller. One word that prefix should never be followed with is "KICKFIGHTERS."
Yet here I am reviewing a movie titled NIGHT OF THE KICKFIGHTERS. I was being truthful in that opening paragraph was when I said this was one of the most ill-conceived movies Action International Pictures ever conceived and if you're at all familiar with the A.I.P. then you know that's saying something. Action International Pictures are worthy a Foyeurism unto itself - save that one for another day.
NIGHT OF THE KICKFIGHTERS isn't even a martial arts movie. The lead and a couple random security guards he takes out along the way are the only trained martial artists in the film. This is a movie called NIGHT OF THE KICKFIGHTERS that's big ending action sequence is a shootout and a car chase set in broad daylight. It really has more in common with those cheap schlocky spy flicks that European filmmakers began cranking out fast and furious in the early-mid 1960s after James Bond came along. I could also compare it to being along the lines of an Andy Sidaris flick that decided to forsake the T&A, the cheese/beefcake factors, and even the production values. I found myself wondering if anyone involved was aware they were making a film that barely rises above the level of straight-faced gibberish. Too many dull stretches keep it from being a camp classic. Rest assured there is still the occasional moment that'll have you rewind the tape just to make sure you actually saw what you thought you saw. Are they really using a five-foot inflatable T-Rex to distract an enemy hall monitor and did I really just watch that bad guy take the time to spin kick it in the face?
Our featured kickfighter is Andy Bauman. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that Andy Bauman. No, I've never heard of him either. The VHS box assures me he is a real-life martial arts "Grand Master" and a "World Karate Kickboxing Champion". The top of the box also bills Bauman as the star of previous chop schlocky flicks NINJA 2, NINJA 3, and NIGHT KILL. These three movies only seem to exist as titles on the top of the video box. I damn sure can't find any listing for them anywhere and IMDB lists NIGHT OF THE KICKFIGHTERS as Bauman's only real acting job. I'm gonna have to call bunk on this one.
That NIGHT OF THE KICKFIGHTERS is Andy Bauman's only credit should come as no surprise since the guy has a couple of major strikes against him. For starters, I still can't decide if he looks more like the late actor Monte Markham, former Democratic Presidential candidate Howard Dean, or ex-wrestler Larry Zbyszko. Thinning hair, bald spot, stocky height, average build, too much of an average Joe appearance: Bauman doesn't even have that Chuck Norris quality where he may look like a regular dude but you still get the sense that he's a regular dude who could kick your head off if he really wanted to.
Then there's a matter of the film's fight choreography. The worst thing you can do when making a martial arts movie is to load it up with clumsy fight scenes that only succeed in making an alleged real-life martial arts Grand Master look like just another actor with no championship fighting skills trying to do a kung fu fight scene choreographed with extremely limited rehearsal time. This one ain't pretty, folks.
Even less pretty is the acting. When Adam West is the best actor in a movie... Nothing more need be said on that front.
Andy Bauman is Brett Cady, freelance secret agent - I think. His actual job title is never specified. He's clearly some sort of agent. The opening sees Cady in Oman attending a cocktail party, I assume because he intends to do some James Bond-ian spying. This Mata Hari type named Kadesha lures him upstairs where he proceeds to rifle through some drawers in search of something never specified. What starts out as a seduction ends with her kneeing him in the groin. He responds by popping her across the face, a trick he clearly learned from watching Sean Connery. I don't mean watching Sean Connery play James Bond; I mean Sean "I don't think there is anything particularly wrong in hitting a woman" Connery. Kadesha takes a seat while her tuxedo clad henchmen enter the room one-by-one to get quickly walloped into unconsciousness. And here is where one of the greatest bad fight scenes of all time begins.
Into the room walks her top henchman, the 7-foot tall Ponti, played by Carel Struycken, best known as "Lurch" in the big screen ADDAMS FAMILY films. Ponti is wearing this hideous dinner jacket that really begs "crimes of fashion" being legalized as an actual punishable offense. Not only does Struycken lack fighting skills, one has to wonder if he possesses even a smidgen of hand-eye coordination. Clearly a graduate of the Tor Johnson school of film fighting. Struycken is obviously supposed to be playing a villainous henchmen along the lines of "Jaws" from the James Bond films yet his clumsy physical antics, goofy facial expressions that are supposed to be threatening instead of laughable, and unintelligible manner of garbled speak, he is strangle looking but most certainly not intimidating. He's tall yet lanky, which doesn't help. When he doesn't have a blank expression on his face he's making bug eyes while letting out a funny growl. He spends most of the film either wearing a bright white turtleneck sweater or a dinner jacket that looks like attire some low rent lounge singer would wear. His "Lurch" appeared more menacing.
Watch for yourself. This is the film's low/highlight. They should have just ended the film right here. Sure, then it would have only been a ten minute movie; I'm cool with that.
There's not a whole lot after it to get excited about. I should just end this review here as well but I know you want to know a little more. Okay, just a little more.
Adam West is the CEO of some weapons manufacturer for the Department of Defense. They've just invented the world's first fully functioning disintegrating death ray and as you can imagine, bad guys want it bad. Kadesha, who now takes to dressing like a space alien from an old Gamera flick, kidnaps West's daughter leading to one of the sorriest excuses for a car chase ever captured on film. The plan is to blackmail West into exchanging the laser's blueprints for the return of his daughter. Brett Cady is called in to save the day.
Kickfighting skills are not enough to help Cady pull off this daunting task. He assembles his own personal MISSION IMPOSSIBLE team to assist him. They are such a motley crew he might have actually been better off hiring the band Motley Cru to assist him.
Clea is a computer expert. A computer expert by 1988 standards. I believe she spent more time making love to Cady than actually doing anything beneficial with computers.
Every James Bond needs a Q to give him goofy gadgets like a shoot that launches ninja stars that will come in handy in unlikely moments. I forget this characters name. Just imagine a burnout techno-geek that looks like Alice Cooper as Freddy Krueger's dad in FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE.
The topper is the inclusion of Aldo, a magician that talks like Sideshow Mel from The Simpsons and whose favorite trick for thwarting armed thugs involves plastic eggs that grow into inflatable women and dinosaurs. I take back what I wrote a moment ago. Immediately after Aldo's first scene is where they should have stopped the film. Nothing after it ever lives up to the nuttiness of this intro. It was here that I figured either the filmmakers were confused into believing an R-rated movie shot from a script that appeared to have been written for little kids that still watched G.I. Joe cartoons was a good idea or they were all simply trippin' balls throughout the entire shoot. Sober minds did not conceive of NIGHT OF THE KICKFIGHTERS as a good idea.
There was also a black guy. Don't remember his name either. I do recall the Alice Cooper guy shatter some concrete blocks on his chest with a sledgehammer as training for their raid on Kadesha's desert compound.
Amongst the few highlights of this mission:
Aldo scales the sides of the compound. A guard looks over the side and yells, "Hey, who's that," instead of actually doing something about who's that and not getting yanked over the side to his death. A guard oblivious to the fact that he's being offered a light for his cigarette by a man he's never seen before dressed like a cat burglar; the lighter lets loose a big flame in the guy's face. Aldo will set up another trick that involves a four-foot inflatable dinosaur the likes of which you could buy at a toy store. What the blow-up T-Rex was supposed to do will forever remain a mystery because a guard will come across it, radio in that he's come across another one of "those tricks", and give the inflatable dino a back spin kick for good measure.
Cady will be confronted by a guard who will completely ignore the gun holstered over his should in lieu of engaging in kickfighting. Brett will soon be at the top of a stairwell when two armed guards spot him. They raise their weapons and he'll pull out nunchuks. He begins showing off his skill with them while the guards laugh and lower their guns. And then the handles of the nunchuks shoot the two guards dead.
Good guys are captured and taken to Kadesha's interrogation chamber. Something clearly purchased at Destro's rummage sale, this chamber turns out be a stand-in microwave that fires a green laser beam to microwave brains. Kind of makes you wonder why if Kadesha has this she still needs Adam West's death ray technology. Clea will tragically fall victim to this infernal device, though given her low moaning and facial expressions, I think the chamber may have actually quietly orgasmed her to death.
Ponti is killed "Toonces, the Cat That Could Drive a Car" style when his jeeps goes over a cliff during the climactic chase. Kadesha perishes after the Alice Cooper guy blows up her escaping motorboat with a heat seeking explosive arrow shot from a crossbow pistol thingy he cooked up. So not only are neither main villain dispatched via kickfighting, neither main villain is even dispatched directly by our hero Brett Cady. Some action hero Andy Bauman turned out to be - the true last action hero.
I hadn't seen PROJECT SHADOWCHASER since it first hit video store shelves back in 1992. Ever since then I have always proclaimed it to be the most far-fetched science fiction movie I'd ever seen. Not because the villain was a cyborg or because it was set in the future or because the plot boiled down to a cyborg holding people hostage for money. The reason I've long considered PROJECT SHADOWCHASER the most impossible science fiction motion picture of all time is because the hero is billed as the quarterback of the former Super Bowl world champion New Orleans Saints. Believe me; at the time this came out, given that football franchise's history, just the very notion of the New Orleans Saints even making it to the Super Bowl was purely science fiction. Who dat say they gonna watch PROJECT SHADOWCHASER again? Me dat!
PROJECT SHADOWCHASER can best be described with one sentence: DIE HARD meets THE TERMINATOR.
Human terrorists led by a musclehead cyborg overrun a hospital that looks suspiciously like a redecorated office building. Employed at this hospital is the President of the United States' adult daughter (Meg Foster of THEY LIVE and THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND). She will be killed unless the government forks up paid $50 million, which really doesn't sound like that much ransom money considering you're blackmailing the leader of the free world.
Martin Kove of KARATE KID fame is DeSilva, the former New Orleans Saints quarterback forced to play DIE HARD with a salary cap. Given the Saints Super Bowl win, I guess Kove must be playing a fictional version of Drew Brees. Geez, I hope not. Poor Drew, looks like rough times lie ahead for him.
Ivan Drago look-a-like Frank Zagarino as the robot Romulus spends the entire movie either shirtless or wearing an open vest. Either choice of attire appeared designed to maximize his pectoral muscles screen time to a Van Damme degree. Romulus? The writer should have dubbed him "The Abdominizer" or the "ABS-1000" or the "Roid Droid".
STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER had Captain Kirk propose the simple question: "Why does God need a starship?" PROJECT SHADOWCHASER will most likely have you going all Captain Kirk asking your television screen, "Why does a cyborg need $50 million?" A lifetime supply of lug nuts? A major memory upgrade? Maybe then he'll finally be able to buy that shirt he can't seem to afford.
Another question Kirk might ask is why a screenwriter would make a cyborg a cyborg if the fact that the cyborg is a cyborg barely factors into its actions? Being a cyborg only means Romulus talks in an impassive voice, is impervious to pain, and has sickly yellow eyes. Could just as easily proclaimed Romulus to be a jacked-up albino with a high pain threshold and a wicked case of jaundice.
The biggest question surrounding Romulus is why this robot's chest is so wet and shiny. Does his engine require him to absorb oil through his artificial skin via osmosis? Is that his coolant system draining through his skin like glistening sweat? What gives? An argument could be made that cybernetic technology in the future is so advanced the robots are designed to glisten with sweat in order to better fit in amongst man. My theory is that Romulus was originally built to be the commercial pitchman for "Axe Body Spray for Borgs". Yes, ladies, resistance is futile.
No doubt confused by the logistics of a hospital in an office high-rise, the FBI need the architect of the building to explain how they can get up to the floor where everyone is being held hostage. People in the future apparently cannot decipher blueprints without professional assistance. So they go to the futuristic prison where criminals are cryogenically frozen and have the currently cryonically incarcerated designer thawed up. Had DEMOLITION MAN not come along a year after PROJECT SHADOWCHASER I would have added it alongside THE TERMINATOR and DIE HARD amongst the films it mimics.
This introduces Kobra Kai sensei Martin Kove, at first awakening with a werewolf beard after 24 months of cryo stasis, as DeSilva, the ex-Saints quarterback that went to prison for killing a guy in a bar fight that he claimed was self-defense. Before this movie is over he will have killed a whole bunch of people in self-defense.
There's been a mix-up with the names. The feds think they've freed the architect and DeSilva plays along because it sure beats being a hairy popsicle. Before long the former quarterback winds up trapped in the building performing nearly every play out of the DIE HARD playbook (at least as many as the low budget would allow). Initially our hero is a rank coward trying to save his own hide. He becomes a reluctant hero after being offered a full pardon if he can rescue the President's daughter. Not long after that the film begins to crossover genres again by having Kove and Foster doing the male-female action buddy with a hint of romance routine.
Enter Joss Akland. After all, when a renegade robot goes all Hans Gruber and takes the President's only daughter captive in a skyscraper while demanding what is actually a fairly reasonable ransom all things considered, who better to take charge of the hostage negotiations than the head of the government's research and development? You just know that this guy is going to turn out to be a bad guy because it's Joss Akland looking and sounding (minus the South African accent) exactly like he did when played the bad guy in LETHAL WEAPON 2. During this time period about all Akland did was play movie villains, so it should be no surprise to learn he programmed Romulus to stage this entire scenario as a ruse so that he can attempt to assassinate the President of the United States. Why? Because the President is a liberal who he fears is weakening America and is taking it down the road to ruin.
Amazing, so many sci-fi movies from the past that portrayed futurism that today comes off as either positively laughable or still light years away from anything resembling a reality and yet back in 1992 the writers of PROJECT SHADOWCHASER inadvertently succeeded in accurately predicting the current mindset of the Republican Party. If Glen Beck ever develops the know-how to build an android Obama is going to really be in trouble. Fortunately for the Democrats, they always have the robot that is Al Gore on standby in case of automaton emergencies. Fight fire with fire, I say.
Zagarino and director John Eyres would go on to turn PROJECT SHADOWCHASER into a franchise. Three sequels followed with Zagarino coming back each time as a different version of the same cyborg. The second rehashed the DIE HARD tropes in a nuclear power plant. The third titled PROJECT SHADOWCHASER 3000 went even further in the future opting for a TERMINATOR meets ALIEN scenario with Zagarino stalking the crew of a starship. PROJECT SHADOWCHASER 4 was released under the alternate titles ORION'S KEY and ALIEN CHASER and transformed Zagarino into an alien android released from an African pyramid in search of an artifact. I have never seen any of the other films in the SHADOWCHASER series but after writing that last paragraph I'm thinking maybe I need to correct that. The original is the only one not available on DVD for some reason.
As for PROJECT SHADOWCHASER, it is at once ambitious for its budget and generic in its execution. I recall finding it marginal even by the standards of direct-to-video action flicks back when I first saw it in 1992, and I'd say that opinion was not swayed one way or another upon a second viewing nearly two decades later. Lots of routine DIE HARD action that is never very exciting, although Kove's cavalier performance keeps things from fully floundering. The failure of the sci-fi aspect to deliver anything that truly puts a sci-fi spin on things is perhaps the biggest disappointment of all.
The final scene sees Kove dropping to his knees declaring, "Touchdown!" and then pouring a beer on his forehead like the Gatorade being dumped over the head of a football coach after winning a big game. This denotes the tonal inconsistencies that plagued the film. Kove, and for part of the film Meg Foster as well, acted like they were performing in an action comedy. Everyone else played it straight like they were in a serious action thriller. Had this been a Hong Kong production I am fully convinced it probably would have been an even bigger mess of a movie but a lot more fun to watch with the over-the-top elements it really needed to deliver on. If ever a movie cried out for that magical Wong Jing touch...
Now that the New Orleans Saints have won a Super Bowl PROJECT SHADOWCHASER is no longer science fiction - its science faction. Thusly, no longer can I joke that PROJECT SHADOWCHASER is the most far-fetched science fiction motion picture of all time. That high honor now goes to the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle THE SIXTH DAY for depicting a future in which the XFL was the #1 sporting league in the country. Something tells me THE SIXTH DAY will never be dethroned.
This concludes this month's dive into the Foywonder VHS collection of the damned. We'll pick this up again in a future Foyeurism and hopefully I'll pick some better titles out of the bin. If anything, this crop of crap was an argument in favor of the death of those old VHS stores.
I will say this for the Red Box. If I were a Timelord like Doctor Who, a Red Box would totally be my Tardis.
MY NAME IS SCOTT FOY AND I PAID TO SEE WAR
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