"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Color of Night

tn_colorofnightBruceI know Valentine’s Day is a made-up greeting card company holiday, but that doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate by watching the notoriously bad Bruce Willis sex movie that you guys voted #1 in the outlawvern.com “Review Suggestions” feature. If my movie watching happens to match up with the agendas of Hershey’s Chocolate and the local florists then so be it. It seemed right anyway.

I never saw this before. Of course I knew its reputation. It won “Worst Picture” from those Razzies assholes but also Best Sex Scenes of All Time from those Maxim assholes. So I was surprised when I watched the opening scene. A woman is getting dressed and putting on makeup. She’s very manic and keeps freaking out and having a fit. She messily smears lipstick all over her mouth. She gets her purse and starts to put a handgun in it, for protection I assume. But then she hesitates, thinks about it, puts it in her mouth instead. Real suddenly, as if on a whim.

But then she decides not to blow her brains out. She decides to give the gun a blowjob. And that’s where director Richard Rush (THE STUNT MAN) decided to put his director’s credit. If I had known it was gonna be nuts like this I would’ve watched this a long time ago.

Bruce plays Dr. Bill Capa, a New York psychologist, and the gun-fellater is his patient. Unfortunately she’s too much for him – during a session that he doesn’t seem to be taking very seriously she suddenly hurls herself through his window, which is high up in a skyscraper. He looks down at all the panic and blood, and suddenly loses the ability to see the color red. I guess that’s what the title means. It comes up a couple more times, but isn’t important to the plot. It reminds me of John Woo’s BLACKJACK, where trauma causes Dolph Lundgren to be afraid of the color white. But that’s more relevant to the movie because later he has a fight in a dairy and he gets milk poured on him and milk is white so it’s like liquid Kryptonite.

Of course this whole thing fucks Dr. Bill up, so he quits his practice and like John McClane he flies from New York to L.A. He goes to stay with colleague, college buddy and author of the best-selling self-help book Way To Go Dr. Bob Moore (Scott Bakula, LORD OF ILLUSIONS).

When Bill meets Bob at his office he sort of gets tricked into sitting in with a support group. He protests that he’s not qualified to help anymore, and doesn’t seem to get that actually he could be one of the patients. But soon Bob will be horribly murdered, and Dr. Bill will be the group’s only connection to him, and they’ll convince him to take over as their doctor, living in his late friend’s mansion, driving his fancy cars. Meanwhile, he’s meeting with goofball police detective Martinez (Ruben Blades) and trying to figure out if somebody in the group was the killer.

mp_colorofnightOh yeah, and the sex. One day he’s rear-ended in Dr. Bob’s Mercedes by a mysterious young girl named Rose (Jane March). She says she doesn’t have insurance and he doesn’t get her address but later she shows up at the mansion and after one date they have a long softcore sex sequence involving saxophone, swimming pools, many positions and Bruce making a loud orgasm grunt that you wouldn’t usually get in a mainstream movie. In the next scene he’s in a suit but she’s naked and she made him dinner, but instead of eating it it cuts to them in the shower and the same Cinemax music playing again. Reminded me of that comically overlong kissing scene in BIG TOP PEE-WEE. The neverending sex scene. (At least in this director’s cut, which by the way is 2 hours and 19 minutes long!)

That’s the famous part of the movie, but it’s not what makes it interesting. In no way is it a straightforward, normal erotic thriller. It’s a weird mix of genres. Rush also directed FREEBIE AND THE BEAN, a buddy cop movie where he seemed to put at least one odd little quirk into every scene, and this is like that too. Even the sex scenes get weird: there’s one where they’re in the bath tub together and he’s driving a remote control tank over her breasts. He almost gets run over while cringing from a rattlesnake, Kevin J. O’Connor is involved in some weird S&M stuff, Lesley Ann Warren is a nympho and peeping tom, Brad Dourif is always counting things, Lance Henriksen has a mustache, Scott Bakula’s stunt double does a show-offy wheelie when they go bicycling together.

Then in the climax it suddenly turns all gothic, with the doctor and another character climbing up a tower, hanging over a special effects shot while the orchestra thunders and lightning strikes. Almost like the end of BATMAN. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be funny or not when the girl is gonna kill herself, then he talks her out of it, but a sudden gust of wind blows her off anyway.

Blades is the cop who Dr. Bill can’t really trust, but who he builds a rapport with. This is normally a serious character, with maybe a grim sense of humor at most, a guy who keeps coming in and threatening the hero to push him along in his journey. But here he’s a completely comic character, and even gets an after-the-credits ad-lib line. One scene of expository dialogue takes place at his huge backyard birthday barbecue with traditional Mexican music playing. Suddenly a police helicopter shines a searchlight on the revelers, like they’re being harassed, but then a woman (officer? stripper?) hangs from the side of the copter, pulls off her pants and shakes her ass around for everybody.

And yeah, this is the director of FREEBIE AND THE BEAN and THE STUNT MAN this quirky noir story suddenly erupts into car chases a couple times. One gets pretty out of control, with a car carrier getting damaged and dumping its cargo into traffic. And he gets in one of his trademarks, little jokes about random extras doing weird things as they almost get run over (there’s a guy sitting on a bench who gets up and stands on the bench to get out of the way).

It also gets stylistically weird. When he first meets Rose it seems like the camera is trying to tell us that she’s not even real. As they sit at a table together we never see them in the same shot, only separately or her reflected in a mirror over his shoulder. Throughout the movie whenever he sees her approaching him he says things to himself like “Here she comes. Weightless. Hanging from the sky.” Not voiceover, actually speaking out loud, to give us this idea that she’s unreal.

In fact there is something going on here, because every other character including the late Dr. Bob talks about some special woman in their life, some woman we never see, so it’s pretty obvious that (SPOILER) Rose is fucking every one of these people. And there’s this other thing that’s obvious, I don’t want to give it away, but… ah hell. There is a character who is introduced as a teenage boy who is quite clearly played by an adult woman. But even with that easy-to-spot piece of information the final reveal of what’s going on is convoluted enough that I didn’t guess what it was gonna be.

It’s kind of like a not-as-good, goofier DePalma movie, it has some of that RAISING CAIN off-kilterness. It also made me think of I KNOW WHO KILLED ME. One of those movies where it’s hard to draw the line between trying to be crazy and actually made by crazy people. I kinda feel like it’s misunderstood, except I can’t claim to understand it.

Billy Ray is credited with the story. He went on to write another Bruce movie, HART’S WAR, as well as semi-respectable non-Bruce pictures such as STATE OF PLAY and THE HUNGER GAMES. The other writer, Matthew Chapman, did RUNAWAY JURY and the Tony Kaye movie BLACK WATER TRANSIT. Neither shows signs of doing anything this wacky again. Maybe they got it out of their system, or maybe it was the Rush influence. Rush hasn’t directed anything since except for that weird documentary about the making of THE STUNT MAN.

This was a weird time for Bruce, too. It’s hard to believe that in 1994 he released this and NORTH, but also NOBODY’S FOOL and PULP FICTION. I would’ve guessed it was a little earlier than that. It obviously feels more dated than PULP FICTION does. This is not him in action hero mode, he’s not really a tough guy. He’s educated, he wears glasses sometimes, he doesn’t mention being from Jersey. The wiseassery is present, but fairly minimal. He’s kind of the ’80s California ideal of manliness, a guy who lives in a mansion, wears sunglasses and likes to go bicycling or jogging with his shirt off. He does do whispery cuteness with a girl, like he does with Fabian in PULP. Maybe that was something he was into that year.

I don’t know man. I think I kinda like this movie? I definitely recommend the experience. I wonder if this means I gotta watch NORTH and BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES now.

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 14th, 2013 at 1:38 pm and is filed under Bruce, Mystery, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

45 Responses to “Color of Night”

  1. I remember seeing this in the theater and the projector was all off so there were visible boom mikes in nearly every shot, adding to the overall surrealness of the movie. We told the manager several times about the poor projector, but no one fixed it.

    I would recommend Bonfire. It’s not nearly as bad as the reputation it’s stuck with. It’s lesser DePalma. But lesser DePalma is still DePalma.

  2. “Lance Henriksen has a moustache.”

    Nuff said.

  3. Christ, I envy you getting to watch this for the first time. This is unironically one of my very favourite films. So perfectly wrong in every way. A thing of rare beauty.

    Also, Jack Burton speaks the truth – ‘Bonfire’ is definitely worth a look. I read ‘The Devil’s Candy’, about the making and derailing of it first, then picked up a copy cheap. Not bad at all.

  4. I remember when this came out even though it was R rated they still treated it like an NC-17 release at the local movie house. You really couldn’t find a way into this movie unless you were more than halfway through puberty. When I finally saw it on Cinemax years later I realized why. Every other scene is ott sleazy for the sake of being sleazy. It’s freaking awesome.

    It’s the better one of those Bruce Wills “thrillers with obligatory sex scene and love story” movies that came out in the 90’s the other being STRIKING DISTANCE. Partly due to how hilarious most of it is. Hilarious is better than boring and STRIKING DISTANCE is pretty boring.

  5. For the love of all that is good and holy, Vern, I beg you to watch and review *North*. Granted, I like your reviews of terrible movies (Domino, Wicker Man Remake, etc) most of all, so I’m biased. But still. Pretty pretty please, with a Valentine’s treat on top.

  6. Normally I don’t like reviews that are a non-stop hatefest, but Roger Ebert’s review of NORTH is awesome.

  7. I’ve only seen this once, and I’m pretty sure I was too immature at the time to handle seeing John McClane’s wiener. I’ve been meaning to revisit it, though. I mean, if it’s half as good as I KNOW WHO KILLED THE PERSON WHO ISN’T ME AND WHO ISN’T TECHNICALLY DEAD YET BUT WHATEVER FORGET I SAID ANYTHING…

  8. With the exception of it’s occasional merits on a technical level “Bonfire” really sucks but the making-of book “The Devil’s Candy” is essential reading in my opinion. It is full of fascinating insights regarding Bruce, DePalma, Hanks (if you give a shit) and the very important subjects of how difficult the creative process is and how dangerous having any sort of expectations in your life can be. I strongly recommend it.

    Keep up the good work, Vern. Every year on Valentine’s Day I think of your classic quote “not so much a bad motherfucker as a sad motherfucker” and end up rereading the 2/14/2000 “Tell’s It Like It Is” column. It has become something of a tradition for me. Thanks for all the years of inspiration. Oh, and by the way, unlike “Amazing Larry” I loved your Aristocats piece. Please keep reviewing crazy shit when the muse strikes.

  9. I saw this in the cinema because i was a big fan of Bruce, and had a thing for Jane March, but it’s absolutely rubbish. Jane March was married to Bruce’s pal Carmine Zozzora at this point, which is maybe how she got into the film. You may remember him as the secret service guy outside the door with Hallenbeck in The Last Boy Scout and as the Mario Brother who’s not Frank Stallone in Hudson Hawk.

  10. Vern — thanks for the review, it was just what I needed after a long few weeks of bad news!

    I completely an unabashedly love this nonstop whirlwind of absolutely constant craziness and bad taste. It’s probably about five different movies blended together, so at any given time you might be watching a Depalma-esque psycho-thriller, a 90’s action thriller, a cinema softcore fuckfest, a classy drama about guilt and regret, or a wacky comedy. And it’s all a mystery, so interspersed between any of those elements expect to find increasingly outrageous red herrings, all leading to a solution so off-the wall nutso that it actually lives up to the two full hours of bloated insanity that come before it.

    For all that, though, there are a few bits of genuine goodness mixed in there. Henricksen, for instance, does some of his best dramatic acting in his big reveal scene, and also he has a mustache. And Marsh, saddled with the most absurdly silly role in the whole thing (and this is in a movie with Kevin J. O’Connor AND Brad Dourif) actually does some real fine chameleon acting work in SPOILER SPOILER SERIOUSLY DON’T READ THIS YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED, TRUST ME the multiple characters she plays. Somehow even though they show you her face over and over I didn’t realize it was the same person. Obviously her “male” character is played by a women, but I didn’t realize it was THAT woman. END SPOILER END SPOILER OK YOU CAN COME BACK NOW.

    Anyway, I urge all of you to go out and watch this. It’s reputation is that it is merely horrible, but in fact it is so, so much more. I mean, compare this to unwatchable tripe like STRIKING DISTANCE. Similar in a lot of respects, except the only one which is really important, which is that this one is constantly mesmerizing in its madness, while STRIKING DISTANCE is merely derivative and tiresome.

  11. Yeah, Striking Distance was definitely rubbish as well

  12. STRIKING DISTANCE might be mediocre, but I don’t think it’s unwatchable. It’s got an excellent cast, a great car chase, and some sweet boat action. Bruce playing constantly hungover is always solid entertainment, and I liked the working-class Pittsburgh setting and how it showed that being the stereotypical lone wolf who plays by his own rules can really fuck up a family barbecue when all your relatives are cops. The solution to the mystery was pretty by-the-numbers but I don’t think the whole movie is a travesty because it didn’t stick the landing. It’s the epitome of an okay movie. A decent time-waster, no more, no less.

  13. With Vern reviewing reader requests, that means that possibly someday he will do that Prince movie review series sometime. That’ll be a HOUSE PARTY series-esque worthy awesomeness.

  14. Vern – Never saw this movie (or thought of it in the last 20 years), but I might now. Would love to read a Vern review of The Bonfire of the Vanities, BUT, I recommend NOT reviewing it until after you’ve read the book (which is incredible, hilarious and one of the greatest pieces of fiction of the 80’s).

  15. I love this movie. Watch it often. And can’t help but think that if it were made by an Korean/Chinese/Japanese director, he/she would be gettin primed for the next mega budget american studio action/thriller feature.

  16. yes, this is one of those movies that I watched back in my savage pre-internet days when I used to troll the movie channels while bored hoping to see some naked women and all I knew about this movie was there was a lady who was frequently naked, but I didn’t watch the whole thing and the non sex scene parts I tuned out, so I didn’t notice any strangeness, the sex scene itself I found unimpressive for some reason (I didn’t….ya know) and then afterwards I turned it off

    but now I’m regretting not watching the whole thing because this sounds hilarious, it’s too bad Richard Rush never did another movie, I’m a big fan of The Stunt Man

  17. I will go on record that the first adult male penis I ever saw belonged to Bruce Willis, and it’s all thanks to this wonderful piece of sleaze-o-rama and my mother’s ignorance and indifference to MPAA ratings. Sadly, I have also seen Harvey Keitel’s for similar reasons.

    I was also one of those who did not catch that Rose wasn’t just that special woman in everyone’s life. I have to say that having your hands nailed down while you’re in a crouched position must not only sting like a bitch but is probably bad for your joints and muscles.

    And please, please review North, but only after you read Ebert’s review. Usually, I think that when someone obliterates a movie like that they must be exaggerating, but he gets it entirely correct. As a kid, I found it offensive to my sensibilities and a weird parody/satire of children’s wish-fulfillment films. As an adult and a parent, I find new stupid quirks to make me shake my head in wonder. Every few years I find myself watching bits of it as if to remind me how utterly terrible that movie is. I have only seen it all the way through once and it was not voluntarily since I went to the theatre with other people who didn’t leave.

  18. Mr. Majestyk,

    Beauftily stated on Striking Distance. Bruce as Det. Tom Hardy was firing on all cylinders. You had Dennis Farina and Tommy Sizemore in the same movie. Great film about cops and families. But don’t forget about how sexy Sarah Jessica Parker looked in her panties. I know some of you will say I’m crazy but remember this was over twenty years ago when it was filmed.

    One of the early scenes I remember Bruce waking up all hungover and he takes a wet wash cloth and put it in the microwave to heat it up and put it on his face. You know, to help him wake up and shit. That always stuck with me for some reason.

  19. But this film was pretty good too. Bruce playing an educated guy was a nice change of pace. Jane March was hot of fuck. Lesley Down Warren was sexy too. I wanted to fuck her so bad after this film.

  20. Guys, if you think STRIKING DISTANCE is even a passable time-waster, I don’t know what this world’s coming to. Yes, obviously it has a great cast, but none of them has anything remotely interesting to do. The whole thing is just tedious and embarrassing. Hardly a memorable second in the whole thing. Not worth of a second of COLOR OF NIGHT’s gloriously ill-conceived two hours.

    I say, put in a 5-minute long saxophone-laden softcore sex marathon with Sarah Jessica Parker, then a naked dinner scene, then decide you’re not done with the sex scene and go BACK to it. Then we’ll talk.

  21. I like STRIKING DISTANCE. Every action hero must at one point in time battle a serial killer.Norris,Eastwood,Bronson,Stallone they all done that. Why not Willis?

  22. This movie was perhaps the greatest disappointment of a lifetime of movie watching. “The Stunt Man” has been one of my alltime favorites since I saw it in its initial theatrical run, and when I heard Richard Rush was working on a followup I became a quivering lump of anticipation. First in line opening day. And then, 2 solid hours of being beaten with a stupid stick. My sense of betrayal and disappointment was too raw for me to appreciate it on a camp level, but 20 years later I may be just enough over it to try it again. Thanks Vern!

  23. Hey, I like Striking Distance! Also it has one of the best trailer taglines ever:

    “They shouldn’t have put him in the water…

    If they didn’t want him to make waves!”

  24. charley, what did you think of FREEBIE AND THE BEAN?

  25. I wouldn’t say the twist was “spoiled” for me, but i’m one of those people who if I see 5 characters are being played by 4 famous people and one “unknown”, i’m going to be very curious as to who the unknown is and my mind goes into overdrive and basically I’m going to consider every possibility and spoil the movie. (Unless the movie is really really good and I’m too wrapped up in it to let my mind wander)

    But anyway, it was a ballsy twist to try and pull off, and I wish they pulled it off more successfully. And yes, that sex scene is a classic but it still feels kinda chopped up to me. There were rumors of an even more unrated version out there; I wish all those post-Basic Instinct movies like this and Sliver just embraced their reason for being and put the full uncut versions out on Bluray.

    Also, I wish Jane March got more work. I like how she was apparently in the new Clash of the Titans but I’m pretty sure she didn’t even get a closeup, and I don’t think she’s in the sequel.

  26. wabalicious: Jane March was an internationally recognized model whose popularity rivalled Cindy Crawford for a very brief period of time, culminating in her leading role in the film adaptation of Marguerite Duras’ THE LOVER opposite “Big” Tony Leung (not to be confused with man-god “Little” Tony Leung). She didn’t need nepotism to get into this kind of movie. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was tailored to launch her career in Hollywood.

  27. Viva Jane March.

  28. Hey, I like North.

  29. I remember North being pretty bad, but I still quote the whole “if you can’t take the heat, stay out of Miami” line alot for some reason.

  30. Just found out that the super cheap BD is the director’s cut:


    Yeah, put me in the camp of those who dig both STRIKING DISTANCE and COLOR OF NIGHT.

    Bruce was trying different things post-HUDSON HAWK, and there’s a lot of stuff in both that makes them worth a look.

    And yup, SJP was just lovely in STRIKING DISTANCE, back before she became the go-to girl for when people want to insult a woman based purely on her looks.

  31. Striking distance was really frustrating for me because it had great action sequences but it just completely was not an action movie. So, these great action sequences (that chase early on when you just see cop cars bouncing everywhere in the background, that awesome shootout on the hijacked boat) are sort of shoehorned into a bland thriller that doesn’t deserve them.

  32. The original Paul

    February 15th, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    I am pro-“Striking Distance”. It’s another of those movies like “The Faculty” for me, where somehow I missed predicting the most obvious whodunnit ending possible. The thing I like about Striking Distance, apart from its kinda batshit wrap-up, is that every relationship in it seems to be of the antagonistic-yet-understanding kind. This is the thing I really object to in military-themed movies like “Hunt for Red October” and the recent “Zero Dark Thirty” where a professional relationship has to be exactly that – professional; but it worked for me in “Striking Distance”.

    I will see “Color of Night” as soon as possible. This review and comments have convinced me.

  33. Further reflection: You know what I like about this movie? It’s one of the few mysteries this insane where the actual solution is crazy enough to be worthy of the buildup. Heck, the actual explanation is so convoluted it takes almost, what, five whole minutes to explain? That’s striving for excellence, right there.

  34. NORTH is way weirder than you expect it to be. I loved it when it came out. Always being different.

  35. That was an unfortunate choice of photo. However, Jane March is hot.

  36. North is terrible, what are you smoking Fred?

  37. To be honest, I liked NORTH too and I contribute it to using one of the worst cliche endings in history absolutely right. The movie just gets more and more absurd and dumber (but I have to admit, in a very entertaining way) and then, when the big twist ending happens, I was like: “Of course! It HAD to end like that ! Now it all makes sense!”

  38. Griff – Me and Fred would get together well like when Siskel & Ebert would have their blow ups and dismiss the other for hating THIS movie, but liking THAT turkey.

    And we would be high as a kite.

    CJ – I just thought it was dumb. Dumb seems to be a good word for that movie in general. Not funny, not interesting, not mentally stimulating. Rob Reiner going havoc with a big budget at the height of his Hollywood power.

  39. I would definitely recommend watching ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities’. It’s pretty damn funny.

  40. I wonder why Richard Rush decided to never make another movie?

  41. Griff, I found it subersive and satirical. Vern, are you going to settle this?

    RRA, I would make the worst SISKEL AND EBERT host because I’d never insult anyone. I’d just say, “I’m glad you liked it” or “I’m sorry it didn’t work for you.” I even made a video short in college called MOVIE CROSSFIRE where the second host just agreed with everything the first host said. Then when the first host got mad there was no crossfire, the second host agreed that the show sucked and would get cancelled. I was already irreverent back then.

  42. Good morning, Vern.

    Ah, you finally got to this. Excellent. Personally, I kinda dig this movie. Maybe if it didn’t have Willis, Bakula, Warren, Dourif, and Henriksen, I’d be a little harsher. It’s like Clue…how do you not love a cast like that?

  43. OK, what the HELL did I just watch? Griff wrote: “I wonder why Richard Rush decided to never make another movie?”. Well, youngblood… I think you may have just answered your own question. Color Of Night is a rare feat of a movie, the kind of trainwreck in which EVERY car gets demolished. Well, all but one, and that’s the one Ruben Blades is riding in.

    That smartass, irreverent edge Blades brought to his character was hilarious, all the more because (in tone) he’s running perpendicular to everyone else in the movie (except the ass-baring helicopter lady, as Vern noted). Here’s what I don’t get: why did Rush let him spin out but keep everyone else on an even keel if he intended to make a serious movie. And if (as Fred opined) Rush was going for satire, why is Blades the only one in on the joke? Weird dichotomy.

    I generally like Bruce Willis as an actor, but not here. He doesn’t do anguish very well, and he sure as hell isn’t credible as a babe magnet. The script doesn’t allow him much opportunity to be a Man Of Action, which is regrettable. I think his fellow mid/late-80’s TV icon Don Johnson would’ve been a better fit for this role.

    Color Of Night falls into a subgenre of early/mid-90’s movies I like to call Hoe Noir (other examples include Basic Instinct, Jade, and Dream Lover) because the female lead in question does not possess the true enigmatic allure of oldschool femme fatales, but rather is just there to get boned, boned, and then boned some more. With that in mind, Jane March is perfectly cast (even though she resembles an awry gene-splicing experiment involving Alyssa Milano and a chipmunk).

  44. Vern, I’m surprised you didn’t talk about Lance Henriksen’s performance very much. In his book, it talks about how he was the only cast member that seemed to be taking it seriously, that he was “in a different movie”. What do you think?

  45. “Crazy bastard! They’ll give anybody a license!”

    -witness to Bruce driving his convertible onto a sidewalk,
    cleverly articulating a double-meaning about Bruce’s qualifications as a practicing psychiatrist in this movie

    A better title might be SEX PANIC RED HERRING.

    The several shots of fragmented-Bruce-to-the-9th-degree,
    split & presented like the The Brady Bunch credits by the camera peering through the little spinning crystal art-piece thingy (utensil?),
    set me up for some kind of IDENTITY or 6TH SENSE type of twist expectations,
    but I’m happy to report I had no idea what was going to happen next at any given moment during COLOR OF NIGHT.

    I like to believe those shots of Bruce’s dead friend’s rearview mirror were angled in just such a way as to suggest that he was psychologi-physically incapable of seeing the bright red sports car chasing him (like it was a ghost!), but then the p-o-v shot of gray paint as blood later on kind of ruins that notion. Whatever.

    More than anything, I’m just ecstatic that a nail-gun played such an important role in such a wacky movie.
    Also that apron outfit.

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