REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


THE WHISTLER. Syndicated, 1954-55. – CBS Television Film Sales Inc – Lindsley Parsons Production (first 13 episodes) Joel Malone Associates (final 26 episodes). Cast: William Forman as The Whistler. Music by Wilbur Hatch. Produced by Joel Malone.

   THE WHISTLER began as a radio anthology suspense drama featuring unexpected twists. It aired on the West Coast CBS radio network. While attempts to succeed on the East Coast were failures, the radio show proved very popular on the West Coast to Chicago and lasted between 1942 and 1955. You can listen to over 400 radio episodes at Archives.org.

   The radio program would lead to eight films from Columbia Studios: THE WHISTLER (1944), THE MARK OF THE WHISTLER (1944), THE POWER OF THE WHISTLER (1945), THE VOICE OF THE WHISTLER (1945), MYSTERIOUS INTRUDER (1945), THE SECRET OF THE WHISTLER (1946), THE THIRTEENTH HOUR (1947), and THE RETURN OF THE WHISTLER (1948).

   Here on YouTube is MYSTERIOUS INTRUDER, starring Richard Dix and directed by William Castle, for as long as the link lasts.

   In February 1954 CBS TV Film Sales had three programs in early development to become a possible TV series. The three were ESCAPE, ROMANCE, and THE WHISTLER. (1)

   In April CBS TV Film sannounced plans to bring the radio series THE WHISTLER to television through syndication. (2)

   September 1954 Lindsley Parsons Production (FILES OF JEFFREY JONES) was signed to produce twenty-six episodes of THE WHISTLER. (3) (4)

   “Billboard” reported (5) there were production problems on THE WHISTLER over cost and length of shooting. Joel Malone, who was the show’s producer and who “Billboard” called the “originator” of THE WHISTLER TV series, formed his own production company Joel Malone Associates to take over production from Lindsley Parsons Production.

   “Broadcasting” (6) interviewed Joel Malone (CRIME BY NIGHT, APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH). Malone had edited and written THE WHISTER radio series since 1946. He had written or helped write around two hundred THE WHISTLER radio scripts.

   Malone made changes in production methods. Shooting took place six days a week, taking off only Sunday and a major holiday such as Thanksgiving. Starting in November, Malone and company filmed thirteen episodes in little over a month. An article (7) about the cost of filming syndicated TV series included a photo of the cast and crew of THE WHISTLER shooting on the streets of Los Angeles at 3am.

   The article (6) noted the shooting day of November 24, 1954, when filming of the episode “Kind Thought” ended, by 1pm the same day the next episode’s cast was ready at the studio to begin work on “Roark Island.”

   The stories were the main attraction for THE WHISTLER in all its forms. Joel Malone wisely used his co-writers from the radio series, Harold Swanton (ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENT, WAGON TRAIN and PERRY MASON) and Adrian Gendot (DANGEROUS ASSIGNMENT, SKY KING and PERRY MASON).

   No doubt helpful in maintaining the speed of production was the reuse of the radio scripts to make the TV episodes. Sadly, the budget and the restrictions of 50’s television against violence and true visual horror prevented the TV episodes from reaching the suspense of the radio versions.

   Most of the TV episodes were directed either by Malone, Will Jason (SHOTGUN SLADE), or William F. Claxton (TWILIGHT ZONE and LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRARIE). I found the Claxton episodes the most creative visually.

   The music and famous opening stayed much the same through all the formats. The iconic theme song written by Wilbur Hatch and performed by Dorothy Roberts remains recognizable today. The Whistler himself remained a character of mystery, a shadow drifting through the world observing and commenting on the story and characters. While others including William Forman played the character in other formats, Forman was the only one to play it on the TV series.

   The acting was an important selling point for the TV series as it was for the radio version. The TV series attracted such talent as Howard Duff, Marie Windsor, and Linda Stirling. It often reused actors in more than one episode, actors such as Martha Vickers, Craig Stevens, John Ireland, Nancy Gates, John Howard, Robert Hutton, Marshall Thompson and many more.

   Most likely shooting began with the hiring of Lindsley Parsons Production in September 1954.

   We do know it was on the air in October 1954 when the series major sponsor Signal Oil had it in 28 markets (8). Signal Oil was the West Coast part of Standard Oil. This limited the area Signal Oil would sponsor THE WHISTLER. The series other major sponsor, Lipton also did so in only some markets. Both sponsors limited their support to alternated weeks. (4)

   The series lasted one season of thirty-nine episodes, thus leaving enough episodes for THE WHISTLER to be sold over and over for many years. The extra cost of producing an anthology series, plus the lack of a national weekly sponsor probably played important roles in the decision to stop shooting new episodes.

   Considering the shooting schedule of thirteen episodes a month, shooting for the series most likely ended in January 1955. By February 1955 (9) Joel Malone was busy with NAVY LOG for CBS-TV network where it would appear in primetime in 1955-56 for CBS before moving to ABC where it remained on air until 1958.

       THE WHISTLER TV SERIES EPISODE INDEX

   Twenty-six of the thirty-nine episodes can be viewed at Archive.org. (Scroll down to zip files and the TV episodes begin at 18 and ends with 30.) The episodes are also available on YouTube. Below I have linked to two of my favorite episodes.

      EPISODES BY LINDSLEY PARSONS PRODUCTIONS

“Search For An Unknown.” Written by Joel Malone and Adrian Gendot. Directed by Will Jason. Cast: Barton MacLane, King Donovan and Jean Howell. *** Businessman hires a PI to find who is threatening to kill him and three other people – four people without any connection.

“Backfire.” Written by Joel Malone. Directed by Frank MacDonald. Cast: Lon Chaney and Dorothy Green. *** Ex-con chauffer falls for the wife of his rich employer. When she dumps him he thinks of revenge.

“Cup O’Gold.” Written by Joel Malone and Adrian Gendot. Directed by Will Jason. Cast: Tom Brown and Barbara Wooddell (sic). *** A corrupt member of the D.A.’s office turns to murder. A woman sees him run from the scene, but fails to identify him as the killer to the police.

“Letters From Aaron Burr.” Written by Joel Malone and Adrian Gendot. Directed by William H. Claxton. Cast: Howard Duff and Martha Vickers. *** When he leaves prison Ernie finds a persistent beautiful young woman representing a rich old lady who wants to help him.

    NOTE TO PROOFREADERS: William Claxton on-air credit in Lindsley Parsons Production episodes used the middle initial H but it would change to F for the Joel Malone Associates episodes.

“Fatal Fraud.” Written by Joel Malone and Adrian Gendot. Directed by William H. Claxton. Cast: Patric Knowles and Marie Windsor. *** Marie Windsor plays a femme fatale who uses two men to help her steal a quarter of a million dollars.

“Grave Secre.” Written by Joel Malone and Adrian Gendot. Directed by Will Jason. Cast: Miriam Hopkins and Murvyn Vye. *** Harriett has kept her secret about her killing her employer, but it is another secret she will regret.

“Lady In Waiting.” Written by Joel Malone and Adrian Gendot. Directed by William H. Claxton. Cast: Nancy Gates and Craig Stevens. *** A mobster’s love for a nice girl causes her a great deal of trouble.

“The Big Jump.”. Written by Joel Malone. Directed by Will Jason. Cast: John Ireland and Tina Craver. *** A crook in New York fakes his death and escapes to San Francisco where he goes straight. He has a new life as a happily married man until one of his fellow thieves from New York spots him.

      EPISODES BY JOEL MALONE ASSOCIATES

“Cancelled Flight.” Written by Joel Malone and Adrian Gendot. Directed by Will Jason. Cast: Richard Arlen and Barbara Woodell. *** Two partners fall out when the police get too close to their smuggling operation.

“The Blank Wall.” Written by Joel Malone. Directed by Will Jason. Cast: Wallace Ford, and Philip Van Zandt. *** A respected bank employee is proud when his daughter agreed to marry the Bank’s owner son. But her happiness is threaten when a man from his hidden past as an ex-con tries to blackmail him.

“Sleep My Pretty One.” Screenplay by Joel Malone. Based on a Radio Play by Ruth Bourne. Directed by William F. Claxton. Cast: Martha Vickers, Paul Langton and Linda Stirling. ***A doctor may have the cure for a sick patient but the drug must be tested first. He turns to his fiancee for help.

“The Pattern.” . Written by Joel Malone and Adrian Gendot. Directed by Will Jason. Cast: Robert Ellenstein, Ellen Corby and Ken Tobey. *** A bookstore owner tells his detective friend that he had found a pattern of suspicious deaths and that the next death would happen on his street.

“The Jubilee Earring.” Written by Harold Swanton. Directed by William F. Claxton. Cast: Marguerite Chapman, Douglas Kennedy and Art Gilmore. *** A successful female executive is heading to a 10 year reunion with her two closest College friends, one a professional football player who has always wanted to marry her.

“The Glass Dime.” .Teleplay by Ellis Marcus and Harold Swanton. Based on a Radio Play by Adrian Gendot. Directed by William F. Claxton. Cast: Robert Hutton and Eve Miller. ***On the run from the cops a desperate con man steals from his rich uncle.

“Lovely Look.” . Screenplay by Joel Malone. Based on a Radio Play by Mary Ruth Funk. Directed by Will Jason. Cast: Murvyn Vye and Pamela Duncan. *** An unhappy husband falls for the new housekeeper.

“The Other Hand.”. Screenplay by Joel Malone. Story by Joel Malone and Harold Swanton. Directed by William F. Claxton. Cast: John Howard, Dorothy Green and Angela Greene. *** A businessman checks himself into a sanitarium for rest when the stress of work and his relationships with two women get too much for him.

“A Case For Mr. Carrington.” . Screenplay by Harold Swanton. Story by Joel Malone and Harold Swanton. Directed by William F. Claxton. Cast: Patric Knowles, Paul Dubov and Reginald Denny. *** Gordon prepares a plan to murder with the help of a book written by the local Police Inspector.

“Man Who Ran.” Screenplay by Joel Malone. Story by Tommy Tomlinson and Harold Swanton. Directed by Charles F. Haas. Cast: Les Tremayne and Dorothy Patrick. *** A bored accountant seeks to escape his routine existence.

“Death Sentence.” . Written by Fred Hegelund and Harold Swanton. Directed by Joel Malone. Cast: Marshall Thompson, Dani Sue Nolan and John Doucette. *** Told he has three months to live Martin confesses, for money to take care of his family, to a murder he didn’t commit.

“Dark Hour.” Written by Joel Malone. Directed by Charles F. Hass. Cast: Robert Hutton and Nancy Gates *** Young lawyer believes in the innocence of his client despite the arguments of the DA, the Uncle of his girlfriend.

“The First Year.” Screenplay by Joel Malone. Story by Joel Malone and Harold Swanton. Directed by Joel Malone. Cast: Virginia Field, Craig Stevens and John Hoyt. *** A disapproving Uncle sets up his will to punish his niece for marrying a playboy. To receive his fortune they need to stay married and together for ten years.

“Meeting On Tenth Street.” Screenplay by Joel Malone. Story by Joel Malone and Harold Swanton. Directed by Joel Malone. Cast: Robert Ellenstein, Peggy Webber and Willis B. Bouchey. *** A rejected suitor hires a hitman to kill his romantic rival.

“Silent Partner.” Screenplay by Joel Malone. Story by Joel Malone and Harold Swanton. Directed by Joel Malone. Cast: Charles McGraw and Hugh Sanders. *** Matt, the original owner of a large ranch finds himself being pushed out by his partner.

“An Actor’s Life.” Screenplay by Joel Malone. Based on a Radio Play by Gene Fromherz. Directed by William F. Claxton. Cast: Arthur Franz and Margaret Field. *** Julie is a successful singer in Hollywood with problems. She fears her boss who is forcing her to marry him, and now an ex-boyfriend arrives needing her help to get an acting job in Hollywood.

“Trigger Man.” Screenplay by Adrian Gendot. and Harold Swanton. Story by Robert and Beatrice Gruskin. Directed by Joel Malone. Cast: Marshall Thompson, and Dani Sue Nolan. *** Dave, a promising young lawyer, is warned by those around him that there will be a price to pay if he continues to work for a mobster.

“Marriage Contract.” Screenplay by Joel Malone. Story by George & Gertrude Fass and Harold Swanton. Directed by Joel Malone. Cast: Charles Winninger and Tom Brown. *** Eddie becomes a rich man’s lawyer and friend to get into the old man’s will. He succeeds until a twenty-four year old woman with no interest in the money agrees to marry the old man.

      TV EPISODES NOT VIEWED

“A Friendly Case of Blackmail”

“Stolen Chance”

“Incident at Scully’s Key.’ 16 mm film print: Lindsley Parsons Production, directed by Will Jason, written by Joel Malone and Adrian Gendot, cast: Audrey Totter and Carleton Young (10)

“A Trip To Aunt Sarah’s”

“The Return”

“Kind Thought”

“Roark Island” (aka “Murder At Roark Island”)

“Lucky Night”

“Favor For a Friend”

“Borrowed Byline”

“Stranger in the House”

“Windfall”

“Trademark”

       SOURCES:

BILLBOARD – March 6, 1954 (1)

    September 11, 1954 (4)

    November 27, 1954 (5)

    February 4, 1955 (9)

BROADCASTING – April 12, 1954 (2)

    September 6, 1954 (3)

    November 8, 1954 (7)

    January 10, 1955 (6)

    September 19, 1955 (8)

TV OBSCURITIES. http://www.tvobscurities.com/spotlight/the-whistler

ON THE AIR: THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF OLD-TIME RADIO. (Oxford University Press, 1998) by John Dunning

OCLC World Cat. http://www.worldcat.org/title/whistler-incident-at-scully’s-key/oclc/60373830 (10)

Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         


THE TALL TARGET. MGM, 1951. Dick Powell, Paula Raymond, Adolphe Menjou, Marshall Thompson, Ruby Dee, Richard Rober, Leif Erickson, Will Geer, Florence Bates. Director: Anthony Mann.

   Call it Civil War noir, Confederate noir. On the other hand, maybe it’s not really noir at all, but just a very good crime film set in 1861, but one with a quasi-postwar shadowy, urban atmosphere with a protagonist who looks like he would have fit right in roaming the neon-lit streets of 1950s Manhattan.

   However you describe it, Anthony Mann’s The Tall Target is a extremely well-constructed, taut thriller about a New York City policeman named John Kennedy (Dick Powell) tasked with stopping an assassination plot against President-elect Abraham Lincoln. Nearly the entire film takes place on a night train from New York en route to Washington DC, giving it a beautifully claustrophobic sensibility.

   Based on the Baltimore Plot against Lincoln, the film follows Kennedy as he tries to convince people that there really is a plot against the future President’s life. In a plot device that is necessary to the development of the story, but which comes across as clichéd and rather unbelievable, Kennedy resigns his police commission and decides that he’s going to stop the plot as a private citizen. It’s the weakest part of an overall exceptional film, one that perhaps isn’t as well known as some of Mann’s Westerns from the same time period.

   Along the night journey, Kennedy has to contend with a scheming U.S. Army Colonel, (Adolphe Menjou playing it to the hilt), a brother-and-sister pair of Confederate sympathizers, and their slave, Rachel, portrayed with grace by Ruby Dee. Also aboard the Night Flyer, a woman and her son, as well an outspoken abolitionist woman who wants to interview Rachel for a book she’s allegedly writing. There’s also a stranger who boards the train in the Philadelphia darkness.

   Much as in The Heroes of Telemark, which I reviewed here, Mann demonstrates extreme dexterity when it comes to filming trains. Look in particular for the shots of the train approaching the station, with its bright circular light signifying its arrival.

   The train station scenes are also very well filmed, creating an atmosphere of doom and gloom in the dark, rain swept night. There’s also a couple of murders and a harrowing scene of a man thrown from a moving train.

   In conclusion, Mann’s The Tall Target is worth seeking out, particularly if you haven’t seen it already. With a running time of little under eighty minutes, the movie more than enough plot twists to keep a viewer engaged with the story. Even the Pinkerton Detective Agency plays a role in this under-appreciated film.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Marcia Muller


DAVID ANTHONY – The Midnight Lady and the Mourning Man. Bobbs-Merrill, hardcover, 1969. Warner, paperback, 1973. Filmed as The Midnight Man (1974).

   The greatest strength of David Anthony’s (William Dale Smith’s) first novel is the prtagonist, Morgan Butler, a Korean War veteran who suffered a breakdown. Upon recovering, he worked briefly for a San Francisco detective agency. At the opening of this story, he is half-owner of an Ohio farm, and because he occasionally feels the need for some action, he keeps his hand in the detective business, taking jobs that are a little outside the law.

   Often the jobs aren’t as lucrative or successful as his clients might wish them to be, since Butler is a man of sensitivity and conscience — good at what he does, but incapable of betraying a well-developed moral code.

   In this novel he helps a former marine buddy who saved his life — Quartz Willinger, constable in the small college town of Jordan City, Ohio, who is laid up with an on-the-job injury and trusts no one but Butler to hold down the fort during his convalescence.

   Tapes that three local college students under psychological counseling made and left with their therapist have been stolen. Butler narrows the focus of the thief down to the tapes of one student, Natalie Claybourne, but before he can find the reason the tape was taken, she is murdered in her dormitory room.

   Butler must contend with numerous men who may or may not have been her lovers; her wealthy father, who gives phony-sounding stories about why he seems more interested in recovering the tape than in his daughter’s killing; and a lady who begins to awaken feelings in Butler that he had considered gone for good.

   Anthony’s portrayal of a college town and its bohemian denizens is excellent; there is a section in which Butler relates how he copes with campus “spring madness” that any student or former student will immediately recognize.

   Although the solution is a little predictable and the story somewhat drawn out, this is nonetheless a novel you won’t want to put down. (A film version, The Midnight Man, starring Burt Lancaster was made in 1974. In it, Butler is transformed into a paroled murderer and night watchman turned detective.)

   David Anthony’s other books featuring Morgan Butler are Blood on a Harvest Moon (1972) and The Long Hard Cure (1979). He has also written The Organization (1970) and Stud Game (1978).

         ———
   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

Editorial Comments:   The books mentioned in the last paragraph above comprise the complete criminous output of David Anthony, who died in 1986. The Long Hard Cure, surprisingly enough, has been published only in England. For a review of The Organization on this blog by Bill Crider, go here, and for my review of Stud Game, go here.

IT’S ABOUT CRIME
by Marv Lachman

ROBERT LUDLUM – The Road to Gandalfo. Bantam, paperback, 1982. First published as by Michael Shepherd, Dial Press, hardcover, 1975.

   I’ve never been able to finish a Robert Ludlum novel, and Bantam’s reprint of The Road to Gandolfo, a book he published in 1975 as Michael Shepherd, was no exception.

   It starts with a promising premise, a plot to kidnap the Pope. However, things go rapidly downhill with indifferent narrative, uninteresting characters, and what the publisher (probably meaning it as a compliment) calls “serpentine plotting.”

   There are no snakes in the plot; that hissing sound you heard was this reviewer. Meanwhile, Mr. Ludlum continues to smile on his way to the bank.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 8, No. 5, Sept-Oct 1986.

THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


E .R. PUNSHON – Information Received. Ernest Benn, UK, hardcover, 1933; Penguin Books, UK, paperback, 1955. Houghton Mifflin, US, hardcover, 1934.

   In his first recorded case, Bobby Owen (B.A. — pass degree only — Oxon) is a police constable patrolling a dull suburb. The suburb livens up when mysterious strangers start swarming and an alleged apple thief makes his presence felt.

   All this leads to the discovery of the body of Sir Christopher Clark, shot twice near the heart in his billiard room at the same time his safe in the study was being emptied by a burglar.

   With a fair number of suspects and an almost equal number of motive — embezzlement, ruination, inheritance, lovers denied — the case is a complex one. It isn’t helped by a couple of the suspects claiming that it wasn’t murder when it obviously was. A conspiracy of silence, except for an occasional odd remark, doesn’t assist in clearing things up.

   While the novel is about Owen and his role, the real brains of the investigation is Superintendent Mitchell, a canny and amusing policeman. Enjoy Mitchell and hope that Owen matures quickly if he’s going to be on his own.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 11, No. 3, Summer 1989.


Editorial Comment:   Bobby Owen was the leading protagonist in a whopping 35 detective novels by Punshon, beginning in 1933 and continuing on to 1956. I have no record of the number of Superintendent Mitchell’s appearances, but it’s easy to imagine he was on hand more than just the once.

Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         


WEST OF SHANGHAI. Warner Brothers, 1937. Boris Karloff, Beverly Roberts, Ricardo Cortez, Gordon Oliver, Sheila Bromley, Vladimir Sokoloff, Gordon Hart, Richard Loo. Based on a play by Porter Emerson Browne. Director: John Farrow.

   West of Shanghai is overall an enjoyable, although occasionally stilted, drama/action film starring Boris Karloff with Beverly Roberts and Ricardo Cortez. Directed by John Farrow, whose movie adaptation of David Dodge’s Plunder of the Sun I reviewed here, the film stars Karloff as a Chinese warlord by the name of Wu Yen Fang.

   Fang’s an interesting fellow, that’s for certain. He’s brutal, yes, but he’s also got something of a heart of gold and a sense of humor to boot. One can’t help but smile when he repeats, with a gleam in his eye, his self-assured catchphrase, “I’m Fang” as a means of explaining of how he can get away with the seemingly improbable or impossible.

   Perhaps one reason this movie isn’t as well known today is that Karloff is made up to look Chinese. He also speaks in broken English, taking us many degrees away from politically correct territory. Still, Karloff’s an absolute pleasure to watch, demonstrating once again that the classically trained English actor really had incredible acting skills.

   Based on a play by Porter Emerson Browne, West of Shanghai is an adventure film, a thriller, and a comedy of manners all in one. The story follows two business competitors, Gordon Creed (Cortez) and an older man named Galt as they travel north in China in the hopes of gaining business influence over an oil field overseen by Jim Hallet (Gordon Oliver). It should come as no surprise that among the film’s subtexts is a slightly comical, but also deadly serious, critique of American industrialists and human greed. At one point, the power hungry general tells Galt that the latter cares too much about money. Ouch.

   Complicating matters even further for the businessmen is not only Fang’s growing military and political influence in the region, but also the fact that Creed’s estranged wife, Jane (Beverly Roberts), is both a missionary in the region and currently in love with Jim. Add to the mix Galt’s headstrong and quite beautiful daughter, Lola (Sheila Bromley), and you’ve got yourself some great human drama in an exotic setting.

   All told, I found West of Shanghai to be an enjoyable picture with a lot in terms of plot and style to recommend it. Karloff is great as Feng and Cortez portrays the slimy, double-crossing, Creed really well. Vladmir Sokoloff’s portrayal of General Chow Fu-Shan is literally cut short when his character is killed by one of Feng’s assassins, but he’s also quite good as far as character actors go.

   I’d hesitate to call West of Shanghai a great film, but at a running time of slightly over 60 minutes, it’s never dull and Farrow’s direction is solid. The movie’s no classic, but if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth seeking out even if for novelty value. They don’t make films like this anymore. But just because they really can’t, doesn’t mean that it’s not worth appreciating those that remain and enjoying them on their own terms.

REVIEWED BY WALTER ALBERT:         


JOHN LESLIE – Night and Day. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 1995. Pocket Books, paperback, 1996.

   This is the second of four mysteries featuring Gideon Lowry, a jazz pianist and private investigator based in Key West. His brother committed suicide at the end of the first book and Gideon’s girl friend (Casey) has moved to Miami.

   A visiting singer named Asia (with lips the color of plum) hires Gideon to locate her estranged husband, a writer obsessed with Hemingway. This is a not inappropriate obsession in Key West with the annual Hemingway Days celebration and the Hemingway house, which is open to the public as a museum. Gideon finds the missing husband, but he’s soon killed and Asia looks like a prime suspect.

   The novel (like the other three) is heavy with sultry heat and the perfume of whatever produces heavy scents In Key West. A nice series of grace notes on the 1990s private eye scene.

       The Gideon Lowry series —

Killing Me Softly (1995)

         

Night And Day (1995)
Love For Sale (1996)
Blue Moon (1998)

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