Saturday, 30 March 2013

STAR WARS: PETER CUSHING AND THE GRAND MOFF TARKIN SLIPPERS : PHOTOGRAPH

The slippers that Peter Cushing wore on the set of STAR WARS when playing
Grand Moff Tarkin.

 
You can see the 'legendary' slippers that Peter Cushing wore when playing Grand Moff Tarkin, costumes, stills and Peter's artwork at the 'Peter Cushing at 100' exhibition at the Whitstable Museum and Gallery. More details here:http://www.canterbury.co.uk/Whitstable-Peter-Cushing-at-100!/details/?dms=13&venue=3030544&feature=1094

Friday, 29 March 2013

HAMMER FILMS: THE BRIDES OF DRACULA AND THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN GET BLU RAY RELEASES


RELEASE DATES: The Brides of Dracula: June 24th 2013. The Evil of Frankenstein: July 22th 2013. Both releases duo pack: Blu-ray + DVD. Region B (A, C untested)
British distributors Final Cut Entertainment will release two classic Hammer films in June and July: Terence Fisher's The Brides of Dracula (1960), starring Peter Cushing, Martita Hunt, and Yvonne Monlaur, and Freddie Francis' The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), starring Peter Cushing, Peter Woodthorpe, and Duncan Lamont.

Exact technical specs and supplemental features to be included with these upcoming releases are yet to be revealed.

To Order: HERE

DUFFELL AND PETER CUSHING: ON SET PHOTOGRAPHS FROM 'THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD' (1971)


THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD:

CAST:

Linking Story:– John Bennett (Inspector Holloway), John Bryans (Stoker), John Malcolm (Sergeant). Method for Murder:– Denholm Elliott (Charles Hillyer), Joanna Dunham (Alice Hillyer), Tom Adams (Dominick), Robert Lang (Psychiatrist). Waxworks:– Peter Cushing (Philip Grayson), Joss Ackland (Neville Rogers), Wolfe Morris (Proprietor). Sweets to the Sweet:– Chloe Franks (Jane Reid), Christopher Lee (John Reid), Nyree Dawn Porter (Ann Norton). The Cloak: Jon Pertwee (Paul Henderson), Ingrid Pitt (Carla), Geoffrey Bayldon (Count Von Hartmann)
 
PRODUCTION:
Director – Peter Duffell, Screenplay – Robert Bloch, Based on his Short Stories, Producers – Max J. Rosenberg & Milton Subotsky, Photography – Ray Parslow, Music – Michael Dress, Art Direction – Tony Curtis. Production Company – Amicus. UK. 1970.


SYNOPSIS:
A police inspector, searching for a missing horror film star, visits the house that the actor rented. There the realtor and a local police sergeant tell a series of stories about the house and the strange effect it has on the inhabitants. Method for Murder:– Horror writer Charles Hillyer creates the character of the strangler Dominick for his next book. However, Dominick then turns up for real and tries to strangle Hillyer’s wife – but she insists that it was Hillyer acting under subconscious compulsion. Waxworks:– Retired stockbroker Philip Grayson becomes obsessed with the exhibit of a beautiful woman in a wax museum and comes to realise that it may be the owner’s wife. Sweets to the Sweet:– John Reid hires Ann Norton as anew tutor by for his daughter Jane. Ann then discovers that Jane, who is harshly closeted by Reid, is taking revenge against her father using a voodoo doll. The Cloak:– The missing horror film actor Paul Henderson rents the house. Seeking authenticity in his next film, Henderson is given a cloak that was purportedly worn by a real vampire. However, when Henderson puts the cloak on it makes him fly, develop fangs and a thirst for blood.


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

ANDRE MORELL AND PETER CUSHING: HOLMES AND WATSON: THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES: STILLS GALLERY AND REVIEW



Following the success of The Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula, Hammer Studios decided to turn their attention to the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In keeping with the tone of their recent films, their choice of The Hound of the Baskervilles seemed a solid concept. Certainly it was the most famous of Doyle’s many Sherlock Holmes stories, and it was arguably also the one that was best suited to feature length adaptation. On top of that, it had a macabre component – even if the inevitable intervention of logic would render its supernatural elements easily explained by the master sleuth by the time the film faded to black. The casting of Peter Cushing as Holmes was a given, even if Hammer executive James Carreras’ assertion that he would be the screen’s first “sexy” Holmes remains highly questionable. Had the film been made a few years later, it would not be inconceivable to picture Holmes as being played by Christopher Lee (who would indeed later essay the role several times, beginning with the bizarre West German production Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, 1962, directed by Terence Fisher), with Cushing supporting as Dr. Watson. In 1958, however, Lee was only beginning to establish a name for himself, whereas Cushing was more of a proven quantity.


Sensibly realizing that Lee was too young and too imposing to play Holmes’ right hand man and confidante, Dr. John Watson, he was instead given a chance at playing the romantic lead, a bit of casting which Lee openly relished; he would therefore become one of the few actors to lend much in the way of presence and color to the usually disposable role of Sir Henry Baskerville. To play Dr. Watson, Hammer turned to veteran actor Andre Morell. Morell was known as a prickly sort, given to speaking his mind, and he and Lee apparently did not hit it off at all – but neither ever made much of a commentary on this, leading one to suspect that perhaps they were simply too similar in disposition. Happily, no such conflict would come into play with Morell’s relationship with Cushing – they had already acted together in the controversial, Nigel Kneale-scripted adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 (1954) for the BBC , and following Hound, they would appear in Cash on Demand (1960), Cone of Silence (1960) and She (1964). Sadly, however, this would mark their one and only outing as Holmes and Watson – while Cushing would go on to play the role many more times (always on TV, it should be noted), Morell’s association with the world of Conan Doyle would begin and end on Hound.

The film itself is a problematic one, and this is down more to the screenplay than anything else. While some Hammer fans have praised scenarist Peter Bryan for structuring the film so that it would have some consistency with the “sins of the fathers” motif that was so common in Hammer horror (and in British horror in general, if truth be told), it seems to this writer that his attempts to “Hammerize” the material results in a film that sits unsteadily between two different styles of filmmaking. The more sensational elements feel rather grafted on, while the mystery angle becomes negligible in the bargain. Viewers unacquainted with Conan Doyle’s story might hope to have some sense of surprise when the killer is finally unmasked, but thanks to the heavy handed approach, there’s never any real doubt as to “who done it.” As such, the film fails as a mystery, and while there are token gestures towards the horror crowd, it’s a little too tame and restrained to really work on that level, either.


Director Terence Fisher does manage a tremendous set piece at the beginning, however, as he details the cruelty of Sir Henry’s infamous ancestor, Sir Hugo (David Oxley). Oxley tears into his role with ferocious abandon, teerting on the verge of camp overstatement yet remaining a credible villain. His presence is sorely missed when the film switches to the present day, with Ewen Solon’s sour-faced Stapleton proving to be a dull and rather listless villain. Fisher and cinematographer Jack Asher work hard to create a sense of menace on the moors, but the cramped production values sometimes conspire against their efforts. Hammer’s use of standing sets was beginning to show through at this juncture, though Hammer’s great production designer, Bernard Robinson, certainly does what he can to disguise the subterfuge. With James Bernard’s music booming away, it’s clear that this Hound is meant to be as scary as their previous Dracula and Frankenstein pictures – but it never quite catches fire.


One would be hard pressed to fault Hammer for their casting of Cushing and Morell, however. Cushing’s hawk-like visage and thin frame made him ideal casting, though his average stature is rather unfairly shown up by Fisher on occasion – when playing scenes opposite very tall men like Lee and Francis De Wolff (as the sour-pussed Dr. Mortimer), it would have made better sense to minimize this, but Fisher elects to have the other actors towering over Cushing, who has little choice but to look up at his co-stars when he should be firmly in control of the scene. Cushing’s devotion to the role was absolute, and he added bits of business straight from Conan Doyle, as well as from Sidney Paget’s famed illustrations from the original Strand Magazine publications of the stories. He brings intensity to the role, but he does sometimes rely too much on favored mannerisms. There are moments when his decision to emphasize the character’s theatricality verges on ham acting, but he manages to convey the character’s aloof nature and addiction to cocaine without becoming as over the top as Jeremy Brett would later be in the rightly celebrated Granada TV adaptations of the Conan Doyle canon. It is a performance that compares favorably with Basil Rathbone’s iconic, possibly definitive, portrayal for Fox and Universal in the 1930s and 1940s, but he would arguably grow into the role and play it with greater subtly and effectiveness when he took over the deer stalker from Douglas Wilmer for the BBC television series of the 1960s.


Morell’s challenge was arguably greater, in that the character of Dr. Watson had been reduced to the level of caricature courtesy of Nigel Bruce’s portrayal opposite Basil Rathbone in the afore-mentioned series of films. Make no mistake, Bruce was a charming and engaging performer, and his blustery portrayal had tremendous chemistry opposite Rathbone’s aloof and somewhat acerbic master detective, but it was a portrayal that was far removed from Conan Doyle. In the stories, Watson is really the author’s mouthpiece, and it is he who narrates the action and fills the reader in on the characters and their motivations. Far from being comedy relief, Watson is a solid, dependable medical man with a military background; he may seem “dim” compared to Holmes, but that’s merely because Holmes represents a kind of intellectual ideal. Watson is the everyman, and Morell’s interpretation is faithful to this conception. Morell resists the urge to play up the comedy, though he does have a few moments of subtle humor along the way.


It is, in short, an ideal pairing of two fine actors – and it is this, above anything else, that makes Hammer’s Hound linger in memory. Cushing’s wound up, energetic portrayal contrasts nicely with Morell’s more restrained approach, and the two men clearly have genuine respect and affection for each other. They make a wonderful team, though other vehicles – notably Cash on Demand and 1984 – would play them off as rivals. It’s to be regretted that Hound was something of a flop at the box office, as this killed off a potential series of Cushing/Morell/Hammer Holmes adaptations. Had they had a chance to grow into the roles and establish more audience familiarity, it’s possible that Cushing and Morell would have eclipsed Rathbone and Bruce in the mind of the public. As it stands, however, we only have this one, flawed vehicle to judge them from – and if the film itself has problems, there’s little doubt that the two actors acquitted themselves beautifully and were determined to remain as faithful as possible to Conan Doyle’s original conception. For this reason alone, the Hammer Hound remains an essential entry in the Holmes on film canon.


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

SUPERNATURAL: PETER CUSHING AT 100: WITH RARE PHOTOGRAPH GALLERY


As a lifelong fan of Peter Cushing, I’ve suffered the trauma of his “dying” on three separate occasions. Bear with me, that’ll make sense soon enough. I was born in 1977, the year that Star Wars was unleashed on the world. I was too young to see it theatrically, though my father and my brother both went nuts over it and became fans for life. I seem to recall seeing the film theatrically at a very young age, however, and I can only imagine it was in 1980, when the film was reissued to coincide with the release of The Empire Strikes Back. I don’t recall much about what I thought of it then, but even at that ridiculously young age, I knew who Peter Cushing was. Even though he was playing a villain with a heart of stone, I still recall being deeply upset that he went up in smoke at the end. Somehow, that just didn’t seem quite right and proper to me.


The second time I learned of his demise was when WTBS ran Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed in 1986. A friend of mine was able to watch the telecast, including the host segments by station personality Bill Tush, but I had to wait to watch it until later - fortunately, we had a VCR by then, so I wasn’t too terribly resentful that my dad had whisked my brother and I off to Kennywood for a sunny day at the amusement park, when I could have been inside, huddled in front of the TV set. When I got home, I sat down and watched the film - and it made a tremendous impression on me. The next day, I spoke with my friend - and he told me that Peter Cushing had died. I couldn’t believe it; it must be a mistake! There was nothing in the paper, nothing on the news. Surely his passing would attract some kind of attention? But, he was insistent - Bill Tush said the man had died. Spurred by this, I decided to check out my recording to see if there was any truth to it. Tush made no mention of anything of the kind at the start of the film, but sure enough, after the film was done, he made note that Cushing had died earlier that year. I was crestfallen. Cushing was one of my idols, and he was gone. I grieved for a little while, but life went on.


Imagine my amazement, therefore, when I found out a few years later that he was not only still alive - but he was also granting interviews! I caught up with some pieces on him, and felt like order had been restored. Peter Cushing, the epitome of the English gentleman, the symbol of good in the horror film, was back among the living. I gather Tush’s gaffe did not escape notice; I have no idea if he ever issued a retraction or if indeed he ever gave it much thought altogether…


The third time proved to be unlucky, however. I can remember it well: my dad was watching the news, and he called me to come to the living room. As I entered the room, I noticed a clip playing from Horror of Dracula: the final battle between Van Helsing and Dracula, played to perfection by Cushing and Christopher Lee. Oh no, I thought, one of them has died. A voice over confirmed the worst - Peter Cushing has died at the age of 81. Truth be told, saddened as I was, I wasn’t as devastated as I was when Vincent Price passed away the year before. I had no idea how ill Price was, and I pictured him as he so often appeared on films and TV talk shows - vibrant, full of energy, and loving life. With Cushing, I knew the man had been ill for years. I knew that he had been miserable ever since the death of his wife in 1971. I knew that he was so sickly that he couldn’t even get acting jobs anymore - producers and directors wanted him, but the insurance companies weren’t so keen. Somehow, I knew he was at peace - and though I was not - nor do I remain - a man of religious conviction, he was, on some level, free of years of suffering. It was hard to imagine that he was no longer among the living, and yet - he had had a long life, and he finally got what he really wanted.


Among genre fans, Cushing remains a true icon. Like so many icons, he is sometimes elevated to a level of perfection that no human being can ever truly attain. Some insist upon referring to him as “Sir Peter,” perhaps even believing that he was finally made a Knight before his passing in 1994. The reality is, he was a human being, with flaws and shortcomings like the rest of us; and though he had been honored by his government with being given OBE (Order of the British Empire) status, the Knighthood never did come his way. Perhaps if he had lived a bit longer, the latter might have really occurred. As to the former, far from glossing over his defects and acting as if he never uttered a bad word or ever made a bad move, it’s more instructive to acknowledge his flaws and accept him as a terrific human being - as opposed to a one dimensional saint.


Cushing’s love of his wife is well known; indeed, it has become the stuff of legend. They married in 1943, but Helen’s health was in precarious condition from the beginning. She suffered from emphysema for many years, and Cushing often took on acting roles in order to pay for her mounting medical expenses and treatment. After the success of The Curse of Frankenstein 1957, the actor contemplated the horrors of typecasting - but the realization that steady employment would benefit Helen’s treatments talked him out of any concerns over being “trapped” by his horror roles. Nobody would ever question the man’s adoration of his wife, but by his own admission he “strayed” on several occasions. One can theorize that the nature of Helen’s illness made it difficult - if not impossible - to sustain much of a physical relationship, and that Cushing, being a man rather than a saint, had to turn elsewhere to have these needs satisfied. Cushing apparently confessed his transgressions, and Helen was understanding throughout. Ultimately, it’s not for us to judge him for this - but the fact that his relationship with Helen remained as deep and profound as it was speaks volumes in itself. Really, it only bears mention in this context to drive the point home: Cushing was many things, but he was not above making mistakes. His ability to talk about these mistakes, with disarming honesty, is part of what makes his two-part memoirs such a warm and rewarding read.



As an actor, Cushing was arguably one of the greats - his friend and colleague Sir Laurence Olivier was even moved to remark that he was one of the country’s best screen actors. He was not, however, beyond reproach. Like any other actor, he had his limitations. He was not especially convincing when it came to accents - he had a peculiar theory that audiences would accept it if the actor threw the accent in on occasion, just to remind them that they were playing a foreigner - and he seemed ill at ease in roles that deprived him of any shred of charm or affability. He could play villains beautifully, but they needed to have a bit of depth - “cold fish” characters, by contrast, simply didn’t gel with him. He could deliver a putdown with rapier wit, but when he played broad comedy, he seemed terribly strained. Cushing was always a very mannered actor, one prone to indulging in little bits of “business,“ but when he went too far with these mannerisms and quirks, it could seem a bit phony and arbitrary. On the whole, however, he was a compulsively watchable actor. At his best, he was brilliant. Truth be told, his “dud” performances are few and far between.



Cushing’s long career saw him making triumphant appearances on stage, on film, and on television - but it was the latter that first made him a bankable name. Legend has it that, at the peak of his popularity as a TV star in the 1950s, Cushing could empty the pubs, because everybody wanted to be home to see him in whatever play he was appearing in on “the telly.” Like so many actors, Cushing struggled to find a reputation on film - he started off by going to Hollywood, where he was given his first (minor) break by British director James Whale. The irony of Cushing being given his start by the director of the most iconic screen version of Frankenstein (1931) cannot go unremarked, but there was nothing remotely “horrific” about his early screen appearances. He scored some nice notices for a flashy supporting role in the three-hanky melodrama Vigil in the Night (1941), but his screen career never really took off until the 1950s, boosted, in no small measure, by his triumphant appearance on so many landmark BBC teleplays of the era, including Nigel Kneale’s then-shocking adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 (1954). 



Hammer Horror helped to make Cushing a known property worldwide, but for many critics, he was limited by his associations with such gaudy fare. Genre magazines would extol his talents, but more mainstream publications would adopt a cooler attitude. There was no denying the man’s talents, yet critics with an axe to grind against the genre seemed to view him as a once-fine actor who was content “slumming” his way through B-and-Z-grade horror films. There would be no recognition from the British or American Academy Awards, though smaller, fantasy-oriented festivals would festoon him with prizes for his nuanced work on such titles as Tales from the Crypt (1972). If Cushing’s health had stood up better, he may have been able to parlay his reputation into appearances in films by fans-turned-filmmakers - just as his good friend and colleague Christopher Lee is continuing to do to this day. Alas, it was not meant to be. Worsening health and a general contet to enjoy the quiet life in his seaside abode in Whitstable took Cushing away from the limelight. Fans would continue to seek him out, and being a true gentleman of the old school, he always tried to make time to speak with them and sign countless autographs.


I, myself, never had the privilege of meeting Peter Cushing - but I did manage to make some contact with him. In 1993, inspired by the passing of Vincent Price, I decided I had better put my thoughts to paper and send Peter Cushing a fan letter. I was able to pass the letter on to his agent, having been given contact information by a fanzine, and I still shudder with embarrassment to think of my commenting on how he never won an Oscar (but deserved several!) and asking if he could autograph a picture of himself (maybe one with Christopher Lee!) and mail it to me. Most celebrities would have tossed this aside, but much to my amazement, I received a letter from the UK. I didn’t get an autographed picture, but he did see fit to write me a brief little note - with his autograph attached. I’m sure it was just a standard letter he sent out at this stage in his life, as he was certainly too ill to do much beyond just an autograph. Even so, it was a classy gesture that filled me with joy. It was almost surely one of the last autographs he ever did. It remains one of my most treasured possessions and has been displayed proudly on the walls of every home I have lived in since that timeframe. For me, there is no need to attach phony honors or attributes to the man as a sign of respect. Warts and all, he was a class act - a great actor, a decent human being, a loving husband, a true philanthropist. There’s no need to enshrine him as some kind of a wannabe saint - I prefer, rather, to think of him as he was: as a man to be respected and admired for his many good points.



 This year marks the centernary of Peter Cushing.  He's been gone for 19 years - though, for me, it seems like just yesterday that he passed - but his legacy continues to inspire and create new fans.  His acting style remains fresh, his appeal undiminished.  For me, he remains one of the most purely enjoyable actors to watch when he's at the top of his game.  I'm still catching up with a few titles that have eluded me, but by now I've seen all of his major credits - and I've revisited favorites from Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed and The Mummy to Cash on Demand and The House That Dripped Blood more times than I can calculate.  Truth be told, he's not my favorite actor - but he runs a very close second to his most beloved co-star, Christopher Lee.  To read of his life and his ups and downs - the true version, not the airbrushed one perpetuated by some blinkered sections of fandom - is to be inspired to be a better person - and in a business not exactly renowned for its moral backbone, he remains one of the truly "nice" people about whom seldom a negative word is uttered.


JOIN US AT OUR PETER CUSHING APPRECIATION SOCIETY FACEBOOK FAN PAGE ALONG WITH OVER 20,000 FRIENDS AND FOLLOWERS 
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Monday, 25 March 2013

NEWS: BFI CELEBRATES PETER CUSHING CENTENARY WITH A MONSTER FROM HELL!

When Dr Simon Helder is committed to an asylum after being caught experimenting on stolen cadavers, he finds himself in the company of fellow re-animator Baron Frankenstein, who is physician there. The two join forces to continue their research but Helder gradually realises that a fine line separates the inmates from those apparently in charge. This was Terence Fisher’s last film and the final instalment in Hammer’s exploration of the Frankenstein story. 


Here, Peter Cushing’s Baron reaches his most degenerate, his gaunt yet distinguished appearance giving little inkling of the menace just beneath the surface. To mark the centenary of Cushing’s birth, we are showing Hammer’s new high-definition restoration of his final portrayal of the character that brought him international fame: Baron Frankenstein. We are delighted to welcome Madeline Smith, the film’s co-star, and Joyce Broughton, Cushing’s secretary for 35 years, to introduce the screening. They will be promoting the centenary edition of Peter Cushing: The Complete Memoirs, for which Joyce has written the foreword. Event: May 29, 2013 6:30 PM Tickets on sale:09-04-2013 11:30 AM 


The BFI is creating a monster this year. GOTHIC is a celebration of the dark heart of film, with a major season at BFI Southbank and across the UK from October to January 2014. To find out more, visit bfi.org.uk/gothic

 

Sunday, 24 March 2013

NEWS: PETER CUSHING AT 100: WHITSTABLE CELEBRATES IT'S MOST FAMOUS RESIDENT AT MUSEUM AND GALLERY


A celebration of the 100th birthday of Whitstable's most famous resident in images and objects from collectors across the UK and beyond, with linked special events in the town.


Included in museum entry charge.
Adults £3.00
Discounts £2.00
Children free to a maximum of 2 children per paying adult.
Free to Canterbury district Residents' Card holders and their children

GREAT BRITONS: PETER CUSHING FEATURED AS PART OF COMMEMORATIVE POSTAL STAMP SERIES.


The UK Postal Service has announced that this years Great Britons special stamp issue will comprise of ten 1st Class values commemorating photographer Norman Parkinson, actress Vivien Leigh, actor Peter Cushing, David Lloyd George the Liberal politician and Prime Minister, writer Elizabeth David, John Archer who was the first Briton of Afro-Caribbean origin to hold a UK public office, composer Benjamin Britten, archaeologist and anthropologist Mary Leakey, legendary Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly and, finally, the BBC broadcaster Richard Dimbleby.


Peter Cushing's stamp is also available as a Peter Cushing Centenary issue too. These are limited to only 1,000 and are available from 'British First Day Covers' at this link: HERE

 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

NEWS: WHAT'S UP NEXT FOR HAMMER FILMS / PETER CUSHING BLU RAYS?


PETER CUSHING / HAMMER FILMS BLU RAY NEWS: Hammer historian Marcus Hearn has been instrumental in the release of the new blu-ray edition of the company’s definitive 1958 version of Dracula. So, which title will be released next? : " The next one we’ll see is Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, so we’re jumping forward to 1972! This was another film which I believe has only ever been seen in its home entertainment versions in a censored form, so we have been able to find extra material for that, which by this era – 1972 – was actually quite gory. We’re going to premiere the restoration of that in May at the NFT to mark the Peter Cushing centenary, and launch Peter Cushing: The Complete Memoirs, which I published. We’re hoping The Mummy will come later this year, which is obviously the third of the foundation of gothic Hammer horror, and the hunt is on for the missing footage of that."

More Here:  CLICK HERE

Monday, 18 March 2013

NEWS: PETER CUSHING : FAMOUS MONSTERS MAGAZINE CELEBRATE PETER CUSHING CENTENARY


NEWS: Famous Monsters Magazine Celebrates Peter Cushing in June! 'This June we celebrate what would have been Peter Cushing's 100th birthday, and Famous Monsters will look back over the life and classic works of one of cinema's greatest legends! Featuring a Peter Cushing cover by Oscar-winner Dave Elsey'.... http://famousmonsters.com/

TODAY IS THE DAY: HAMMER FILMS OFFICIALLY RELEASE 'DRACULA' ON BLU RAY!


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