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Depraved Delights: 20 Grindhouse Cinema Shockers

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

The world of Grindhouse cinema encapsulated many genres and storylines but one thing it was best known for was the kinds of movies that completely shocked and offended audiences with their no holds barred subject matter. Beyond the more standard action and horror exploitation fare there were productions that featured some of the most vile and repulsive content ever created for the silver screen. To celebrate the classic Grindhouse films that made us feel appalled, apprehensive and sick to our stomachs, we've picked 20 of our favorite freak out flicks from the dingy depths of the database. Warning: These movies contain sights and sounds that may be too disturbing for the casual movie watcher. Please be aware that they are not for everyone.

More of our Grindhouse Classics lists:

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Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

This film became one of the most controversial works of genre cinema to ever come out of Italy. Director Ruggero Deodato made it as a response to the violence he saw on TV and also as a way to take a closer look at the sensationalism behind the reporting. A group of four award winning documentary filmmakers that had gone on an expedition to record tribal environments of South America months earlier were never heard from again. An Anthropology Professor named Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman) travels with a guide deep into the jungle to track them down and find out what had happened. What he finds in the process is two warring jungle tribes. When Monroe is invited to eat the raw guts of an animal with one of the tribes, he finds some of the belongings of the four documentary filmmakers including the actual cannisters of film they shot, which the natives saved. Monroe returns to New York City to look at the contents of the film and see what the filmmakers were up to, but what is revealed are some of the most savage and brutal occurrences ever seen by man. Cannibal Holocaust is both extremely disturbing and vile, but also a brilliant piece of daring filmmaking.

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Bloodsucking Freaks (1976)

A peculilar stage-show is making it's runs in Soho, New York. The master of ceremonies, Sardu (Seamus O'Brien) speaks before the crowd prior to showtime: "Now those of you who are weak-willed or cowards would have fled by now. Or regurgitated over the seats in front of you. But why? Really? This is just a theatrical presentation. A show which offers no reality, not a fraction, of reality. And just allows us, you and me, to delve into our grossest fantasies far beyond erotica. I am Sardu, master of the theater of the macabre. Tonight, we begin with torture..." On the surface, it's very easy for some to dismiss Bloodsucking Freaks (Or "The Incredible Torture Show", one of the more earlier and faithful titles the film went by in it's initial run) but, as many defenders of the film have pointed out, there's a bit more going on than one would expect underneath all the nude, bloody flesh that appears in the film. What director Joel Reed did is reinterpret A Bucket of Blood for the no-holds-barred 1970s. The movie also benefits greatly from a mostly one-note look. In fact, it almost goes panel-for-panel in being a naughty, underground comic book. As it stands, there was nothing else out there made quite like this film before or since.

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The Last House on the Left (1972)

The Last House On The Left was inspired in large part by the Swedish film "The Virgin Spring" directed by Ingmar Bergman. It was director Wes Craven's (A Nightmare On Elm Street) debut and was produced by Sean S. Cunningham who would later become famous for directing the first Friday The 13th. Mari Collingwood is 17, it's her birthday and she's going out with some friends for a wild time. Mari and her friend soon get involved in some sick mind games being played on them by some lunatics. David Hess plays Krug the leader of the gang of maniacs. His cohorts, Fred aka "Weasel" and the girl Sadie are just as sadistic as him. Junior, Krug's son is a lovable idiot who tries to make his father happy, but always seems to fail. The group decide to kidnap Mari and her friend which leads to scenes of violence that remain as shocking today as they were in the early 70s. The film underwent many name changes, including Sex Crime of the Century, Krug and Company and The Men's Room. Someone then came up with the title The Last House on the Left, along with the infamous "To avoid fainting, keep repeating 'It's only a movie'..." advertising campaign. (In actuality, it had been used twice before: first for gore-meister H.G. Lewis's 1964 splatter film Color Me Blood Red, and then for William Castle's Strait Jacket the following year.)

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Ilsa: She Wolf of the S.S. (1974)

1974's Ilsa is a gross out exploitation shocker set in a Nazi Concentration camp during World War II. Dyanne Thorne with a Marlene Dietrich styled accent, stars as Ilsa and she has convinced the camp commandant to allow her to do her research and medical experiments to conclusively prove women can take more pain then men and therefore should be allowed to fight the war on the frontlines. It also allows our nympho Ilsa to have lots of sex with lots of men and torture lots of folks. Although it was shot in only nine days with very very little money it at times is very well lit and photographed (and at other times there is no doubt you are watching a very cheap movie). The acting is extremely un-even, ranging from pretty good to mediocre to very wooden. The old Hogan's Heroes TV Series set was used for all of the exterior shots of the camp. Dyanne Thorne forever was identified as Ilsa after this film. She's not unlike a female Vincent Price, taking not just pleasure but pride in inflicting torture and death to her prisoners in the name of the greater good of science (or something like that). Ilsa is patterned after real-life murderous female Nazi camp personnel Ilse Koch and Irma Grese.

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The Gore Gore Girls (1972)

The Gore Gore Girls was Director Herschell Gordon Lewis' final film for the next 30 years, and is one of his most infamous films due to its gore and violence. It was shot in two weeks and received an X from the MPAA (the only one of Lewis' films he submitted to the organization). The story concerns Nancy Weston (Amy Farrell), a reporter for The Globe, approaches Abraham Gentry (Frank Kress), an obnoxious private investigator, and offers him $25,000 on behalf of The Globe to investigate the brutal murder of stripper Suzie Cream Puff (Jackie Kroeger). She sweetens the deal with a $25,000 bonus for solving the case. Of course this comes contingent that The Globe gets the exclusive story. Gentry takes the case and begins the investigation of the murder with Weston in tow. When at the club, Gentry encounters a waitress, Marlene (Hedda Lubin), whose obnoxiousness rivals his. He gets through her to speak to another stripper and gets his first suspect, Joseph Carter. Soon, another stripper, Candy Cane, gets murdered and Gentry expands his suspect list to Grout (Ray Sager), an unstable veteran who takes pride in crushing the heads of corpses he found when on the battlefields of Vietnam. He relieves tension by drawing faces on squashes and tomatoes and then crushing them with his bare hands. (Wikipedia)

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The Devils (1971)

The Devils is a 1971 British historical drama horror film directed by Ken Russell and starring Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave. Russell's screenplay is based partly on the 1952 book The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley, and partly on the 1960 play The Devils by John Whiting, also based on Huxley's book. The film is a dramatised historical account of the rise and fall of Urbain Grandier, a 17th-century Roman Catholic priest executed for witchcraft following the supposed possessions in Loudun, France. Reed plays Grandier in the film and Vanessa Redgrave plays a hunchbacked sexually repressed nun who finds herself inadvertently responsible for the accusations. The film faced harsh reaction from national film rating systems due to its disturbingly violent, sexual, and religious content, and originally received an X rating in both Britain and the United States. It was banned in several countries, and eventually heavily edited for release in others. The film has never received a release in its original, uncut form in various countries, and is largely unavailable in the home video market. The film's extraordinary sets in which Loudon was depicted as a modernistic white-tiled city were devised by Derek Jarman. (Wikipedia)

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Poor Pretty Eddie (1976)

A black pop-star, Liz Wetherly (Leslie Uggams) has plans to settle down in a quiet, remote place before she sets off for her upcoming tour. Even though this movie is far from a conventional horror film, a familiar horror device is put into use when Liz's car breaks down somewhere deep in the south. "Bertha's Oasis" (an Inn/Hotel) is the nearest place that Liz will have to stay while her car gets repaired. What you'll find in "Bertha's Oasis" is the owner herself, Bertha (Shelley Winters), a washed-up chorus girl. There's also Keno (Ted Cassidy) the trashman, mechanic, janitor...You name it--He seems to do it. And last, but certainly not least, is bartender/clerk, Eddie Collins (Michael Christian) Eddie has dreams of becoming a famous music star and when Liz shows up, he feels he can have Liz help his rise to stardom. Not to mention, he's got the hots for her. This doesn't sit well with Bertha who becomes jealous of the whole situation. Redneck County Rape aka Poor Pretty Eddie turned out to be the definitive, Drive-In/Grindhouse version of the movie. This film is as draining as an experience as the hard-hitting shocksploitation genre can offer.

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I Drink Your Blood (1970)

After being hired by Producer Jerry Gross to come up with an idea for a horror film that wasn't just another monster movie like Dracula or Frankenstein, Director David Durston used two real life inspirations for his new project. The first was a town in Iraq that had been overrun by hydrophobia due to people being bitten by rabid wolves. The other was the Charles Manson murders which had just made the headlines of the news. Instead of just being a run of the mill horror film, Durston managed to make everything work so well that it exceeded being a simple genre film and became something more important. You have to realize that this was made in 1970 and things in the cinematic landscape were changing. Filmmakers were free to break rules and go as far they preferred to go. This allowed Durston to up the ante in the fresh new world of gory effects and shock value. At the same time, a good old fashioned monster/paranoia movie from the 1950's is evident within the film's storyline. Even the mannerisms and skill of some of the actors is a throwback to the old days. So if you combine this with hippies, satan, sex and drugs, how can you go wrong?

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Caligula (1979)

Arguably one of the costliest and most well-known exploitation pictures, Penthouse's epic retelling of the life of Rome's most notorious emperor is also one of Grindhouse cinemas most garish; boldly displaying its violent and sexual flights of fancy under the guise of literate historical drama. Yet, this condescension to "high art" is actually the film's strongest suit; playing up the lurid elements of Roman society brings a train-wreck quality to the proceedings. Although you're ashamed to stare at its perverted sex and demented violence, you just can't pull yourself away. And boy is there a lot to stare at. Disembowelment, fellatio, decapitation, intercourse, castration, child birth, urination and fisting are just a portion of the many splendored things displayed on screen, often to the point where it seems like a plot is sparing for screen time with obscenity. This transgression to "respectable cinema" was the biggest issue the critical mass had upon the film's 1979 release, most of whom saw it as little more than a big-budgeted geek show parading as entertainment. Yet, they seemed to miss the point. Caligula is a paean of gratitude and admiration to an ancient pervert from a contemporary one; a sort of spectacle dedicated to the unfettered libido and blood lust of a man who may have involuntarily inspired some of our modern sexual landscape.

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The Intruder (1962)

The Intruder is a 1962 American film directed by Roger Corman, after a 1959 novel by Charles Beaumont, starring William Shatner. The story depicts the machinations of a racist named Adam Cramer (portrayed by Shatner), who arrives in the fictitious small southern town of Caxton in order to incite townspeople to racial violence against the town's black minority and court-ordered school integration. The film is also known under its US reissue titles as I Hate Your Guts! and Shame, and The Stranger in the UK release. The novel was published in 1958 and film rights were optioned by Seven Arts. They were unable to get the project off the ground and Corman bought the rights in 1960. He tried to get the film made with producer Edward Small for United Artists but Small pulled out. Corman managed to raise some funds from Pathé Labs with Corman and his brother Gene putting in the balance. (Wikipedia)

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The Baby (1973)

Ann Gentry is a social worker who takes a personal interest in the case of ‘Baby’ Wadsworth, an adult man with the apparent mental age and physical capabilities of an infant. Baby lives with his mother and 2 sisters, Germaine & Alba, who dress him in baby clothes, spoon-feed him, scold him and do everything they can to maintain his infancy. Mrs Wadsworth is a domineering matriarch whose children were all fathered by different men who subsequently disappeared. The ‘sisters’ are a freaky pair too; Alba takes great pleasure in disciplining Baby with an electric cattle prod and brunette Germaine thinks nothing of stripping off and crawling into the crib beside the boy for some late-night brotherly loving. David Manzy (aka David Mooney) too deserves special praise for his performance as the title toddler as he’s never less than 100% committed to the role. His ill co-ordinated mannerisms and facial contortions, although often hilarious, are completely convincing and the eye-rolling look of infantile pleasure that crosses his face when the babysitter is changing his diaper and powdering his ass is one of the film’s most amusing (and yucky) moments. Creepy, sleazy, unpredictable and just plain wrong ‘The Baby’ is an absolute must-see for all grindhouse movie lovers however those viewers not entertained by the psychological, physical and sexual abuse of the mentally disabled might wanna take the night off.

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Open Season (1974)

Ken, Gregg and Artie are old army buddies and fun loving family men, all with pretty wives and cute kids, who take an annual boys only trip out to a cabin they’ve built in the wilderness for a long weekend of boozing and shooting. Trouble is the 3 pals are not content with popping buck shot at a few ducks and squirrels. On a remote country road the 3 men force a car to stop and soon eloping lovers Nancy and Martin find themselves involuntary ‘guests’ of the hunting party. As the film’s pre-credits prologue has already warned us these 3 respectable all American husbands are capable of rape with no fear of reprisal and in the remote reaches of the forest no-one’s around to hear the screams of their prey. Symbolically chaining Nancy to the kitchen sink the 3 chauvinist charmers act as if it’s all just a big joke to hold the terrified couple hostage. ‘Open Season’ is a superbly tense and twisted thriller that rises above its admittedly derivative denouement by virtue of some superb performances and the confident direction Peter Collinson. ‘The Most Dangerous Game’, Deliverance and ‘Straw Dogs’ are the film’s most obvious points of reference. The film practically oozes menace and in his manipulation of audience anxiety over the inevitable violence to come director Peter Collinson shows himself to be as much a master of building tension as was Peckinpah.

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I Spit On Your Grave (1978)

Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) is a writer and needs some peace and quiet so she can work on her new novel. Jennifer is a beautiful, sophisticated woman. As she makes her way out of the city, we can see she's headed for Connecticut. When she arrives in the town she's staying at, she stops at a gas station to stretch her legs and fill the gas tank. The attendant Johnny (Eron Tabor) is polite and tells her to enjoy her summer and she leaves. Meanwhile, him and his pals Stan (Anthony Nichols), Andy (Gunter Kleeman) and Matthew are on the lake fishing. While they fish they begin talking about Jennifer and how sexy she is. They also talk about how Matthew needs to get laid and that they are going to help him out by visiting Jennifer. Soon the group decide to attack Jennifer and chase her through the woods like wild animals. This leads to not one but two brutal rape sequences. When Jennifer finally recuperates from this physical and psychological violence she decides to take bloody revenge on Johnny and his pals. NOTE: We highly recommend watching this film with the DVD commentary track by Joe Bob Briggs. He explains very clearly the misinterpretations many people and critics have had regarding the movie's controversial content.

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The Toolbox Murders (1978)

A man dressed in black drives through Los Angeles, and flashes back to a girl dying in a car accident. The man arrives at an apartment complex, and kills a female tenant (who recognizes him) with a drill. Afterward, the man dons a ski mask, and murders two other women, the first with a hammer, and the second with a screwdriver. The police are called, and they interview the people who found the bodies, as well as Vance Kingsley (Cameron Mitchell), the owner of the building. The next night, the killer strikes again, breaking into the apartment of a woman who is masturbating in her bathtub, and shoots her in the stomach and head with a nail gun. The murderer then abducts Laurie Ballard (Pamelyn Ferdin), a fifteen-year-old who lives in the above apartment with her family. Laurie's brother Joey (Nicholas Beauvy) is questioned by Detective Jamison (Tim Donnelly), and frustrated by the detective's seemingly lax attitude towards Laurie's disappearance, decides to search for his sister on his own. While looking through the homes of the murdered women, Joey meets up with Kent (Wesley Eure), Vance's nephew, who has been hired to clean up the apartments of the deceased tenants. While Joey is helping Kent, Kathy Kingsley, Kent's cousin and Vance's daughter, is brought up, with Kent mentioning that Vance has not been the same since Kathy died in a car accident...(Wikipedia)

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Tenement (1985)

After a fairly warm introduction thanks to a Sugarhill Gang-esque title song which opens and closes the movie, we're thrust into the lair of a den of violent, drug abusers who are gettin' their high on in the basement of a tenement in the South Bronx. Almost unbeknownest to these sickos, two cop squad cars are closing in on their location. The tenent's super, Rojas (Larry Lara) gleefully leads the cops to the front door of this drugged-out gang. And as soon as this mob-slime is thrust into the backseats of the police cars, you can see the smiles of the local tenants in the higher floors open with joy. It comes as no surprise that a planned celebration will take place in one of the tenent's respected rooms. But as the party is going on, one of the residents doesn't feel sure that things will be alright, but she's quietly silenced. Sure enough, the gang is out on the streets faster than you can see "Get-out-of-jail-free card." Yet, surprisingly, the gang decides to get their drug-induced enjoyments elsewhere, but (perhaps absorbing a bit too much) the gang's leader, Chaco (Enrique Sandino), who was earlier acting like a mute, wooden Indian-type, suddenly yells out the dream that he's been having. "My dream...is filled of blood." And with that simple conviction, the gang is off to put on one of the worse terror sprees in Grindhouse-cinema history.

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Salo, 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

Set in Nazi-occupied Italy of the 1940’s, Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, takes the Marquis de Sade’s classic work of sadistic sleaze and updates it to WWII Europe, hoping to mirror the excesses of the Marquis to the sexual escapades of a sick band of wealthy nihilists. For the most part, it works, paralleling brutal images of rape, coprophagia and torture to the oppression caused by a fascist society. Opening with black and white title cards and one-of-a-kind bibliographic citations, Salo initially seems like a stuffy, pensive Euro-art flick. However, this feeling fades fast, as it turns into an endless barrage of sexual perversion and squirm-inducing torture within its first twenty minutes. The story basically revolves around four “libertines” (a duke, bishop, magistrate, and president) who’ve realized that their time as social and political leaders in Italy is coming to a close. As a last hurrah, they've devised a plan to kidnap local teens, integrate them into their masquerade of perversion, and brutally murder them for pleasure. Even if this flick lacks the campy attitude and leisurely pacing of its Nazisploitation brethren, its naturalistic acting and brave social stance are thought-provoking and shamelessly transgressive. This is the only film, in my knowledge, to truly look at the brutality and dehumanization of the Nazi regime with an unwavering eye.

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10 to Midnight (1983)

Directed by Peter Lee-Thompson (his fourth collaboration with Charles Bronson), 10 to Midnight stands out as a gem of Reagan-era sleaze. From the dialogue to the ample amount of nudity and violence, the film attempts to salvage a conservative viewpoint by ending with a succinct pro-death penalty message. Shot between Bronson's Death Wish 2 and Death Wish 3, a cursory view of Bronson's Kessler character would display many facets of Death Wish's Paul Kersey's persona however on closer view, Bronson does show at least some range. Where Death Wish's Kersey is continually satiating his vengeance for his family being murdered, Kessler is somewhat more jaded. Gene Davis' Warren Stacy provides one of the most perverted, violent characters to be portrayed onscreen in the early 1980s (from an "average person" standpoint not counting Jason Voorhees, Micheal Meyers, et al). Perhaps only parallelled by Joe Spinell's Frank Zito in Maniac (1980). While the viewer is shown that Warren Stacy is obviously troubled from early in the film, his genius in providing himself with alibis combined with his obsession to strip nude for each of his kills gives the character an edge that was unexplored prior to 10 to Midnight. Additionally, while most of the supporting characters find Stacy to be "creepy," his good looks help him to blend in well and add a certain level of suspense to his behavior, which is compounded by the character's wide swings in mental state throughout the film.

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Fight For Your Life (1977)

This film is known to cult film buffs as a shock classic of the 70s Grindhouse era. It shares the same kind of infamy as films like I Spit On Your Grave and The Last House On The Left. It was a regional independent Exploitation film made in New York and released under a variety of different titles (a common practice of the distribution business in the grindhouse days) including: Bloodbath at 1313 Fury Road, Stayin Alive and I Hate Your Guts. It helped bring in audiences who were attracted by the enticing promotional campaigns. The story follows a trio of escaped multi-racial convicts led by the super redneck bigot Jessie Lee Kane (Blade Runner's William Sanderson) who steal a car from a pimp and drive to upstate New York where they hold up a liquor store. While there, a local girl named Corrie Turner (Yvonne Ross) gets caught in the crossfire and the convicts kidnap her and they go back to her house to hideout. When they arrive at the Turner home, they find her family is there including her mother (Catherine Peppers), handicapped grandmother (Lela Small) and her younger brother Floyd (Reggie Blythewood). When her father Ted (Robert Judd) arrives home, the craziness begins. Fight For Your Life is a highly charged, extremely offensive Exploitation film.

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Goodbye Uncle Tom (1971)

If one film ever literally showed what hell on earth would look/feel like, Jacopetti & Prosperi's super mondo extravaganza Goodbye Uncle Tom would be that film. The movie is an extreme shockumentary about slavery in the 1800s, shot with a feverishly perverse eye. It could be seen as a cinematic Dante's Inferno as it moves from one stage of slavery to another, from the actual transport ships to showing the house slaves that the owners basically raped and had children with. When the slaves are first captured and thrown onto the ships, the white traders talk about them as if they are cattle. An incredibly stomach churning film scene if there ever was one. After the slaves are brought to America they are put through some very harsh, inhumane delousing treatments. They are washed and bathed in disinfectant to get rid of any lice on their bodies, then they are shaven clean. As much as the movie is sickening and shocking, the fact it was made in such an outrageous, unflinching way is impressive. The cinematography is gorgeous and the set pieces are very well done, even though many of them are so base and horrid. The score by Riz Ortolani, is much like his work in Cannibal Holocaust, a beautifully lush, majestic overture that counteracts and somehow manages to add an odd tongue in cheek aspect to the depraved atrocities that are shown throughout the film.

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The Rape Squad (1974)

If youve seen Jack Hill's classic blaxploitation film Foxy Brown, you'll recognize some of the names associated with this films production (Buzz Feitshans, Brick Marquard). Another Foxy Brown alum, Peter Brown plays the main villain, a flamboyant rapist who wears a hockey mask (pre-Jason) and forces his victims to sing Jingle Bells as hes having sex with them. We see two graphic rapes to witness how he operates (the first one almost looks like a sequence out of Friday The 13th). We then meet several other women who have all been the victims of this same sicko. When the police give some of the victims a hard time (accusing several of "asking for it") and dont come through in arresting the rapist (who is given the nickname "Jingle Bells"), the women decide to start their own vigilante group and begin handing out flyers and fighting back against all men who prey on women. The movie mixes a girl gang theme (seen in Jack Hill's cult classic Switchblade Sisters) with the rape-revenge storyline. Peter Brown's portrayal of the rapist is one of the boldest of its kind Ive seen in exploitation cinema. He not only rapes the women, he records what hes thinking about doing, he spies on and takes nude pictures of them, breaks into their apartments. The girls use karate and they love to smash up cars and/or furniture when they are in rape squad mode. This one almost seemed like a Jack Hill film that he didnt direct. Classic AIP exploitation. Recommended!!

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