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House of Wax: THE HTF 3D ADDICT REVIEW

Warner 3D Blu-ray

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#1 of 89 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 29 2013 - 07:30 AM

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What can I say?  I love 3D!  From the moment I began watching 3D content in my home I quickly discovered that I needed more content.  I suspect that those of you just purchasing your first 3D hardware will acquire the same ferocious appetite.  That's why I became the HTF 3D ADDICT.  I personally love images that pop off the screen and come inches away from your face without becoming overly gimmicky.  However, I certainly appreciate the nature documentaries that offer beautiful depth and separation.  These are not necessarily reviews of the film themselves.  I am not going to concentrate on story or supplements -- you can find the 2D reviews elsewhere on this forum.  My job is to let you know exactly what kind of 3D experience to expect from the titles that are being released.   As I will be receiving a handful of new product from the studios expect to see more title coverage.

 

 

 

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House Of Wax

 

Studio: Warner Bros.

Product Release: October 1, 2013

Ratio: 1.37:1

Audio: DTS-HD Master English 2.0
Running Time: 88 minutes

Rating: GP

 

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On A Scale 0-5

 

Overall 3D Presentation Rating: 5

3D Separation: 5

3D In Yo' Face Factor: 3

 

 

There are a wealth of reasons to celebrate the film House of Wax both past and

present.  First and foremost, House of Wax is the most successful classic 3D feature

ever made.  It was a huge gamble for Jack Warner and his studio to make in 1952, but

done so made as a means to lure audiences back into theaters and away from the

emerging technology of television. When released in 1953, House of Wax set many

milestones.  To begin with, it was the first 3D feature made in color.  The film also

introduced a new 4-channel stereo sound process called WarnerPhonic. Finally, the

overall success of the film was greatly responsible for launching the career of the film's

star, Vincent Price, a stage actor who, at the time, was sort of a Hollywood heartthrob

who played secondary parts in many screen classics.

 

Many of the above points I will talk about in more depth as I continue through this review.

 

All you need to know right now is that Warner's release of House of Wax on 3D

Blu-ray is a defining moment for this format. With waning interest in 3D home

technology, and the lackluster manner in which Hollywood Directors have actually

used the process --- it's rather odd that the only way today to really savor this format

is to revisit the films that most embraced it.

 

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House of Wax is a remake of the 1933 film, Mystery of the Wax Museum (which is

included as a bonus feature in this Blu-ray release).  The story centers around a

curator and sculptor (Vincent Price) who is driven to insanity and takes revenge after

his unscrupulous partner (Roy Roberts) burns their unprofitable wax museum to the

ground. 

 

To watch this film, newly incarnated on Blu-ray for its 60th Anniversary release, is

quite an amazing experience. The restoration was handed over to the miracle workers

at Waner's Motion Picture Imaging Facility where a new 4K scan of the film was done

using all 3 strips of its technicolor elements.  I urge everyone reading this review who

may be interested in learning more about the film's restoration efforts, to read Bob

Furmanek's insightful interview with Ned Price, VP of Mastering at Warner Bros. studio. 

This really is an important read when considering how much damage was done to the

film's original elements and how amazingly beautiful this new restoration looks now.

 

post-269895-0-05634200-1380467603.jpg

 

This absolutely pristine transfer sports am amazing amount of detail that allows the

striking colors of the WarnerColor transfer to really shine.  Black levels are astonishingly

deep at times (black cloak, derby hats, Vincent Price's suit) and there is a nice, subtle

layer of film grain that sometimes takes on a life of its own when viewed in 3D.  Though

this is the first time I have ever viewed this film on any medium, I am rather confident 

that those who really know its past video releases better than I, are going to be amazed

with Warner's efforts here.

 

By leaps and bounds, this is the among the best 3D classic film presentations I have ever

witnessed. House of Wax was lensed with 2 cameras pointed at mirrors that would be

adjusted to change the level of depth intensity.  The exaggerated use of depth is deeply

evident here, and it greatly enhances the storytelling, immersing viewers into the film in

ways that today's technology has forgotten.  From the opening moments of the film, one

notices the massive amount of space that is given between foreground and background images.

A lamp post stands starkly forward as you feel the openness of the rainy street backdrop

behind it. As the camera pulls back from the museum window, there is a bit of amazement

as you see the layers of separation when curtains suddenly come into view.  A pan around the

museum floor shows a stunning amount of spaciousness between the wax figure displays

and the background fixtures. Watch the wax figure of Marie Antoinette as her hand protrudes

outward.  

 

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The thing that I have always loved about classic 3D features is that that the filmmakers

most always used gimmickry to exploit the format.  While out-of screen "pop-out" effects were

used rather sparingIy here, there are some great moments within this movie that are nicely

enhanced by the 3D process:

 

* In the basement of the museum, check out the giant wax machine as its spraying elements

position themselves directly outside the viewing screen, right.

 

* Following the film's intermission, watch a performer swing paddle balls forward.  The

outward effect is somewhat limited, but it's even more astonishing to watch how the

added level of depth shows how close the those balls come to the faces of the patrons

within the film.

 

* A sequence involving dancing can can girls with their feet kicking forward is quite

interesting to watch, but unfortunately, never seem to actually permeate the screen.

 

* In the same scene, watch the forward placement of the ribbon in Sue's hat.

 

You'll also be fascinated by the use of fog and and smoke that move eerily across

the screen.

 

Now with all the acclaim I have given this Blu-ray transfer and 3D presentation, I am

very sad to report that some of you are going to enjoy a less-than-perfect viewing...

 

Those of you with active 3D eyewear are most likely going to experience high levels

of ghosting.  You will see quite a bit of it in background fixtures (such as wall beams)

or tracing the facial outlines of the actors.  I am not surprised at the level of ghosting

that I had experienced.  It was the same problem that plagued Warner's Blu-ray release

of Dial M For Murder.  Thing is, some will the ghosting, some will not.  Past experience

dictates that those wearing passive eyewear will not see it at all.  

 

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House of Wax, presented in DTS-HD stereo, sounds clear and crisp with just a hint of

background hiss. I was rather taken by surprise during my viewing when the rear speakers

suddenly came into play.  It was my first experience of WarnerPhonic, which back in 1953

was a new 4-channel process that was introduced to theaters.  Seems as if that process

has been beautifully preserved in this presentation, enhancing the overall immersion,

as rear channels open up to reveal explosions, screams, crackling fire and even the

crash of a thrown chair.   

 

House of Wax arrives as a single Blu-ray with both 3D and 2D versions, housed in a

lenticular cardboard sleeve.  Warner has not skimped on the extras here.  They have

included the 1933 feature, Mystery of the Wax Museum.  Additionally, there is film 

commentary by film historians David Del Valle and Constantine Nasr.  You'll also find

an original film trailer and newsreel.  

 

The most important watch on this disc is the all-new 46 minute retrospective, House of

Wax: Unlike Anything You've Seen Before!   It's an incredible, deeply involved look

at just about every aspect of the film, its stars, director, make-up, 3D photography and

publicity. You can't get much better with a documentary like this when the stories are

told using archived clips of star Vincent Price and Director Andrè De Toth as well as

filmmaker Martin Scorsese and bake-up artist Rick Baker.  One of the most interesting

things I learned through this documentary was that director Andrè De Toth was blind in

one eye, which doesn't quite fit the mold of someone you would think would be Jack

Warner's first choice in making a 3D film that was very risky for his studio at that time.  

 

 

 

CONCLUSION

 

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Fans who have made House of Wax the most requested 3D classic release to date

should  be very excited about what they are about to receive.  This is one of the most

impressive restoration efforts I have seen from Warner's Motion Picture Imaging facility.

Watching this immaculate transfer with its enhanced level of 3D separation made me

feel as excited today as audiences must have felt when first seeing it in 1953.

 

I am a little worried about the ghosting issues that I am presuming many active shutter

users will experience, but that aside, this Blu-ray rises to top of the list when considering

classic 3D titles whose presentation exceeds most of the safe Hollywood fare that has

been made over the last decade. 

 

By the way, I could not end this review without mentioning Bob Furmanek and Greg

Kintz who have compiled fascinating information about House of Wax and other films

from the golden age of 3D.  Do yourself a favor and read their In-Depth look at House

of Wax.

 

 

Images are for illustrative purpose only not representative of the picture quality of this disc. 

 

Equipment

 

LG 60PX950 THX Certified 3D display
Oppo BDP-93 3D Blu-ray Player

Denon 3311CI Receiver

Atlantic Technology H-PAS AT-1 fronts, 4400 center; 4200 rear speakers

SV Sound Subwoofer


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#2 of 89 OFFLINE   Bob Furmanek

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Posted September 29 2013 - 08:00 AM

Thanks for the great review Ron and I appreciate the mention of our article.

 

A few minor points: HOUSE OF WAX was 100% WarnerColor. The Technicolor process was not used at all on this film.

 

Filming began on January 19, 1953 and the first 3-D feature in color was BWANA DEVIL which premiered on November 26, 1952.


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#3 of 89 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 29 2013 - 08:03 AM

Robert,

 

Well deserved mention.  All of us value your participation here.

 

Had no idea it was WarnerColor, obviously.  I will make the corrections

in the review.  Thank you.  


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#4 of 89 OFFLINE   Bob Furmanek

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Posted September 29 2013 - 08:23 AM

You're very kind, thank you!


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#5 of 89 OFFLINE   Dick

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Posted September 29 2013 - 08:54 AM

I will be glad to have this, except.... well, I spent (for me) a fortune on my active plasma system, and it kind of pisses me off that we get screwed on DIAL M (which is bothersome to watch on my set) and now this film when it comes to ghosting. Might Warner Bros have produced an alternate version that would function better for the many of us who own active plasma (for its superior black levels, contrast, etc.)? I can't help but think that, had a 3-D format war whittled down the choices to one (as with Blu-ray vs. HD), we would not be having these issues.

 

I can't afford to have two complete 3-D systems.


Edited by Dick, September 29 2013 - 08:57 AM.


#6 of 89 OFFLINE   Johnny Angell

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Posted September 29 2013 - 10:15 AM

On my Samsung ES7100 and my Oppo 93, I did not experience any ghosting on DMfM, at least none that I noticed.  I'm hopeful my experience will be the same for HoW.


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#7 of 89 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted September 29 2013 - 12:11 PM

I'm expecting no ghosting on my DLP display. Glad you enjoyed the 3d.

My favorite 3d effect is when Charles Bronson runs into the scene from behind the camera. Very startling on the big screen.

#8 of 89 OFFLINE   GregK

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Posted September 29 2013 - 01:18 PM

Ron,
 
It is VERY welcomed to see a well respected reviewer note "ghosting" depends on a given 3-D display and is not an issue with the disc. I wish more would do the same, as Warner Brothers has invested a great deal of money and time to present this iconic 3-D feature properly. 
 
To elaborate a bit more on "active display displays & ghosting":  In general, LCD and LED active based 3-D displays have more ghosting. DLP is also an active display technology, but in this case actually exceeds theatrical left/right cancellation levels, which is why it is often referred to as being essentially 100% ghost free. There are also certain active display LCD projectors, notably from Panasonic AE projection line which have been optimized for minimal ghosting.

Edited by GregK, September 29 2013 - 01:42 PM.

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#9 of 89 OFFLINE   GregK

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Posted September 29 2013 - 01:19 PM

I will be glad to have this, except.... well, I spent (for me) a fortune on my active plasma system, and it kind of pisses me off that we get screwed on DIAL M (which is bothersome to watch on my set) and now this film when it comes to ghosting. Might Warner Bros have produced an alternate version that would function better for the many of us who own active plasma (for its superior black levels, contrast, etc.)? I can't help but think that, had a 3-D format war whittled down the choices to one (as with Blu-ray vs. HD), we would not be having these issues.

 

I can't afford to have two complete 3-D systems.

 

While I feel Warner Brothers handled this title (and DIAL M) properly, I can still understand your frustration. 
 
It is a shame there are display manufacturers which do not ensure left/right 3-D cancellation specs at least equal what is being shown in theaters.

Edited by GregK, September 29 2013 - 01:33 PM.

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#10 of 89 OFFLINE   Bob Furmanek

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Posted September 29 2013 - 02:14 PM

Good points, Greg. There's also the issue of vintage 3-D features being shot with a wider (and more natural) parallax, giving you more depth as Ron pointed out.

 

The newer films may have minimal ghosting/crosstalk on certain displays, but they also tend to be extremely conservative in their dimensionality.


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#11 of 89 OFFLINE   Jesse Skeen

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Posted September 29 2013 - 07:06 PM

The separation on my Sharp isn't perfect, but I'm hoping they'll improve that by the time I upgrade to a bigger screen. In the meantime I'm continuing to buy 3D discs just to show that demand for them exists- the editor of Home Media Magazine recently called 3D "a colossal failure", but seems there are plenty of people out there who love it!

 

I checked out several 3D TVs before deciding on the Sharp, and noticed the loss of resolution on all the passive displays I looked at- I felt like I was going back to my old CRT! While it's certainly more convenient using non-electronic glasses, but the picture quality was just unacceptable- I could have pictured myself re-watching movies in 2D if I had one of those displays just to see the details I'd missed!


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#12 of 89 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 29 2013 - 09:32 PM

When Dial M For Murder was released there was a great deal of 

people across the Internet complaining about ghosting.

 

You'll find quite a few of those complaints on this forum.

 

I expect the same people to have issues with House of Wax.

 

The ghosting can be rather bothersome -- particularly in closeup

shots of the cloaked villain.  There's a particular moment in the 

morgue where a figure in a sheet arises from a gurney.  You can

plainly see the double imaging in the shot.

 

I don't blame Warner Bros. for the problem.  I believe that Bob

Furmanek had explained that it was the way these films were

originally lensed and the abilities for certain displays to be able

to properly exhibit them.

 

It will be interesting, over the next week or two, to see how many

people see the problem and how many do not. 

 

 

the editor of Home Media Magazine recently called 3D "a colossal

failure", but seems there are plenty of people out there who love it!

 

 

 

I was at an electronics trade show this past week and many display

and projector manufacturers expressed some sort of dismay over 3D

despite the fact that every model they continue to make (including 4K)

supports the format.

 

If 3D has indeed become a colossal failure nobody is to blame but

Hollywood.  They are making awful 3D films.  House of Wax will be

a complete revelation to home audiences as it will plainly remind them

what is missing from the 3D releases of today.  Creature From The 
Black Lagoon
is another shining example of how much better 3D was

compared to today.  

 

Current 3D films offer no WOW factor whatsoever.  There is no advantage

to paying more to see something new in 3D when it offers little depth and

pop-out.  And, let's face it, Hollywood just doesn't make good films anymore.

It's a real shame that one of the recently better 3D releases, Oz The Great 
And Powerful
, was one of the shittiest films ever made. 

 

...and with the upcoming glasses-free display technology I have already

seen, I am afraid that 3D is going to be further bastardized.

 

Let's face it.  Today, if you want to see really good 3D you need to look

to some of the IMAX releases available rather than most feature films.

 

I have had more fun watching some of the classic Hollywood 3D gems

in Bob and Greg's private library than most of the stuff that has been

released today.  


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#13 of 89 OFFLINE   Persianimmortal

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Posted September 30 2013 - 12:48 AM

I have to agree with your assessment of the state of 3D. To start with, it's been very poorly marketed by studios and hardware manufacturers - as the "next big thing", rather than a nice additional feature. This overhyping has caused a significant backlash from most people, who now dismiss 3D as a gimmick. This dismissive opinion is reinforced by what you rightly call a lack of a WOW factor. I'm all for tasteful use of 3D, but it's become so restrained in its usage that in most cases it just boils down having to wear glasses, or pay more at the theater, for a bit of extra depth to the image.

 

The most exciting use of 3D I've seen so far remains the brief "Potato Cod" scene in the IMAX: Under the Sea 3D disc, as you also noted in your review a while back. That was the moment I personally became aware of the potential for 3D to actually transform the visual experience into something special.

 

Movies like Avatar and Creature from the Black Lagoon also demonstrate good use of 3D (and hopefully House of Wax will similarly please me in 3D when I get it soon). But frankly, it may be a case of too little, too late. Let's hope House of Wax sells well enough that studios open up their vaults and let the classic 3D flow on Blu.

 

Oh, and I'm surprised by your statement that "Hollywood just doesn't make good films anymore." Perhaps you're not aware that Transformers 4: The Age of Extinction is currently being made? Just kidding. I'm in complete agreement, I'm just surprised you came out and said it so bluntly! :)



#14 of 89 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted September 30 2013 - 04:32 AM

I just watched Dredd yesterday in 3D (shot in native 3D). While I found the film an entertaining if rather simplistic thrill ride, the 3D was a disappointment. With all of the slow motion and special effects shoot outs, there was enormous potential for forward projection, and yet there was hardly any. Depth was great, and there were interesting 3D compositions, but I think most people who love 3D really want an imaginative use of projection especially in an action movie with lots of potential to be wowed. Frankly, when the best and most creative use of 3D you get today is in some of Dreamworks' animation films (Megamind, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda), the industry should hang its head in shame for wasting such golden opportunities.



#15 of 89 OFFLINE   Dick

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Posted September 30 2013 - 06:48 AM

It may be true that Warner Bros. made this the best 3-D disc possible, but then I have to ask: why does THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, another classic from that same era, look resplendent on my t.v., with almost no ghosting, but the Warner releases are riddled with it? Has this something to do with differences in the original camera and projection process? I'm lost here.


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#16 of 89 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 30 2013 - 07:08 AM

By leaps and bounds, this is the best 3D classic film presentation I have ever witnessed.

 

I need to make a correction to this statement.

 

By leaps and bounds, this is among the best 3D classic film presentations I have ever witnessed.

 

(I have updated that statement in the above review)

 

In all fairness, as great as this presentation is, there are other as equally impressive

3D titles.  Creature From The Black Lagoon, for instance, is just as fun and I think

the 3D on that title is a bit more immersive.

 

Reading my review over for a third and fourth time, I wanted to be careful about

saying that House of Wax was the absolute best presentation I have seen.  Better

to rank it with other equally fantastic 3D releases.


 

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#17 of 89 OFFLINE   Johnny Angell

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Posted September 30 2013 - 08:28 AM

Perhaps you had recently watched a modern 3D release which made HoW seem so much better?  Knowing that HoW gives the Creature a run for its money makes me happy.

 

I wonder just how many HTF blu-ray players are going to be humming with this disc on Tuesday night?  Mine, for certain.  Tuesday is a big day though.  I've HoW, Mermaid, and WoO all arriving on the same day.  Since I saw WoO in 3D iMax last week, I'll let it sit for a while.  First up will be HoW.  Later in the week will be Mermaid.


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#18 of 89 OFFLINE   Jesse Skeen

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Posted September 30 2013 - 12:54 PM

I've seen a few good 3D conversions (including Top Gun) but they're really a waste of time as long as movies that were actually shot in 3D remain unreleased. I think however the crop of current 3D movies are certainly better MOVIES than many of the older films- sure House of Wax and Dial M For Murder were good, but there was also Z-grade stuff like Robot Monster, Cat Women of the Moon, and most of the 80s movies like Spacehunter were pretty awful as well. Compare Avatar to any of those and there's really no comparison. Of course the story I tell everyone is that Return of the Jedi and Spacehunter were in theaters around the same time, and I saw Spacehunter first because it was in 3D and Jedi wasn't!

 

Some people are saying the discontinuing of ESPN's 3D channel is a cause for declaring home 3D "dead", but I've heard regardless of the level of interest in 3D that channel didn't have a lot of great content- they mainly repeated a lot of stuff, like one football game, over and over. I don't like sports but I would've watched some in 3D, I refuse to have cable for many reasons however and certainly wouldn't get it for sports. 3D may not turn out to be "the next big thing", but like surround sound there's going to be people who love it and some who don't even notice it.


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#19 of 89 OFFLINE   Jesse Skeen

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Posted September 30 2013 - 01:22 PM

And it goes without saying that it's ridiculous how theaters have been charging EXTRA for 3D movies- they never charged extra for them in the 50s or 80s. I would have gone to EVERY 3D movie had they not been charging extra, although just regular theater prices are already much too high, but because of the extra charge I've only been to a few. Buying 3D Blu-Rays is a much better value.


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#20 of 89 OFFLINE   Bob Furmanek

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Posted September 30 2013 - 01:29 PM

Regarding the overall quality of Golden Age 3-D movies, please see Myths 4 and 6:

 

http://www.3dfilmarc...op-10-3-d-myths


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