Down Three Dark Streets (1954) Poster

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Look familiar?
dadier5525 August 2007
DOWN THREE DARK STREETS, with its trio of cases for the FBI to solve, was the template eight years later for EXPERIMENT IN TERROR, reduced down to just the extortion plot. Broderick Crawford is "Agent John Ripley" in the first, Glenn Ford is named the same character in the second. STREETS uses the semi-documentary approach (heavy-handed voice-over narration) and is more of a whodunit, while EXPERIMENT is a real suspense-filled thriller with the villain identified much earlier. But even then, it is much more chilling. Ruth Roman is the fear-filled victim in the original, Lee Remick plays the spunky lady being extorted in the semi-remake. Good Los Angeles locales, especially the "Hollywood" sign usage in the first. But great San Francisco scenes in TERROR, particularly the Candlestick Park shootout following a Giants-Dodgers game. Both are recommended, with STREETS a competent mystery and EXPERIMENT a classic at the end of the Noir cycle.
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F.B.I. melodrama stars Broderick Crawford as agent...
Neil Doyle25 August 2007
Based on a novel by The Gordons called "Case File: F.B.I.", this is a semi-documentary style crime drama from Columbia starring BRODERICK CRAWFORD as a diligent F.B.I. agent John Ripley assigned to crack a few unsolved cases when a fellow agent on the job is killed in the line of duty.

RUTH ROMAN, MARISA PAVAN and MARTHA HYER are the three women connected to the cases, all of whom give good performances but Pavan is particularly touching as a blind woman.

The documentary style is nicely handled and there's a twist at the end that came as a real surprise to me.

Not great, but an interesting example of satisfactory film noir.
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Nicely Done; Would Like To See A DVD Of It
ccthemovieman-128 April 2009
I enjoyed this early 1950s crime/drama and appreciate the nice job TCM did in restoring the print. The transfer looked outstanding; sharp with excellent contrast. The movie features some fine photography and lighting.

This was one of those semi-documentaries popular among crime stories in the late '40s/early '50s. It usually plugged one of the U.S. law enforcement agencies. Here, it was the FBI and we followed a couple of agents as they tried to tie in several cases in the Los Angeles area. Sometimes these movies were labeled "crime dramas" and sometimes "film noirs." This movie contains a lot of both elements.

Along the way, we see a lot of familiar faces, especially if you grew up watching a lot of television in the '50s and '60s. You may not know all the names, but you'll know the faces.

Names you probably know, however, are Broderick Crawford, Ruth Roman and Martha Hyer. There are three of the half-dozen or so actor who all play a significant part of this story.

Crawford is an FBI agent and lower-key one than you might expect. He's not the gruff lawman of "Highway Patrol" or the loudmouth politician of "All The King's Men." Here, he's gentle with people all the while being an effective FBI guy.

Ruth Roman, as "Kate Martel." plays one of several key female roles, as either crime victim or gangster-girlfriend. Ruth plays a role similar to one Lee Remick played in about 10 years later in a film called "Experiment In Terror." Marilyn Monroe-wannabe Martha Hyer is a hoot as a sexy blonde playing a thug's girlfriend, or should I say "moll." She has some great lines, calling the cops "you dirty crumbs" and the like. Her character is pure film noir.

Marisa Pavan is interesting as the blind "Julie Angelino" and so is a young Claude Akins as a boxer-criminal. Jay Adler, Kenneth Tobey and others all have those familiar TV faces.

Movie buffs will get a kick out of the climactic scene, which takes place at the foot of the "Hollywood" sign on top of a hill. That nostalgia, along with the very cool automobiles of the period, make this a good trip down "memory lane."

Unfortunately, this is one of those classic movies that never made it to VHS or DVD. Hopefully, someone will put it in a DVD classics box-set some day. It's a good film and deserves a DVD of its own.
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Wonderfully complex and dramatic, if not quite perfectly formed
secondtake6 July 2011
Down Three Dark Streets (1954)

An FBI man has been killed, and the suspects are related to the three cases the agent was working one when he died. So all three cases become priorities, thinking that by solving them all, the cop killer will come to light.

The title of the movie is a cue that this is in some ways a three part movie, with three basically distinct, if intertwined plots. But what holds it together is a single character, an FBI agent played by Broderick Crawford. And it's Crawford who holds it together beautifully. He plays his part with cool, somber, and weary reserve (and if you know Crawford in his more famous roles, such as "All the King's Men" or even more in "Born Yesterday").

Each of the three stories is layered up as you go, which makes it interestingly complex, and in each there is one leading woman connected to a suspect. Ruth Roman is the most powerful of these three, though the other two are bit weak. Luckily, the weakest of these, Ruth Hyer, loses relevance so that Roman and Marisa Pavan (playing a blind woman fairly well) carry their shares. And in a way you never quite notice the uneven acting because the events tumble one after another, through lots of changes of location, and from one plot to the next. It's filmed with economy but good drama. And the story, which might lose some viewers because of its complexity, also has the beauty of not being obvious, with lots of good dialog.

Why isn't it quite a classic? There's something awkward about the many parts that have to be connected, and an occasional odd aspect, like the unlikely ruse of a blanket carried as Roman's child into her car (it looks very much like a blanket). Still, there is a lot of suspense throughout, dark alleys, drives at night, phones that ring and aren't answered, all along waiting for something and not knowing what. An intense example is when Roman takes a senselessness lonely walk in a cemetery and a car pulls up.

"I'm waiting for a friend." "Maybe I'm that friend you're waiting for."

This is good movie-making, and it makes for a good movie. Then, to cap it off, it has what is maybe the best vintage use of the famous Hollywood letters on the hill overlooking movieland. Odd to say, but I think the movie is worth watching for that alone. This is exactly when the industry was falling apart (legally and literally), and the letters were no accident. There is also a nice use of that trope of money blowing away in the wind (made more archetypal in "The Killing" in 1958). The last line? "Sometimes you meet some nice people in this business." Perfect.
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True FBI Story
whpratt116 September 2007
Enjoyed viewing this black and white film from 1954 starring some great veteran female actors, namely: Martha Hyer, (Connie Anderson), who looked just like Marilyn Monroe and was being controlled by a mysterious man who keeps sending her all kinds of gifts, but she never goes out of her apartment. Connie is visited by FBI Agent John Ripley,(Broderick Crawford) and flirts with him like she has never seen a man before. Ruth Roman, (Kate Martell) is a fashion designer who is being threatened by a black mailer who wants ten-thousand dollars or he will kill her daughter. Julie Angelino, (Marisa Povan) is another woman whose husband was accused of a crime he did not commit and he refused to tell the police who really performed this crime and was sent to prison. Julie is also a target for this blackmailer and killer. Kenneth Tobey, (FBI Agent Zack Stewart was assigned to these three cases and was killed before he could solve this crime. Agent John Ripley was then assigned to these cases and has plenty of work ahead of him trying to gets leads from these three women. There are some great old time scenes of San Francisco and Los Angeles. Enjoyable old timer from 1954.
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Awfully good...
MartinHafer11 December 2011
While there isn't a lot of spectacular action or twists in this film, it is rock solid throughout--sort of like an episode of "Dragnet" or "The FBI". A very good script and nice attention to law enforcement details make this one worth watching.

The film begins with two FBI agents on an assignment. One is unexpectedly murdered by someone hiding in the shadows. The surviving agent (Broderick Crawford) seems to think that someone on the other agents list of open cases has done the crime, so he looks into the three cases. And so, you see Crawford go from case to case--looking for clues and solving the cases while he's at it. It all leads to a dandy final set at the Hollywood sign.

As I said above, the show is big on realism and police procedures. I also appreciated how ordinary and ugly some of the cast were--like real life. Overall, it's a lot like a tidier version of film noir--with a strong infusion of realism and good acting.

By the way, if you do watch, look for the guy with his home-made 'spy detector'!
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Phone call to murder
sol12185 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS*** Pretty good FBI crime drama with Broaderick Crawford as FBI Agent John "Rip" Ripley on the trail of an on the loose killer who murdered his friend and fellow FBI Agent Zack Stewart, Kenneth Tobey.

Finding out that the late Agent Stewart was involved in three separate cases it becomes evident that somehow one of the cases he was working on had to involved the man who murdered him. Agent Ripley soon comes to the conclusion that the case involving the extortion of widow Kate Martell, Ruth Roman, is the one that lead to Agent Stewart's murder and may possibly be connected in the two other cases he was involved in; A car robbery ring and the murder of a gas station attendant, William Schallert, on the Nevada Californian border!

Using Mrs. Martell as bait Agent Ripley has her play along with her extortionist who want her to pay him off with the $10,000.00 of insurance money she got when her husband was killed in a fatal car accident. If Mrs. Martell doesn't comply he threatens to murder her nine year old daughter Vickie, Dede Grinor.

It takes both good old fashion police work as well as the most up to date state of the art, circa 1954, police science to finally track down the both killer/extortionist. In the process of doing that Agent Riply also solves the two other cases,the car robbery ring and murder of the gas station attendant, as well. Even though they had nothing at all to do with both Agent Stewart and Brenda Rolles' (Suzanne Alexander), who knew who Stewarts killer was, murders.

***SPOILER ALERT*** The films ending was a real hum dingier with the killer finally revealing himself as he appears out of the blue right under the famous Hollywood sign. It's there where he instructed Mrs. Martell to leave the extortion money. It was also there where Agent Ripley, without Mrs. Mantell knowledge, and his fellow FBI agents and the local police set a trap for him!

P.S Interesting cast of unknowns who went on to bigger and better things later on in their film careers. Both Kenneth Tobey-who also stared in the sci-fi classic "The Thing" back in 1951-and Max Showalter were to make within two years, in 1955 & 1956, the classic bad sci-fi movie epics that were immortalized on TV-on shows like Mystery Science Fiction Theater 3000-in "It Came Form Beneath the Sea" and "The Indestructible Man". The murdered gas station attendant William Schallert was to later play the befuddled and out of touch, to what his zany daughter was doing, father of Patty Duke in the aptly named "Patty Duke Show". And the beefy and booming voiced Claud Akins was to finally make it all the way to top, as President of the United States, playing President Teddy Roosevelt in the 1992, two years before his untimely death of cancer, Sherlock Holmes movie "Incident at Victoria Falls".
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Good Premise-- Plodding Execution
dougdoepke27 July 2008
Moderately interesting programmer made at a time when police procedure was popular on both the big and little screens. The influence of TV's Dragnet is apparent in the stentorian voice-over and the rather feeble attempts at quirky citizen humor. An FBI agent is killed in the line of duty. His chief Broderick Crawford determines that the killer is tied into one of three cases he's investigating. But which one. The narrative follows his sorting through the cases, all the while both he and we wonder which one will lead to the culprit. It's a good premise, but director Laven does little to develop the potential.

Movie gains a lot from location photography in and around a burgeoning LA. The final scene makes effective use of that city's landmark "Hollywood" sign, the only film I know to do that. There's a fine performance from Ruth Roman as a beleaguered mother whose child is under threat of kidnap, along with an unusually restrained Crawford as the head agent, a role I suspect recommended him for for the lead in the following year's hit series Highway Patrol. Note the rather gratuitous cheesecake scenes from Roman and the bosomy Martha Hyer. After all, the movies had to do something to get people away from the novelty of their television sets. Nothing special here. Just an easy way to pass a spare 90 or so minutes.
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Should Be Better Known
gavin694225 June 2015
When FBI Agent Zack Stewart is killed, Agent John Ripley takes over the three cases he was working on, hoping one will lead to his killer. The first involves gangster Joe Walpo and Ripley finds his hideout through Joe's girl friend, Connie Anderson. Joe is killed but it is established he was 400 miles away when Stewart was murdered. The next involves a car-theft gang which Ripley breaks up by using one of the gang, Vince Angelino and his wife Julie. The last case involves Kate Martell, the victim of an extortionist who threatens to kidnap her child unless she pays him $10,000.

This certainly is an interesting look at FBI cases and procedures, with them using bulky equipment to spy on neighbors, intercept phone calls and make identifications. But this was the 1950s, when such things were primitive and relatively innocent. (The FBI surveillance went too far in the 1960s and was shut down by the courts.) Very interesting film, well worth being better known. And the film quality seems to have held up very nicely over the years. The one on Netflix looks great.
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The streets are mean and dark.
Michael O'Keefe17 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This Edward Small Production delivers a high quality Broderick Crawford vehicle directed by Arnold Laven. A crime drama done in documentary style; a 1954 vintage thriller starring Crawford as FBI Agent John Ripley. When fellow agent Zack Stewart(Kenneth Tobey)is murdered, the three cases he was currently working on were assigned to Ripley. Nothing is going to get in the way of Ripley seeking to identify his colleague's killer and bring him to justice. While on the investigation, he stumbles onto an extortion case that involves a crafty widow, Kate Martell(Ruth Roman), who may just be linked to Stewart's death and the cases he was working on. A very strong supporting cast in this 85 minute black and white feature. Notable other players: Martha Hyer, Max Showalter, Gene Reynolds and Claude Akins.
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Good suspense and well-paced cop-movie, original scenario
Fab Dark16 May 1999
The hero is not who you think in the first 15 minutes..

A FBI agent tries to find the murderer of a colleague from the different cases he was assigned to. Semi-documentary and well-paced movie.
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The FBI are on the Case
gordonl563 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers

This one is based on the novel, CASE FILE FBI by Gordon and Mildred Gordon. The Gordons also wrote the screenplay for the film.

This one starts with the murder of a gas station employee. The man had spotted a wanted killer and was calling in the info to the FBI. The killer, Joe Bassett is heading to L.A. to hook up with his girl, Martha Hyer.

FBI Agent Kenneth Tobey is assigned to track down Bassett. At the same time Tobey is involved with two other cases, a man, Gene Reynolds who has been grabbed up for driving a stolen car. Then there is a case involving a threat of kidnapping. A woman, Ruth Roman, has been called and told her daughter will be taken, if she does not fork over a 10 grand insurance payment she just got.

Broderick Crawford plays Tobey's boss in the FBI chain of command. The deal here is that there could be a link between the last two cases to the first one. It is Tobey's job to unravel the twists. Tobey gets shot and killed during a stake-out for the killer, Bassett.

The FBI now pulls out all the stops as they give all three cases top priority. The film follows Crawford and the various agents as they track down the leads and eliminate them. They solve one case and move on to the next as they look for Tobey's killer.

The women involved in the various story threads, is what makes this film really click. Ruth Roman, Suzanne Alexander, Marisa Paven and Martha Hyer are the female leads. Miss Hyer in particular shines as she keeps thrusting her upper-works at Crawford and crew, as she cracks wise with lines like, "Do you mind if I put something on? I don't like men staring at me before lunch".

This documentary style noir was directed by Arnold Laven. He cranked out several watchable film noir early in his career, WITHOUT WARNING! as well as VICE SQUAD.

Film noir specialist Joseph Biroc handled the cinematography duties on the production. Two time Oscar nominated, and one time winner, Biroc was known for his work on, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, CRY DANGER, THE KILLER THAT STALKED NEW YORK, LOAN SHARK, WITHOUT WARNING!, ATTACK, TENSION AT TABLE ROCK, FORTY GUNS, CHINA GATE, LADY IN CEMENT and THE TOWERING INFERNO.

This one has the odd slow spot but for the most part moves right along. There is some excellent location shooting involved here.

The writers, The Gordons would dust this one off in 1963 and use most of the story to make, EXPERIMENT IN TERROR with Glenn Ford.
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Excellent film noir!
JohnHowardReid4 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
An ingenious and intriguing mystery thriller, capably acted and very effectively directed. Superb locations and richly atmospheric photography give the movie the unmistakable style of a first-class film noir – an impression that is enhanced by a superb array of supporting characters including a viciously callous thug (forcefully played by Claude Akins), a thwarted Romeo (Casey Adams), a loyal "B" girl (Martha Hyer), a seedy "uncle" (Jay Adler), and a crazy inventor (Milton Parsons). The identity of the real killer is effectively but realistically disguised. (That really is his voice on the telephone. See if you can pick it!) Despite the pat-on-the-back off-screen commentary, production values are excellent. Arnold Laven's direction is both tight yet controlled, his use of natural locations both highly suspenseful and imaginative. It's a real surprise to discover there is no DVD for this Edward Small production that was originally released through United Artists.
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An Extended Episode of "The F.B.I."
wes-connors25 August 2007
It's "The F.B.I." starring Broderick Crawford, with special guest star Ruth Roman. The film begins promising - you expect a great interwoven, mysterious plot; but, it doesn't really work out that way. Instead, it's an extended TV crime drama, with stuff that may have been a little too sexy and violent for the time (so, couldn't they have put SOME bruise make-up on the blind woman?).

The title "Down Three Dark Streets" refers to three seemingly unrelated crimes Mr. Broderick's F.B.I. solves. It seems like you need a notepad to keep track of events, but you'll get along by paying attention to the extortion plot involving Ms. Roman.

Performance-wise, it's Roman's film. There are a lot of recognizable faces, though. Martha Hyer gives a Marilyn Monroe-type performance, as directed (Arnold Laven). Other than that, there are some Los Angeles-area location scenes that are very nice to see; the location scenery is the movie's highlight - climaxing by the "HOLLYWOOD sign".

**** Down Three Dark Streets (1954) Arnold Laven ~ Ruth Roman, Broderick Crawford, Martha Hyer
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One of those semi-documentary crime movies
blanche-25 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Broderick Crawford as Agent Ripley takes over three cases for a murdered FBI man in "Down Three Dark Streets," a 1954 film also starring Ruth Roman, Marisa Pavan, Martha Hyer, and Max Showalter.

This is one of those police or FBI films done in semi-documentary style that abounded in the '50s. Each woman is involved in a crime; Roman is being threatened with her daughter's life if she doesn't turn over her late husband's insurance money; Pavan is the blind wife of a man jailed for being involved in car theft, but he won't reveal any information about the ring; and Hyer is the girlfriend of a wanted killer who is on the run. When two murders occur, Ripley is convinced they're tied to one of the cases, but which one? Great '50s LA sites are a highlight of this film, along with a suspenseful ending. The story involving Ruth Roman was done as a suspense movie by Blake Edwards later on as "Experiment in Terror" with Glenn Ford as Ripley.

There is one major plot hole I must point out. One of the FBI men follows a character to a department store, where she takes a girdle to try on and goes into a dressing room. The operative asks if there's an exit behind the dressing rooms and is told yes, there's a staircase leading to a back entrance. Well, all I can say is, that store must have had hundreds of thousands of dollars in shoplifted merchandise yearly if that was the case.
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Which of the three?
bkoganbing25 April 2015
Before J. Edgar Hoover stopped fogging mirrors in 1972 you would not see a film that did not show the Federal Bureau Of Investigation as less than dedicated and perfect. Stripping the man's paranoia away from him, Hoover did bring a certain order and professionalism to the FBI and when they stuck to crime and criminals as opposed to just amassing files on the world they did a good job. Like any other law enforcement agency when one of their own is killed in the line of duty everything stops until the perpetrator is caught.

Down These Dark Streets is one of the few films you'll see where someone who is a detective will be shown having more than one case. Indeed that is the crux of this plot. Which one of three cases did agent Kenneth Tobey get killed over by a sniper's bullet?

His supervisor Broderick Crawford takes over and the three cases are a case of an organized car theft ring where young Gene Reynolds is about to take a fall in federal prison because he won't rat out the leaders. Maybe it's notorious fugitive Joe Bassett who is armed and dangerous and who already killed a gas station attendant who rather stupidly called the FBI before Bassett was clear from his station. Or there's Ruth Roman who is being extorted for an insurance settlement by a stranger threatening her child on the phone.

Crawford takes on all three cases and systematically solves them and eliminates a lot of suspects. He's as thorough a professional as all big screen FBI men were at the time.

Take note of Martha Hyer who plays Joe Bassett's kept moll. Martha was one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the screen and here she shows some real acting chops in her scenes with Crawford.

Down Three Dark Streets is a crisp and competent police drama with a great ensemble cast. Definitely a must for noir fans.
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A poor case file for The FBI
Orion40927 August 2007
The film revolves around three unrelated cases taken on by FBI agent Brodrick Crawford who provides a dull performance in this routine product. The film itself is just okay and some scenes are just poorly done. For example,the scene where Ruth Roman goes to the park at midnight to meet the extortionist. The whole scene is poorly done lacking in any tension or fear. Overall the film has too much narration and just not enough suspense. Ms. Roman gives a good performance with what she is given to work with. The Gordons who wrote the screenplay and the novel did much better a little late on with 1962's "Experiment In Terror." Of course they had Blake Edward's directing instead of the unexceptional Arnold Laven. Laven did make a couple of decent films (See The Rack and Slaughter on 10th Ave), however this is not one of them.
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Excellent storytelling
BILLYBOY-1030 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
FBI story about Brodrick Crawford working three cases at once trying to find a killer who may also be an extortionist. First there's the criminal on the run who kills a gas station attendant. His va-va-voom semi floozie moll played by Martha Hyer is entertaining, Second story is an innocent caught up in a hot car ring afraid to squeal and his adroitly played blind wife, Marisa Pivan & finally single mom Ruth Roman who is being squeezed out of her dead husbands $10,000 life insurance payout under death threat of her young child. Crawford is intense & thorough yet soft & human toward victims. The film moves along briskly, never lags..very economical pace & direction. Lots of L.A. exteriors, good storyline and interwoven plots/characters. I found this exciting & suspenseful & was fooled by who the villain actually was due to red herrings so the final revelation was a part of the overall thrill, the climax taking place in Hollywood hills (is that vacant lot at the ice-cream truck scene the same one used in Strangers When We Meet where Kirk Douglas & Kim Novak rendevoux)? I never heard of this film, glad NETFLIX obtained it for instant streaming an was well worth the watch. Definitely check it out.
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Propaganda Piece for the FBI
evanston_dad25 May 2015
I watched "Down Three Dark Streets" because I wanted to add another notch to my film noir belt. But though it has some noirish qualities, it's really not much of a noir at all. Instead, it's one of those docudramas that were little more than propaganda pieces for one government agency or another, this one the FBI.

Broderick Crawford lends the film some gravitas as an FBI agent who takes over three cases from his friend and colleague who's murdered in the process of investigating one of them. They may all be related or they may not be. The question of whether or not they are doesn't generate much suspense for the viewer, if it was ever meant to. Ruth Roman is the protagonist at the center of the case that gets the most screen time. Martha Hyer does some screen chewing as a gangster's floozy, while Marisa Pavan, one year away from being nominated for an Oscar (for "The Rose Tattoo") plays a blind, sympathetic wife. There's some suspenseful atmosphere and forays into the seedy underbelly of L.A., and it's these qualities that bring it closest to belonging to the noir canon. But in most respects it settles for merely competent, and as a result, it's not especially memorable.

Grade: B-
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