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Re: [mythsoc] The Two Towers

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  • Ernest Tomlinson
    ... From: Ernest Tomlinson To: Sent: Friday, February 28, 2003 2:47 PM Subject: Re: [mythsoc] The Two
    Message 1 of 20 , Feb 28, 2003
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      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Ernest Tomlinson" <thiophene@...>
      To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Friday, February 28, 2003 2:47 PM
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] The Two Towers


      > I wonder why so much of Tolkien's dialogue was replaced with clumsy,
      > ham-handed periphrasis. I think, perhaps, that Hollywood[*] screenwriters
      > given the task of adapting a famous work of literature to the screen...

      Ack! I forgot to provide the footnote. I was going to add that I know that
      Jackson and his collaborators weren't, strictly speaking, "Hollywood". But
      their product is infused with the Hollywood spirit through-and-through. It
      is sad that Jackson, operating largely outside of the strictures of
      mainstream American movie production, nevertheless adopted their values so
      slavishly.

      Ernest.
    • David S. Bratman
      ... Not all of the defenders are quite that bad, but I ve noticed that an insistence that the changes were necessary does tend to go along with a) a conflation
      Message 2 of 20 , Feb 28, 2003
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        At 02:47 PM 2/28/2003 , Ernest wrote:

        >A fellow on the SpareOom list tried gamely, but I think his argument in the
        >end boiled down to the following _non distributio medii_, which I've
        >encountered from many defenders of the film: to successfully adapt a long
        >story to three hours, changes are necessary; Jackson and his team made many
        >changes in adapting _The Two Towers_; therefore all of the changes he made
        >were necessary.

        Not all of the defenders are quite that bad, but I've noticed that an
        insistence that the changes were necessary does tend to go along with a) a
        conflation of changes with cuts (nobody argued that cuts weren't
        necessary), b) a curious reluctance to try to explain why these particular
        changes improved the film. I wrote a letter to "Quickbeam" of TORN in
        reply to an article of his posted in January; his reply was quite long, but
        to my request that he defend the reasons for the particular changes he
        merely said that he didn't have time to teach me elementary screenwriting
        techniques. Actually, I've read quite a bit about elementary
        screenwriting, and none of it explains the need for these travesties; nor,
        if they are necessary, how the book managed to be so successful without
        them. (To that the reply is always "a book is different from a movie"
        coupled with an absolute refusal to explain how the difference requires
        these changes.)

        - David Bratman
      • jamcconney@aol.com
        In a message dated 2/28/2003 4:48:59 PM Central Standard Time, ... When the 4-hour Hamlet was shown on TV, I really didn t have 4 hours to spare, so I thought
        Message 3 of 20 , Feb 28, 2003
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          In a message dated 2/28/2003 4:48:59 PM Central Standard Time,
          thiophene@... writes:

          > Aside: I am glad that Kenneth Branagh made his full-length, unabridged
          > _Hamlet_, because he proved that one could be entirely faithful to the
          > original words and yet _still_ screw up completely.
          >

          When the 4-hour Hamlet was shown on TV, I really didn't have 4 hours to
          spare, so I thought I'd tune in for the first bit, just to see how they were
          doing it, and then leave. You guessed it--I was sitting there mesmerized 4
          hours later and I don't know many times I yelled (at least to myself) "Yes!
          Whoa! Was this guy a dramatist or was he a dramatist!"

          I liked the _handling_ sometimes and didn't like it others--par for the
          course. But if Branagh screwed up, Shakespeare didn't. I was left remembering
          all the Hamlet's I'd seen in a cut-down version--Olivier, Burton, Richardson,
          even Mel Gibson--and realized how badly the play had been skewed by
          scriptwriters who didn't believe humans could sit through more than two hours
          of classic drama.

          The four hour version actually seemed to play faster than the abridgments.
          Even the terminally boring speech of Charlton Heston as the Player King
          reminded you of what that scene was there for in the first place--to give an
          aging actor a Big Moment on stage.

          I don't argue with you, Dave--I've never cared too much for Branagh myself--
          but I do give him credit: he has a lot of misses, but when he hits it just
          right, he hits it right BIG time.

          Anne


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Ernest Tomlinson
          ... From: To: Sent: Friday, February 28, 2003 8:18 PM Subject: Re: [mythsoc] The Two Towers ... were ... Yes!
          Message 4 of 20 , Mar 2 9:07 PM
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            ----- Original Message -----
            From: <jamcconney@...>
            To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Friday, February 28, 2003 8:18 PM
            Subject: Re: [mythsoc] The Two Towers

            > When the 4-hour Hamlet was shown on TV, I really didn't have 4 hours to
            > spare, so I thought I'd tune in for the first bit, just to see how they
            were
            > doing it, and then leave. You guessed it--I was sitting there mesmerized 4
            > hours later and I don't know many times I yelled (at least to myself)
            "Yes!
            > Whoa! Was this guy a dramatist or was he a dramatist!"

            Was he! I admit that Branagh at least showed us that there was nothing
            boring about four hours of "Hamlet", no reason to pare it down by half to
            accommodate modern attention spans. But I believe also that his staging
            showed a paradoxical lack of faith at times in the power of Shakespeare's
            words. He kept goosing things along with an obtrusive visual style and
            melodramatic moments. When Hamlet is in his "wild and whirling" mood after
            speaking with his father's ghost, Branagh makes the camera to shake and the
            earth to split open--why? He interpolates a scene of his and Ophelia's
            having sex; the cynic wonders if this wasn't merely to show off Branagh's
            bod (cf. _Mary Shelley's Frankenstein_). When he says to himself, "And now
            I'll do it," on seeing Claudius at prayer (aside: we've seen far, far too
            little of Derek Jacobi lately), Branagh resorts to that tired cinemagraphic
            trick of showing us something--in this case, Hamlet stabbling Claudius--then
            cutting quickly away to show that it was just a fantasy. Finally, Branagh
            dispatches Claudius in a ridiculous fashion that reminded me of nothing so
            much than the ending of _Dead Again_.

            Branagh's stunt casting of famous actors in walk-on parts did not help.
            Some worked; I think Billy Crystal made a fine gravedigger. Robin Williams
            doing Osric with fey, lisping mannerisms was unforgivable, though, and Jack
            Lemmon shouldn't have been let anywhere near the production. And casting
            big, shambling Gerard Depardieu for a one scene and a few lines doesn't make
            any sense to me.

            (Aside: I have been pleasantly surprised in the past by big-name actors'
            ability to play Shakespeare. I start with the general assumption that
            American actors can't do it, and then I can enjoy those who can. Kevin
            Kline, for example, was brilliant as Bottom in the _Midsummer Night's Dream_
            movie a few years back, but David Strathairn, an actor I admire greatly, was
            no good as Theseus. Marlon Brando did a great Mark Antony in John
            Mankiewicz's _Julius Caesar_ in the '50s; I didn't think he had it in him.
            Best of all, though, is Arnold Schwarzenegger as Hamlet in _The Last Action
            Hero_, and Jack Benny as Hamlet in _To Be or Not to Be_. <grin>)

            > I don't argue with you, Dave--I've never cared too much for Branagh
            myself--
            > but I do give him credit: he has a lot of misses, but when he hits it just
            > right, he hits it right BIG time.

            "Dave"?

            You know, I loved his _Henry V_, and love it still. Some of my movie-buff
            acquaintances would probably kill me for saying this, but his version is
            ever so much better than Olivier's. (For one thing--and a big thing--he
            makes Fluellen a serious character, not a comic butt with a vaudeville Welsh
            accent.)

            Cheers,

            Ernest.
          • WendellWag@aol.com
            I think the chief mistake that Branagh made in his version of _Hamlet_ is that he s miscast the main role. Branagh can t convincingly play a brooding
            Message 5 of 20 , Mar 2 11:16 PM
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              I think the chief mistake that Branagh made in his version of _Hamlet_ is
              that he's miscast the main role. Branagh can't convincingly play a brooding
              character. (And he was too old, but that's a standard problem for
              productions of _Hamlet_.) As a slick conspirator in _Othello_ or a hammy
              war-leader in _Henry V_ he was well cast, but he's all wrong for Hamlet.
              Where do people get the idea that if you're right for one Shakespearean role
              you're right for all of them? Jacobi was great as Claudius (and he was also
              great some years ago as Hamlet in a stage version of _Hamlet_ that's
              available on videotape).

              Wendell Wagner
            • Stolzi@aol.com
              In a message dated 3/2/2003 11:09:31 PM Central Standard Time, ... Agreed! ... The costume & mustaches killed me! He looked like he belonged in the Emerald
              Message 6 of 20 , Mar 3 8:53 AM
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                In a message dated 3/2/2003 11:09:31 PM Central Standard Time,
                thiophene@... writes:


                > I think Billy Crystal made a fine gravedigger.

                Agreed!

                > Robin Williams doing Osric with fey, lisping mannerisms was unforgivable,
                > though

                The costume & mustaches killed me! He looked like he belonged in the Emerald
                City of Oz.

                Cd have done without all the super-sexy stuff about Ophelia, and also the
                idea of Hamlet swinging down on the chandelier (or whatever) in the finale
                was... regrettable.

                But yes, it holds attention all the way through, and I can't forget the
                visual image of the great palace with its wide terrace (like a chessboard on
                which a great game is being played?) alone in the snowy waste.

                That lent authenticity to the part of the play which is on a world-events
                scale: Fortinbras and all that.

                Diamond Proudbrook


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Croft, Janet B
                I thought it was one of those uneven masterpieces -- spot-on perfect in most places, squirmingly off in others. But there s another Branagh full-text Hamlet I
                Message 7 of 20 , Mar 3 9:14 AM
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                  I thought it was one of those uneven masterpieces -- spot-on perfect in most
                  places, squirmingly off in others. But there's another Branagh full-text
                  Hamlet I like even better -- the BBC Radio version, also with Derek Jacobi
                  as Claudius and with Judi Dench as Gertrude. If you search Amazon with
                  "Hamlet BBC", you'll pull it up. It's available on CD and well worth it.

                  Janet

                  (PS Someone asked what Jacobi's been up to recently -- www.imdb.com
                  <http://www.imdb.com> shows he's been very active in 2002, but the last
                  thing he's done that I've actually heard of was Gosford Park, which alas I
                  have not yet seen.)

                  -----Original Message-----
                  From: Stolzi@... [mailto:Stolzi@...]
                  Sent: Monday, March 03, 2003 10:53 AM
                  To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                  Subject: Re: [mythsoc] The Two Towers


                  In a message dated 3/2/2003 11:09:31 PM Central Standard Time,
                  thiophene@... writes:


                  > I think Billy Crystal made a fine gravedigger.

                  Agreed!

                  > Robin Williams doing Osric with fey, lisping mannerisms was unforgivable,
                  > though

                  The costume & mustaches killed me! He looked like he belonged in the
                  Emerald
                  City of Oz.

                  Cd have done without all the super-sexy stuff about Ophelia, and also the
                  idea of Hamlet swinging down on the chandelier (or whatever) in the finale
                  was... regrettable.

                  But yes, it holds attention all the way through, and I can't forget the
                  visual image of the great palace with its wide terrace (like a chessboard on

                  which a great game is being played?) alone in the snowy waste.

                  That lent authenticity to the part of the play which is on a world-events
                  scale: Fortinbras and all that.

                  Diamond Proudbrook


                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



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                • Ernest Tomlinson
                  ... From: To: Sent: Monday, March 03, 2003 8:53 AM Subject: Re: [mythsoc] The Two Towers ... unforgivable, ...
                  Message 8 of 20 , Mar 3 11:48 AM
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                    ----- Original Message -----
                    From: <Stolzi@...>
                    To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
                    Sent: Monday, March 03, 2003 8:53 AM
                    Subject: Re: [mythsoc] The Two Towers


                    > In a message dated 3/2/2003 11:09:31 PM Central Standard Time,
                    > thiophene@... writes:

                    > > Robin Williams doing Osric with fey, lisping mannerisms was
                    unforgivable,
                    > > though
                    >
                    > The costume & mustaches killed me! He looked like he belonged in the
                    Emerald
                    > City of Oz.

                    <snort> I don't think I'll be able to get _that_ similarity out of my mind
                    now! It didn't occur to me at the time because, believe it or not, I saw
                    _The Wizard of Oz_ some years _after_ watching Branagh's _Hamlet_.

                    Branagh does give Osric one fine moment; when he announces the arrival of
                    Fortinbras, he holds up his bloodied hand to demonstrate Fortinbras's
                    "warlike volley".

                    Osric's goofy costume points up another problem with Branagh's film; instead
                    of setting the story in some definite period or place, _any_ place, he
                    cobbles together an odd mixture of costumes and settings. It's everyplace
                    and no place. Now I'm not goose enough to fret over Shakespeare
                    adaptations' not being "faithful" to some definite setting; as Ian McKellen
                    astutely pointed out when his and Richard Loncraine's _Richard III_ came out
                    some years ago, the original Shakespearean productions were already
                    "modernized"; even the Roman-era plays, which would look pretty strange to
                    us if not portrayed in the usual toga-epic fashion that goes back at least
                    as far as _Ben Hur_ (1925), were played in Elizabethan dress. All I ask is
                    a self-consistent setting. McKellen and Loncraine set _Richard III_ in a
                    semi-fantastic '30s England because that was the last time in our memory
                    when it was conceivable that an English monarch could have become a
                    political power; one thinks of the rumors that the Nazis approached Edward,
                    the Duke of Windsor (or "Mr. Simpson" as my mother acidly called him), with
                    plans to make him king if they succeeded in conquering England.

                    It occurs to me though that I enjoyed Julie Taymor's recent _Titus_, even
                    though its setting and costuming is even more wildly muddled than Branagh's.
                    But it works, I hate to admit, in some crazy post-modern way, partly because
                    Taymor's introduction to the film explicitly compares her staging of _Titus
                    Andronicus_ to a child's violent fantasy, and as I can speak from personal
                    experience, childish fantasy isn't bound by consistency; one grabs elements
                    from any old place or source that appeals to the childlike imagination.

                    Cheers,

                    Ernest.
                  • David S. Bratman
                    ... I await the Jackson-defender types who will tell you simply not to think about it. ( Branagh s Hamlet is a movie! The Wizard of Oz is ... er, um ...
                    Message 9 of 20 , Mar 3 12:35 PM
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                      At 11:48 AM 3/3/2003 , Ernest wrote:

                      >[Stolzi wrote]
                      >> The costume & mustaches killed me! He looked like he belonged in the
                      >>Emerald City of Oz.
                      >
                      ><snort> I don't think I'll be able to get _that_ similarity out of my mind
                      >now!

                      I await the Jackson-defender types who will tell you simply not to think
                      about it. ("Branagh's Hamlet is a movie! The Wizard of Oz is ... er, um
                      ... another movie!")


                      >one thinks of the rumors that the Nazis approached Edward,
                      >the Duke of Windsor (or "Mr. Simpson" as my mother acidly called him)

                      Unfortunately for that joke, there really was a Mr. Simpson: he was the man
                      that Mrs. Simpson was divorcing in order to marry Edward. And just to be
                      further irritating, Mr. Simpson's given name was ...


                      - DB
                    • Elizabeth Apgar Triano
                      David Bratman said: I await the Jackson-defender types who will tell you simply not to think about it. ( Branagh s Hamlet is a movie! The Wizard of Oz is ...
                      Message 10 of 20 , Mar 3 1:19 PM
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                        David Bratman said: I await the Jackson-defender types who will tell you
                        simply not to think
                        about it. ("Branagh's Hamlet is a movie! The Wizard of Oz is ... er, um
                        ... another movie!") >>

                        (Pauses from deleting movie posts for a sec....) That would require caring
                        as much about either of them as one cares about Tolkien. Or maybe care
                        isn't the word. The power of something to sweep one away is beyond caring.


                        Lizzie Triano
                        lizziewriter@...
                        amor vincit omnia
                      • Jason M. Abels
                        ... If you want to get into, I can go into quite a bit about Books vs Movies, with the Wizard of Oz as my primary example. Both are movies that deviate
                        Message 11 of 20 , Mar 3 1:32 PM
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                          > (Pauses from deleting movie posts for a sec....) That would require caring
                          > as much about either of them as one cares about Tolkien. Or maybe care
                          > isn't the word. The power of something to sweep one away is beyond caring.

                          If you want to get into, I can go into quite a bit about Books vs Movies, with
                          the Wizard of Oz as my primary example. Both are movies that deviate (sometimes
                          greatly) with the source material, even changing character motivations, and yet
                          remain true (in my opinion) to the overall *feel* of the book.

                          --
                          Jason M. Abels
                          "The world is coming down around our ears and you're sticking at a few
                          vampires!" - Ben Mears, _Salem's Lot_
                        • David S. Bratman
                          ... (sometimes ... and yet ... Maybe we shouldn t, because the it was all a dream? frame-story of the 1939 Oz film seems to me to be utterly at odds with the
                          Message 12 of 20 , Mar 3 1:41 PM
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                            At 01:32 PM 3/3/2003 , Jason M. Abels wrote:

                            >If you want to get into, I can go into quite a bit about Books vs Movies, with
                            >the Wizard of Oz as my primary example. Both are movies that deviate
                            (sometimes
                            >greatly) with the source material, even changing character motivations,
                            and yet
                            >remain true (in my opinion) to the overall *feel* of the book.

                            Maybe we shouldn't, because the "it was all a dream?" frame-story of the
                            1939 Oz film seems to me to be utterly at odds with the feel and spirit of
                            the book, casting a pall over the entire proceedings. It's still a great
                            movie, but it won't give you much of an idea of what Baum is like. (Even
                            so, I will defend Jackson's LOTR as pretty good films, which won't give you
                            much of an idea of what Tolkien is like.)

                            - DB
                          • Jason M. Abels
                            ... I black out when she says There s No place like home and I wake up when the credit s start to roll. I remember being *horrified* the first time I saw the
                            Message 13 of 20 , Mar 3 1:52 PM
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                              > Maybe we shouldn't, because the "it was all a dream?" frame-story of the
                              > 1939 Oz film seems to me to be utterly at odds with the feel and spirit of
                              > the book, casting a pall over the entire proceedings.

                              I black out when she says "There's No place like home" and I wake up when the
                              credit's start to roll.

                              I remember being *horrified* the first time I saw the movie and they said "it
                              was all a dream". I was also horrified at Judy's age, the stupid lion, and
                              everything else they had cut from the book. Over time, though, it has become my
                              favorite movie because I think it still captures something of the original
                              magic.


                              > It's still a great
                              > movie, but it won't give you much of an idea of what Baum is like. (Even
                              > so, I will defend Jackson's LOTR as pretty good films, which won't give you
                              > much of an idea of what Tolkien is like.)

                              My opinion exactly.

                              --
                              Jason M. Abels
                              "The world is coming down around our ears and you're sticking at a few
                              vampires!" - Ben Mears, _Salem's Lot_
                            • Ernest Tomlinson
                              ... From: Jason M. Abels To: Sent: Monday, March 03, 2003 1:52 PM Subject: RE: [mythsoc] The Two Towers ...
                              Message 14 of 20 , Mar 3 4:00 PM
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                                ----- Original Message -----
                                From: "Jason M. Abels" <jason@...>
                                To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
                                Sent: Monday, March 03, 2003 1:52 PM
                                Subject: RE: [mythsoc] The Two Towers

                                > I remember being *horrified* the first time I saw the movie and they said
                                "it
                                > was all a dream". I was also horrified at Judy's age, the stupid lion, and
                                > everything else they had cut from the book.

                                Roger Ebert lists _The Wizard of Oz_ among his "Great Movies", and defends
                                the casting of Judy Garland, saying that a child actress--especially, if I
                                may interject, at a time when serious child roles, qq.v. _Night of the
                                Hunter_ and _To Kill a Mockingbird_ among others, were still some years
                                away--would not have had the depth needed for the role of Dorothy. "When
                                she hoped that troubles would melt like lemon drops, you believed she had
                                troubles," writes Ebert. But of course he cites her reading--or singing
                                rather--of a line that is not Baum's.

                                Cheers,

                                Ernest.
                              • jamcconney@aol.com
                                In a message dated 3/2/2003 11:09:09 PM Central Standard Time, ... Mea Culpa! Mea Maxima Culpa! Anne P.S. Yes, I agree with you about Branagh, especially about
                                Message 15 of 20 , Mar 3 6:22 PM
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                                  In a message dated 3/2/2003 11:09:09 PM Central Standard Time,
                                  thiophene@... writes:

                                  > "Dave"?

                                  Mea Culpa! Mea Maxima Culpa!

                                  Anne

                                  P.S. Yes, I agree with you about Branagh, especially about his tendency to
                                  get way too cute. And I too loved his Henry V



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                                • jamcconney@aol.com
                                  In a message dated 3/3/2003 1:57:50 PM Central Standard Time, ... I remember reading the suggestion, not entirely unserious, that Titus Andronicus was a
                                  Message 16 of 20 , Mar 3 6:29 PM
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                                    In a message dated 3/3/2003 1:57:50 PM Central Standard Time,
                                    thiophene@... writes:

                                    > _Titus
                                    > Andronicus_ to a child's violent fantasy

                                    I remember reading the suggestion, not entirely unserious, that Titus
                                    Andronicus was a collaboration between Marlowe and Shakespeare because it
                                    would have taken TWO
                                    twenty-something young men to think up all the horrors.

                                    Anne


                                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                  • Jason M. Abels
                                    ... Oh, I agree. Once I saw the movie, I knew that judy was right for the role as portrayed. Only she could have belted out those songs like that. I try to
                                    Message 17 of 20 , Mar 4 6:06 AM
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                                      > Roger Ebert lists _The Wizard of Oz_ among his "Great Movies", and defends
                                      > the casting of Judy Garland, saying that a child
                                      > actress--especially, if I
                                      > may interject, at a time when serious child roles, qq.v. _Night of the
                                      > Hunter_ and _To Kill a Mockingbird_ among others, were still some years
                                      > away--would not have had the depth needed for the role of Dorothy. "When
                                      > she hoped that troubles would melt like lemon drops, you believed she had
                                      > troubles," writes Ebert. But of course he cites her reading--or singing
                                      > rather--of a line that is not Baum's.

                                      Oh, I agree. Once I saw the movie, I knew that judy was right for the role as
                                      portrayed. Only she could have belted out those songs like that. I try to
                                      picture Shriley Temple in the role and shudder. Judy was the wrong age for
                                      book-dorothy. She was just right for movie-dorothy.



                                      --
                                      Jason M. Abels
                                      "The world is coming down around our ears and you're sticking at a few
                                      vampires!" - Ben Mears, _Salem's Lot_
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