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Run and Kill

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 18 - 2011

Run and Kill (1993)
Director: Billy Tang
Writers: Bryan Chang
Starring: Kent Cheng, Danny Lee and Simon Yam

The Plot: Kent Cheng plays Fatty Cheung, an overweight businessman who loves his only daughter but is constantly bossed around by his cruel wife. When he comes home early one day he discovers his wife has been having an affair with a local store owner, and he is sent into a spiral of self despair. While drinking during a night out on the town, he confides his angst with a female patron at the bar and she informs him that she has a friend who will lay a beating on his wife and her lover for only a small fee. Being drunk at the time, Fatty agrees and when he meets with the hired muscle a misunderstanding arises. While trying to tell the goon that he wants his wife “dead drunk”, the man takes it to mean that Fatty wants his wife and her lover murdered. The killer then takes all of Fatty’s money as a down-payment for the $100,000 it will take to commit the murders. The next morning, when Fatty finally makes it home he finds his wife and her lover making out yet again. As he starts to discuss the issue with his wife, a gang of killers burst through the door and proceed to murder Fatty’s wife and her lover after knocking Fatty himself unconscious. Now, with the police watching his every move as they suspect him as the killer, Fatty must also contend with the criminal organization who ordered the hit, because they want their money.

The Review
Although Category III may simply be a rating within Hong Kong, in the minds of Hong Kong film fans the term CAT III will always bring about visions of a very specific time and era. That time and era was Hong Kong during the early to mid 90′s, when the CAT III rating truly came into its own and helped produce a new wave of highly exploitative titles. Films such as The Untold Story and Naked Killer were trashy and violent, but there were also films that were light-hearted and sexy for the most part. The film we are going to be discussing today however leans more towards the trashy and violent category, but in reality it is best described as mean and harrowing. Directed by “Bloody” Billy Tang, Run and Kill is an upsetting piece of work that is sure to challenge and disturb viewers but it isn’t without merit of technical prowess. Similar to Dr. Lamb from Tang, this is a movie that doesn’t play games.

From what I have gathered from the strange phenomena that is CAT III cinema, when these movies aren’t vividly portraying topless women from all angles they are showcasing the most bizarrely violent and mean spirited ideas that the human mind can possibly conjure up. Although Billy Tang doesn’t have a massive library of shockers to choose from, the few movies that he contributed to the world of CAT III cinema has definitely made an impression on all who have watched his work. While Dr. Lamb was certainly a nasty bit of serial killer cinema, Run and Kill takes things to a whole other level of depravity. The third act is what features the majority of all violence, but after the movie is over chances are you won’t remember much else other than the final twenty minutes anyway.

Kent Cheng leads this all star cast of genre film favorites, and he does an exceptional job in a role that I never imagined seeing him in. Overweight actors in the Hong Kong film industry are relatively obscure, which is likely why you see Kent Cheng, Eric Tsang and Suet Lam popping up so much. These actors are relegated to a certain amount of onscreen punishment due to their weight and are often the butt of many “fat jokes” throughout every movie they are in. Run and Kill is no different in that regard, as we see Kent Cheng take a considerable amount of name-calling. However, Cheng manages to take all of this and craft a genuine character in the midst of all the cinematic chaos that this movie manages to throw around.

Featuring a blowout cast, Run and Kill steps up to the plate in terms of actors involved. CAT III staples and legends Simon Yam and Danny Lee both show up playing their usual psychopath and detective characters, respectively. However Kent Cheng is the real standout here as he manages to leave his regular “character actor” position behind for a little while and steps into the role of a leading man with relative ease. His performance is addictive from the start and we the audience can’t help but feel sympathy for this man as he has his heart ripped out of his chest and then stabbed with a dull butter-knife. Cheng has great onscreen chemistry with the majority of the cast, but the moments spent between he and his child are the real selling points. The two seem to get along great and we see how much this character loves his child right from the introduction. The torment and horrors that follow him become all the more aching due to this sentimental touch.

I will concede that the general plot isn’t something totally unique, that’s for sure. There are plenty of movies out there that deal with a “regular Joe” being absorbed into the world of crime, but there are few that take the parable to the extremes that Run and Kill does. That level of depravity and psychosis which seems to decorate our film today is what makes it such an interesting little film. Although it isn’t something that I am going to recommend for all audiences, due to the content, but I do have to say that there is more to the movie than simply the grit and the grime. Beautifully shot and well acted… this is a well made film, on top of being a straight up piece of disgusting trash!

I do not want to recommend this film to the gorehounds out there looking for dismemberments, as I think those audiences would be more than a little disappointed with a title such as this one. The CAT III genre isn’t one that I normally associate with extreme “gore” anyway, since most of the time the disturbing factor in these films are their ideas and not necessarily what they “show” you. Run and Kill features a bit of both, however. Never shying away from violence, but never going to the grotesque limits that many splatter movies would, Run and Kill is instead a very intense and sordid character piece that will leave you haunted and utterly destroyed by the time the credits role.

The Conclusion
I really can’t recommend this one enough. Although it’s a movie that is made for a decidedly niche audience, there are more film fans out there who would really get something out of this than you might at first think. A dark and gritty piece of work, check out Run and Kill if you’re looking for a really fantastic piece of transgressive filmmaking that will actually challenge you as a viewer.

Demon, The

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 14 - 2011

Review originally written by Prof. Aglaophotis

The Demon (1981)
Director: Percival Rubens
Writers: Percival Rubens
Starring: Jennifer Holmes, Cameron Mitchell and Craig Gardner

The Plot: This tale begins when a prowler breaks into the isolated Parker house, tying Mrs. Joan Parker up with a plastic bag over her head and running off with her fourteen year old daughter Emily. The father comes home in time to save his wife, but the prowler has his way with the daughter in the nearby forest. After days go by and the search for Emily fails, the Parkers hire retired Marine Colonel turned psychic Bill Carson who can identify the killer and find their daughter by using his telepathic powers. In the meantime, our bulky leather strapping killer picks up a ride, asphyxiates the driver and attempts to rape and murder unsuspecting young women. It seems the killer is trying to kill a sassy young kindergarten instructor named Mary, who lives with her cousin Jo who is trying to hook up with a flashy rich boy named Dean Turner. Col. Carson reveals two particular aspects about the killer: 1) he has a deadly obsession with random young women and 2) his faceless visage suggests that he is not human or is at least possessed by something evil. Knowing this and how every attempt to stop him fails with fatal results, will Mary have a chance to evade the killer once he comes for her?

The Review
When looking through obscure Slasher movies, you’ll often come across some generic titles to surprisingly entertaining Horror movies. There’s a genuine sense of reward you get when you pick up movies like Stage Fright, The Prowler, House on Sorority Row or even Joe D’Amato’s Horrible and find some creepy atmosphere or gut wrenching death scenes that make you wonder why they’re often ignored. Then there are the titles that sound generic but have no payoff to them. The ones that make you feel like an idiot after having watched it. The Demon is one of them.

I should be honest with you, dear reader, this movie doesn’t feature an actual demon; much like how the tag line to The Prey does not feature an axe wielding monster but instead a mutant beatnik played by the bad guy from Battle for Endor.

The easiest assessment would be the fact that our killer is simply possessed by a demon which is why he kills, but that information is hardly lucid in the movie itself. It is hard to say whether the killer is really a demon since there are times where we can clearly see the man’s face and hair, as well as times where he suddenly no longer wears a white Halloween (or Alice, Sweet Alice) mask and instead has white face paint on. ‘But why are you looking into this,’ you may be asking. ‘Why analyze the title and its connection to the movie?’ Why? Because that’s the only interesting thing about this movie. The Demon is a confusing, lagging, poorly shot crap-fest of an ‘80’s Slasher movie. The only demonic specification the poor chump carries is his propensity to grunt and growl and his nearly obscure distaste for midnight radio evangelists. I actually had a hard time re-watching this for a review. The structure of this failed ‘80’s Slasher Film is so broken that not even a modern day remake would fix it. This is one of those movies that you can clearly envision as a person, throwing its hands up in the air, shaking its head and failure and admitting “I just don’t know.”

We essentially follow three stories here one consisting of a brutally strong, strangulating, serial death-rapist, his plucky soon-to-be next victim’s cousin Jo and Cameron Mitchell. Rarely do these stories connect or represent any real conflict. Most of the Cameron Mitchell sections just consists of Cameron being a mysterious, but ineffective psychic as he occasionally sees the killer and how Mr. Parker wants to hunt the killer down. The Mary sections just consist of the build up to her young cousin Jo (rather than Mary), her life style and how it will be ruined once the killer finally attacks her.

The director seemed to have little idea how to make either story connect effectively, thus creating tension and conflict or make us care about any of the characters involved. Granted, some of the characters are well acted: Jennifer Holmes certainly breathes some life into the character, but despite all the screen credit she’s given, she’s given little screen time or dialogue compared to her heart struck cousin. Cameron Mitchell is pretty decent in the movie, too; he pulls the struggling psychic role off pretty well as he telepathically tries to track the killer by getting into his persona. However, it would’ve been better if he was the main character in the story and if he actually confronted the killer at one point. It would’ve felt more like a Halloween rip-off if he did, but at least HIS plot would’ve tied in with the the killer and even Mary’s plot! Plus, it’s kind of funny how he switches from being facetious to serious when he’s first introduced to the bereaved Parkers; maybe that explains why his story arc ends so abruptly and why a secondary character steals the best line in the movie.

The movie is so wildly obsessed with Mary’s cousin Jo and her relationship with Dean that the segments involving them get old fast; we spend several minutes watching these lame-brains getting to know each other through wine drinking, boat rowing and photo shootings. Ordinarily, I’d say these two characters are the build-up and the character development found in any good Horror movie. Unfortunately, these characters aren’t interesting! Sure, Dean has a back story and he’s acted fairly well, but he’s no different than Robert Taylor from the French in Action TV series (in kidding, they practically have the same back story… and why I remember that series so well I don’t know*)!! By the time the movie focuses on Jennifer Holmes’ character, there’s a very brief sense of fear and dread, but not enough to really care whether she makes it out all right.

The movie is flawed on a technical basis, too. The music consists of a relentless string quartet that goes to unbearably high pitches during the jump scares. There are rare moments where the soundtrack works, mostly in the Cameron Mitchell scenes or when Mary finally confronts the killer in the end. The lighting in the movie is quite horrible as the only real good lighting is natural light; some shots in the film were far too dark to notice any details. I kept adjusting the screen to the brightest notch on the gamut during nighttime and day-for-night scenes and I still had to squint in order to see anything. You may notice there’s very little shots of intensity or murder in the shots I picked. Don’t get me wrong, I managed to see a few shots that looked decent like close-ups of the killers claw-gloves, but because the lighting is so murky in the indoor scenes I couldn’t get a good enough shot without editing it. There are some continuity errors here and there, but nothing out-right hilarious, just confusing. There are moments where the killer is supposed to be wearing a plaster Last House on Dead End Street Mask but it’ll change to white face paint. There’s one scene near the end where Dean and Jo are in bed to which Jo says Dean has to leave, but the next scene shows them frolicking in the pool. Like I said, the continuity isn’t good, but it’s not hilariously bad, either.

Probably the biggest goof in the whole movie is when someone who has all ready been in contact with the police finds the killer and several other people know about this. So when the person gets inevitably killed by the killer… why doesn’t anyone take the initiative to get the police involved?? Seriously, the character finds the killer’s location, the killer offs him, dumps his body right where he’s staying and it’s found the next morning… What the Hell, are the police in South Africa really that dense?! After that character’s body is found, the killer stays there, too! The people who knew about the character’s going there could have easily sent more police there!! Why’d it take so long for someone in the movie to find Emily’s body? Was it just an excuse for the director to use that classic skeleton wearing a wig effect?

I will be a little fair to this movie, though: it’s not THE worst ‘80’s Slasher I’ve seen; it is ONE OF the worst ‘80’s Slasher movies out there, but it’s slightly better than The Prey. Unlike The Prey, The Demon has a few moments of intensity, mainly when Mr. Parker hunts the killer down and when Mary defends herself from the killer. In fact, the last five minutes of this movie are the most intense as Mary and the killer play a game of cat and mouse and the final scene itself is surprisingly inventive. The Demon also has its share of T&A which, again, makes it better than The Prey; Compared to another ‘80’s Slasher directed by and starring people involved in the Adult Film industry about horny young adults in the woods that featured no nudity whatsoever, The Demon certainly has the upper hand.

The Conclusion
I won’t kid you, though, The Demon is not an obscure movie tracking down, not even for Cameron Mitchell fans. I honestly can’t re-watch this movie without taking a break halfway through. I’m sure it had potential somewhere and somehow, but it certainly didn’t go very far and in short deserves to stay there.

Stinger: “Did your Extra Sensory Perception prepare you for THIS?”

*: Oh, wait, I know why I remember French in Action so well: Valérie Allain! Yuum!

Grand Theft Auto

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 13 - 2011

Grand Theft Auto (1977)
Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Ron Howard and Rance Howard
Starring: Ron Howard, Nancy Morgan and Marion Ross

The Plot: Paula Powers (Nancy Morgan) is a beautiful young woman from a very accomplished family. When she brings home Sam Freeman (Ron Howard) and tells her family that the young couple will be married shortly, they do not react in the most sympathetic of manner. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, as we see her family orders her to break it off with Sam and instead marry the very rich Collins Hedgeworth. Paula breaks away from her family and steals her father’s Rolls Royce and both she and Sam are then out on the run to Las Vegas in order for the two of them to be married. Unfortunately, Paula’s parents are just rich and psychotic enough to give chase all the way to Las Vegas and now the two are going to have to really jet down the highway in order to beat their pursuers. Making matters worse, Paula’s parents call up Collins Hedgeworth who offers a $25,000 reward in order to bring “his girl” back. Now everyone between Los Angeles and Las Vegas are looking for this couple. Along for the chase we have Collins, his parents, Paula’s parents, a street preacher, a gas station attendant, two mechanics and a radio announcer who simply wants the scoop! Prepare for auto-insanity!

The Review
Ron Howard has lead one of the most intriguing lives in the Hollywood system, there’s no question about that. Beginning his career as a child-actor on the Andy Griffith Show, followed by his star-making turn on the television program Happy Days. What provided his legendary career span though would obviously be his turn as a director which would see him continue working for several decades longer, and also see him win an Oscar sometime later on. However, it was during his stint with New World Pictures, where he would work with Roger Corman, that would see him cut his teeth as a director and start this new life behind the camera. This Ron Howard Action Pack from Shout! Factory, which features both Grand Theft Auto and Eat My Dust, delivers both the films that would start this new career of his, and through the special features on the double disc set, as well as the stories behind this transition.

Ron Howard may not seem like the go-to guy to star in an action packed film dealing with car chases, but the seventies were certainly a very different time and era. People were more willing to experiment during these times and although we still shades of such things today (with Michael Cera starring in titles such as Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World), few smaller framed actors would be thrown in such roles during modern times. As we saw in Eat My Dust, Howard was the sort of actor who could make anything work. With Grand Theft Auto, Howard is back a year later and has grown his hair out in the same manner that he continually threatened throughout the previously mentioned film. His general look is far more hipster-like and his character is certainly far different than the one he portrayed in the previous film. His hip’ness is felt seeping through the camera as he asks Nancy Morgan to pull over so the two can “fool around”. Although he still has fears of his own inadequacy at times, the character seems much more down to earth.

The broad comedy of Eat My Dust (and later on, Smokey Bites the Dust) certainly makes a triumphant return here.This can be a good thing or this can be a bad thing when it comes to slapstick comedy, so the audience usually has a fifty-fifty shot of gathering up a movie that is worth some value and although the comedy in Grand Theft Auto isn’t always on pitch its most assuredly in the better half. There are still some really strong and broadly drawn characters that walk beyond the line of “satirical” and are simply “stereotypical”. Characters such as the maniacal street preacher and every last one of the “rich” family members who are continually speaking with their bottom jaw puckered as far outward as is conceivably possible, they are the worst examples of this low-brow sensibility. The comedy remains over the top but it is also just witty enough that we can have faith in the filmmakers to take us into something interesting.

Ron Howard, who made his directorial debut here, shows a veteran skill despite being a novice at the time. Knowing that he would be doing so much behind the scenes, it was a smart idea for the director to have such a gigantic ensemble cast. An ensemble cast that would feature numerous Roger Corman regulars as well as Howard’s own father Rance Howard and his brother Clint, who both feature prominently in the movie. Howard establishes this large ensemble role so that he doesn’t have to direct himself throughout much of the picture, and he himself is only featured throughout the movie in tiny bits and pieces. His role doesn’t seem as large as many of the character bits throughout, but when he is onscreen sharing time with Nancy Morgan he does make the most of it. The small moments between Howard and Morgan make tue heart of the movie and ultimately give us reason to root for these two lovebirds.

Featuring more action than in any Roger Corman produced car chase movie I have seen yet, I give total credit to Howard for crafting such an exciting feature on his very first production. Exploding bridges, exploding cars and an innumerable amount of wrecked automobiles, Howard certainly didn’t pick a very “easy” movie for his first time in the director’s seat. The young director even handles tension exceedingly well as he stages a game of “chicken” between a Rolls Royce and a helicopter in a sequence that looks to put an end to our characters. This scene in particular has always been the single image that defines Grand Theft Auto and is one that will likely remain in the public conscious longer than anything else in the production.

The Conclusion
This isn’t a perfect movie, not by any stretch of the imagination. That broad comedy can and potentially will drive the audience batty. The time spent away from the leads in Ron Howard and Nancy Morgan could very well prove to be an issue as well. However, I have to give credit where credit is due, amongst the number of action-comedies that feature such huge ensemble casts, Grand Theft Auto remains one of the most entertaining. Give it a look and check out the Ron Howard Action Pack, since you really can’t beat the deal!

“Eat My Dust” Review

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 12 - 2011
Hey everyone, here we are today with some more car-chase cinema straight from the good folks over at Shout! Factory. The Roger Corman collection continues to expand with their May 24th release of the Ron Howard action pack! Featuring his breakout action role covered today with the film Eat My Dust. Read on to get an idea of what the film has in store!

The Plot: Hoover Niebold (Ron Howard) is a real gear-head with a fixation on stock-car racing. He reads all of the magazines and keeps up with his favorite driver Big Bubba Jones, who drives the sweetest little ride with the fastest engine around. His father, who is the sheriff, thinks that the entire stock-car racing business is a bunch of bunk. After sneaking into a race, Hoover stumbles upon his greatest crush: Darlene Kurtz (Christopher Norris), a blond haired angel who wears tight shirts and short-shorts. After Darlene doesn’t immediately take to his charm, she soon lets it slip that she wouldn’t mind going for a ride. A really FAST ride. The only thing is, she doesn’t want to go anywhere in Hoover’s beat-up truck. She has her eyes set on Big Bubba Jones’ tweaked out stock-car. Hoover, acting off of instinct, proceeds to steal the stock-car and goes off on a mission with all of his friends and the beautiful Darlene. With Hoover’s dad and the rest of the county searching for him, Hoover is facing a lot of trouble but for now he’ll simply have some fun along the way.

And if the review isn’t enough, you can catch this nice little interview with Ron Howard in order to whet your appetite for Corman produced action mayhem!


Eat My Dust

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 12 - 2011

Eat My Dust (1976)
Director: Charles B. Griffith
Writers: Charles B. Griffith
Starring: Ron Howard, Christopher Norris and Brad David

The Plot: Hoover Niebold (Ron Howard) is a real gear-head with a fixation on stock-car racing. He reads all of the magazines and keeps up with his favorite driver Big Bubba Jones, who drives the sweetest little ride with the fastest engine around. His father, who is the sheriff, thinks that the entire stock-car racing business is a bunch of bunk. After sneaking into a race, Hoover stumbles upon his greatest crush: Darlene Kurtz (Christopher Norris), a blond haired angel who wears tight shirts and short-shorts. After Darlene doesn’t immediately take to his charm, she soon lets it slip that she wouldn’t mind going for a ride. A really FAST ride. The only thing is, she doesn’t want to go anywhere in Hoover’s beat-up truck. She has her eyes set on Big Bubba Jones’ tweaked out stock-car. Hoover, acting off of instinct, proceeds to steal the stock-car and goes off on a mission with all of his friends and the beautiful Darlene. With Hoover’s dad and the rest of the county searching for him, Hoover is facing a lot of trouble but for now he’ll simply have some fun along the way.

The Review
Roger Corman certainly contributed to the world of the action-comedy, that is for sure. His New World productions often featured some rather spectacularly silly comedy mixed in with some very large action spectacles. In our film today everything seems rather over the top. In both terms of good and bad, Eat My Dust is a BIG movie. The comedy is broad, very broad, but surprisingly it actually manages to work. Written and directed by Charles B. Griffith, who some regular Varied Celluloid readers may actually remember. He was the man responsible for the very similar 1981 project Smokey Bites the Dust, which I did not have many nice things to say about. The projects are similar in both their tone and plot devices, but in this instance the movie has two additional features going for it that Smokey… did not: a lot more wit and a charismatic leading man in the form of Ron Howard. Made earlier in Griffith’s career, this just goes to show just how dependent a director can be on his cast. With so much in common between the two films, the success of Eat My Dust is entirely dependent on the main cast and crew.

The comedy this go-around, within the work of Charles B. Griffith, is much more tolerable than what I had seen from him later on. The comedy is still very broad, but this time out the character of Hoover Niebold (Ron Howard) is much more forgivable than the lead we were given in Smokey Bites the Dust. Despite the property damage that Hoover creates along the way, it is rather understandable due to his love-affair with Darlene (Christopher Norris). The blossoming “romance” between these two makes for one of the more interesting developments in the movie. We’re never quite sure if Darlene actually likes Hoover or if she’s just here for the ride. Her free spirit makes her three dimensional and hard to read, which is commendable for this sort of project and adds an extra layer of believability.

The performances are generally what makes the project for me. We have several really well acted roles here, with Ron Howard obviously the standout from the cast. Ron Howard, within the first ten minutes, reminds the audience what a tremendous performer he was. Despite his wholesome image and somewhat geeky demeanor, Howard is a tremendously charismatic actor and puts forth as enthusiastic a performance as you are likely to see from such a young actor. His take on Hoover isn’t the standard “cocky and self confident” young man that you’ll usually see in movies like this. There is a degree of that cocky charm that one might expect, yes, but he isn’t assured that everything will turn out okay and as we see him ending up the butt-end of several jokes made by his friends, we see that he isn’t the coolest cat in the county. Howard’s ability to make a “worry-wart” character into someone you root for makes the movie that much more fun as things escalate.

The rest of the cast all do well in their roles, including the lovely Christopher Norris. Her role is a bit duplicitous at times and it makes her more interesting than your average damsel-in-distress. Not to mention the fact that she’s also about as beautiful a piece of eye candy as one is going to find, especially whilst wearing her yellow hot-pants… which the filmmakers do a fine job at showing off throughout the entirety of the movie. Warren J. Kemmerling who plays Hoover’s father and the local sheriff is also really great in his role as the pursuing force. He is a bit exaggerated at times, as anyone in such a role needs to be, but he doesn’t come off as annoying. That in itself is actually quite impressive, since I usually find these characters to be brutal on the nerves and I’m generally not that forgiving with these cliche villains. I’d be remiss however if I didn’t mention Clint Howard who shows up in a small role during the first half of the movie, and believe me you have never seen him looking so enthusiastic… or young.

The film itself looks fantastic despite its age and has been cleaned up tremendously by the good folks over at Shout! Factory. Although they didn’t remove all of the scratches or pops that show signs of age, especially during the introduction, this turns out as a good thing since its part of the film’s charm and firmly roots it in a particular time and place. The soundtrack is also handled quite well, as it brings about that “southern” charm that is expected from any good car-chase movie from this time and era. Even if the movie itself doesn’t scream out “southern” charm, the music gives it a very “genre” feel. Ultimately, this is a beer-swilling, broad humored piece of zany action-comedy and it does just the things that you expect from it. It may not be great, but its a fun little ride.

The Conclusion
Sometimes the humor is a bit overboard, sometimes things come across as being too heavily reliant on “shtick” and sometimes it just falls flat; but as Smokey Bites the Dust taught me… things can always be worse. I give Eat My Dust a solid three out of five. It’s not what I would consider a shining example of this particular sort of movie, but it takes the genre into some interesting directions and really works at its best when it tries new things.




About Me

Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.