NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947) Revisited

By on October 25, 2022

NIGHTMARE ALLEY was originally released in 1947, re-released in 1956 and then vanished entirely for almost 50 years, apparently due to some legal struggle. The film is missing from many Film Noir anthologies, for the simple reason that nobody had a chance to see it.

This post may contain spoilers, so if you have not seen the film, it might be a good idea to do so before you continue reading.

The film has gained a legendary status over the years, and rightfully so. Among others, Anton Szandor LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan and an ex-carny himself, quoted NIGHTMARE ALLEY as his favorite movie. Dr. LaVey was fortunate enough to have seen in the cinema, the rest of us had to wait until it finally came out on DVD in 2005. It is now available on Blu-Ray as well, both in the US from Criterion and for the UK and Europe from SignalOne Entertainment. Both versions use the same 4K restored print, which looks amazing. Both are region blocked, so unless you have a region-free player, your choice is somewhat limited. They contain different extras as well. As of today, both versions are available online for about $20, so if you have ANY interest in Classic Film Noir, this is a wise investment and highly recommended. These will probably not be around forever.

The movie is based on the novel by William Lindsey Grisham with the same name. Much has been said about the quality of the film and what’s in it, so this post focuses on what’s NOT in the movie.
Keep in mind, this came out in 1947, with the Production Code still safely in place, so there were strong limitations to what could and what could not be shown.

No Freaks

The movie does a very good job a depicting the carnival life of the 1940s. This was an A-Production, it cost quite a good deal of money, and it shows. In fact, an entire carnival setting was installed for the filming. At the time, freaks were still an integral part of the traveling carnival world, yet we do not see a single one of them. The geek makes a brief appearance, but he is of course an integral part of the story. Not a single other freak anywhere.

We can only speculate on the reasons, but this film was released only 15 years after Todd Browning’s now legendary FREAKS (1932) that shocked audiences and ended up as commercial failure. It was only two years later that it was picked up by Dwain Esper and sent on a Roadshow circuit.

So I guess the producers did not want to make the same mistake again.

No Sex

In the book, it is pretty obvious that Stanton Carlisle has sexual relations with all three leading women he encounters. Nothing of that can be seen in the film. In the book, it is pretty obvious that he takes Molly’s virginity after saving her from a prison sentence. Not even a hint of that in the movie, but the carnies force him to marry her in a shotgun wedding, so the viewer is left to his own conclusions.

Also his relationship to Zeena (who’s character is described much more vividly in the book) is limited to one passionate kiss, and there is no indication that anybody beyond that has happened.

Lastly, he openly refuses the (for the time) very outspoken invitation of Dr. Lilith Ritter, his psychiatrist.

No Religion

In the book, Stanton calls himself a Reverend, and (if I remember correctly) he is even setting up his own church. When Molly accuses him of his immoral behavior in the film, he makes it very clear that he ‘never used the Lord’s name in vain’. Quite obviously, he has no problem with being a charlatan, but he strongly rejects any accusation of blasphemy. Which may of course be part of his act. On the other hand, the US always were and still are a strongly religious country.

No Murder

While NIGHTMARE ALLEY has all components of a classic Film Noir tale, it does not contain a murder.
In fact, only one person dies in the film, and while Stan clearly (and relentlessly) profits from the demise, the death is indeed accidental.

The Guilt

Both in the book and movie it is obvious that Ezra Grindle suffers from a guilt complex in connection with his long-lost darling. In the movie, the background is never explained. In the book, it is made clear that she had an abortion, which apparently lead to her demise. We can also speculate that Ezra Grindle was both the father of the unborn child and convinced her to have that intervention.

The Conclusion

Needless to say, the film is a product of its time, and all these omissions were obviously necessary. The interesting point is: they probably make the movie even better. As Miles Davis put it: ‘The most important notes are the ones you do not play.’
On the other hand, reading the book allows a much deeper understanding of what’s going on. I’m not the only one out there who considers NIGHTMARE ALLEY both a personal favorite, but also ‘The Darkest Hour of Film Noir’. For me, it really does not get grittier than this.

The Movie Posters

I once owned the original release german movie poster, from the original release in 1954. I sold it a long time ago and still feel a bit of ‘seller’s remorse’ over this one. So if anybody out there has one for sale: Please drop me a note!

NIGHTMARE ALLEY original release German A1 poster

I still have the original 1947 US Onesheet, which has been on display in my home for at least 15 years:

NIGHTMARE ALLEY original US Onesheet

This one is obviously not for sale, but I certainly wouldn’t mind buying another one. Something else I am looking for would be original german lobby stills for this film, especially scenes that show carnival scenes.

Generally speaking: While I am not much of collector anymore these days, I’m always open to buy original German Film Noir posters from the 1940s and 50s.

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How to ship vintage Movie Posters securely

By on September 13, 2022

First and foremost, the Postercowboy is still a collector at heart. I may not be overly active when it comes to adding to a ‘private collection’ and this point, but, very much like most of my fellow dealers, I sure have that collectors gene.

One of the most frustrating things in the movie poster (or any other collectibles) hobby is to receive damaged goods. So you find something you have either been looking for or (even better) didn’t even know existed. You managed to secure it, you paid for it and you consider youself almost in heaven. And if you’re lucky to be able to pick your purchase up on person, that may well be true.

Unfortunately, in most cases, the purgatory of having your poster shipped to you comes first. In the biblical meaning, the purgatory means suffering for a limited time, but the end result is always heaven. (Those no-good-for-nothing sinners that are considered beyond redemption are supposed to go to hell straight away.)
I believe it should be exactly the same when it comes to buying collectibles online: The wait period and the suffering is usually unavoidable, but in the end you should find yourself in heaven.

Unfortunately, every now and then you will not. Every single long-time collector I have ever met can sing the song of the poorly packed order that arrived damaged, due to the abysmal packing and a careless seller. I once bought a fairly expensive US Onesheet from the 1930s. It had survived in absolutely perfect MINT condition and the seller had photos to prove it. He decided to roll it up and stuff it into an oversized Fedex triangle tube for shipping, without ANY protection at all. Needless to say, the poster arrived with heavily damaged borders. I could tell you dozens of stories like this one from my own experience only.

With that in mind, I want to make sure that everything you buy from Galerie arrives in the exact same condition we send it and we make quite an effort to insure this. Below is a brief summary of how we pack your posters.

Needless to say, the challenge here is to find a middle ground. Especially with international deliveries, a ‘bullet proof’ packing may drive the shipping costs to absurd heights. And if DHL or UPS or whoever decides to throw your package under a truck, there’s hardly anything anybody can do.

How we ship folded Movie Posters

Our folded posters are first sandwiched between slightly oversized, recycled cardboard:

In the next step, they are entirely wrapped in foil to prevent any possible moisture damage:

Finally, this package is wrapped in a sturdy book mailer:

We have been using this exact method for several years and never had a single problem.

How we ship rolled Movie Posters

Here’s how we pack rolled posters: These are first rolled up, and then rolled in corrugated cardboard that exceeds at least an inch (2,5 cm) on either side:

This roll is then wrapped in plastic and placed in a strong cardboard tube:

In a final step, the poster tube is placed in a square shipping tube:

Aside from the added protection, the square box has another advantage over a tube: It can’t roll off a cargo colli. Pretty much every time I had something lost in transit, it was a tube. Fortunately, almost everything showed up again sooner or later. Actually, I only remember one shipment to Canada, that was supposedly lost. To this day, I have a strong feeling that the buy received this without the required proof of delivery and decided to rip me off. But that is a story for another day of course.

My minimal loss rate does not necessarily indicate that the Postal Services are oh-so honest and reliable. Quite frankly, I believe that movie posters (vintage or not) are simply not overly attractive to mail thieves.

Even with the utmost care, there is no way to make 100% sure that your order arrives undamaged. In the unlikely case that the outer box is damaged, it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that you file a damage report with your delivery person IMMEDIATELY. Otherwise, there is no way to file an insurance claim.

For the record: While we use Deutsche Post DHL for most domestic shippings, we have now changed international deliveries almost exclusively to UPS and DHL Express. For most countries, including most of Europe, the UK, and the US we can offer fast delivery at VERY competitive rates.

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Feed the Person you want to be

By on August 23, 2022

Every year when summer comes, my local organic food store puts their sunshade up.

Every year I read the caption that says FEED THE PERSON YOU WANT THE BE…

Every year I wonder: Why would I want to feed Elvis Presley??? And how would that even be possible???

Btw, The King was not only the greatest Rock’n’Roll star this planet ever saw, he also made a good number of movies as well. Most of the films are do not reach the quality of his stage performances, but JAILHOUSE ROCK from 1957 is very much worth watching, if only for his performance of the title song.

The US Onesheet is also my favorite movie poster for any Elvis film by far. As it happens, I have one in stock and available for sale:

JAILHOUSE ROCK original US Onesheet

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On the Subject of Dry Mounting Movies Posters

By on August 12, 2022

I received an email today asking me if it had been a good idea to have his original movie poster for MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO dry mounted. Here’s a sample image of the poster in question:

My Neighbor Totoro

The answer is: NO. NO. NO. And again: NO. Never ever have your vintage movie posters dry mounted!

Unfortunately, ignorant, run-of-the-mill frame shops still frequently recommend this technique. While it is widely accepted for modern photography and digital prints, it is an absolute no-go for vintage posters. It is also absolutely unacceptable to most serious collectors. Technically, dry-mounting is sometimes reversible, but it needs a highly skilled restorer to do so, and it does not always work. Also, depending on the glue that was used, ugly stains may remain on the back of the poster, so it would have to be rebacked to be presentable.

Basically, the only two backing options allowed are linenbacking and paperbacking, and both have to be performed by professional restorers. DO NOT try this at home! I do remember a seller from the Arabian world (but living in Germany) who took the word ‘linenbacking’ literally and backed several of his posters on cut-to-size, white duvet covers. With weird imprinted patterns and all. Needless to say, this is not the way to go either. More information on linenbacking and paperbacking can be found in my INFO section.

How to find a good frame shop

Which brings me to the question on how to find a trustworthy frame shop. Of course, if you have a vintage movie poster shop in your area, the easiest way would be ask the owner for a recommendation. If that is not possible, confront the person at the frame shop with the term ‘conservation framing’. For your information, the University Products website offers an excellent summary on the topic.

The frame shop of your choice should be able and willing to explain the process to you. If you get the idea that the framer does not really know what he’s talking about, find somebody else. I’m serious.
A good framer might cost you more money to begin with, but it will be worth the expense over time.

I did not get the idea that the owner of the TOTORO poster is interested in selling, but although this is my all-time favorite anime movie poster, it is extremely in demand and it has become very hard to find, and the prices have gone up dramatically I would most likely refuse to buy it dry mounted. In this condition, in my perception, the poster is worth 20% at best compared to an unbacked copy, so it’s just not worth the hassle. And of course, it would have to ship flat, which is another nightmare in itself.

I have occasionally bought dry-mounted movie posters in the past, but only if it was something extremely rare and desirable like this one:

Ciao! Manhattan original world premiere movie poster

This poster was printed for the world premiere screening on CIAO MANHATTAN in Amsterdam in 1972. It also comes with a great provenance and it is my favorite poster on the film. Truth be told, I bought this framed in an online auction, so I did not know it was mounted on art board. On the other hand, it’s such a nice piece and so extremely rare, I would have gone for it anyway.

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THE DARK CARNIVAL Part 2: Sympathy for the Devil

By on August 3, 2022

Almost exactly 60 years after their first show at London’s Marquee Jazz Club on July 12, 1962 the Rolling Stones will once again be playing in Berlin tonight. Tonight’s gig not only marks the end of their current European tour, it will most likely be the last tour if not the last show they ever play.

Tickets are long sold out of course, with the cheapest seats going for somewhat over €280. Out of curiosity, I checked the promoter’s website today and they still show a ‘VIP Package’, which includes a place in the Diamond Pit (whatever that is…), standing room only. It could be had for a lousy €849. This ticket also allows early access. We’re once again looking at 34° C (93° F) in Berlin today, and the gig is supposed to start at 6:30 pm. No doubt grilling a couple extra hours in the sun will be a lot of fun.

Anyway, this is of course the perfect opportunity to present another lot from the DARK CARNIVAL exhibition, the original 1969 release US Special movie poster for Jean-Luc Godard’s SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL:

Rolling Stones Sympathy for the Devil US Special Poster
Rolling Stones Sympathy for the Devil Detail

Admittedly, I have never been too much of a Rolling Stone fan myself, but I always adored this poster.

This is a beautiful, slightly oversized silkscreen print for the original US release of the movie. Only about 100-120 copies of this poster were made. I had a local artist at the shop at some point, and she told me that a somewhat special silkscreen technique had been used here, with the result that every single poster looks slightly different.

Here’s what the IMDB has to say about the film:

Jean-Luc Godard‘s original director’s cut (titled “One Plus One”) runs approximately 110 minutes and consists largely of additional footage of the black power militants. The film’s producers were dissatisfied with this cut and deleted 11 minutes, changed the title to “Sympathy for the Devil” to underscore the Stones connection, and added the final version of the title song to the film’s soundtrack, over a freeze-frame of the last shot. These changes were all made without Godard’s knowledge; when he finally saw them at the film’s London Film Festival premiere, he allegedly went berserk and physically attacked one of the producers.

The film is essentially Godard’s take on the 1960s Western Counter Culture, and in Godard’s vision, the Rolling Stones only played one part in it. No surprise he hated the edited version.

The movie opened in December 1968 in the UK, in April 1969 in the US and in May the same year in France.

Fast forward to December 6, 1969: The Rolling Stones hire some local Hell’s Angels as security for the Free Altamont Open-Air Festival. The producers expected 80.000 people, when 300.000 show up, all hell breaks loose and the Hell’s Angels wreck havoc among the visitors. Their violence is not limited to the audience, musicians like Neil Young and Jefferson Airplane singer Marty Balin are attacked on stage as well.

While the Rolling Stones are playing ‘Under my Thumb’ and the cameras are rolling, a member of the Hell’s Angels stabs 18 year-old African-American Meredith Hunter in the back five times and he dies in front of the stage. The Hell’s Angel later claims that Hunter pointed a gun at him and is aquitted in a court of law. This day is widely considered ‘the end of the hippie era.’

I don’t know what the US distributor had in mind when he opted for this amazing, but somewhat disturbing image of the band inside a large skull with headphones.
According to the IMDB, SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL opened in the US in April 22, 1969, almost eight months before Altamont. With this in mind, the poster design, great as it is, gets a fairly creepy and also a very dark prophetic quality.

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The Dark Carnival : A Movie Poster & Art Exhibition

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Truth be told, Galerie never drew much walk-in business. The subject of buying and displaying vintage movie posters is apparently still too esoteric for most people, at least in Germany.
On the other hand, I spend a good deal of my lifetime at the gallery, so at some point I decided it was about time to tidy the place up some. The idea of creating my own personal exhibition has been in my head pretty much since I opened my first shop in 2004, and almost 20 years later I finally realized it.
It may not be anybody’s liking (and why should it), but I am actually very happy with the outcome.
The exhibition shows a broad range of items, from the mundane to the elusive to several one of a kind pieces. I will discuss them individually over several posts in the next months.

Today, let me start with my inspiration for the project: In 2012 I visited the Dennis Hopper photo exhibition in Berlin’s Gropius Bau. The image shown below is from the exhibition catalog and shows scenes from Hopper’s living room in 1965. I still find that paper maché clown under the ceiling impressive and nothing short of amazing.

Dennis Hopper Photography

Hardly any of Hopper’s photos appear to be arranged or staged, instead he was a master of ‘framing’ interesting people and/or remarkable scenes. The catalog shows about 400 photos. There are several editions on the market, so this is one photo book that can still be found at a very moderate price. I paid about €20 for my like-new hardcover copy on ebay and I highly recommend it.

After visiting the exhibition I knew I wanted to do something involving clowns at some point. I really don’t know why, it just seemed like a good idea and it still does. If you ask for any further motivation, I guess I’m with this guy:

Also, I had this amazing, but perfectly worthless vintage circus poster shown below sitting in one of my lockers for ages. I believe that it is from the 1950s or so, but there were tons of them printed. While these have become somewhat hard to find, the monetary value is somewhat neglectable. For my perception, the display value is second to none. Matter of fact, the frame cost me a lot more than the poster is worth, but I absolute adore this piece. It also reminds me very much of the clown painting from Dennis Hopper’s apartment you can see above.
For those who are interested in this kind of material: I still have a small handful of vintage circus posters and circus related movie posters for sale, they can be found in my CATALOG.

Sells and Gray Circus Poster

Actually, the beautiful vase you see on the photo was made by a ceramic artist on the next block and the dry flower arrangement is Made in Berlin as well. Before I bought the vase, this spot was occupied by one of my junk movie poster boxes. I sold a good deal of junk material to a local collector in a bulk deal a while ago and used the money to pay for the vase. I am still EXTREMELY pleased with that deal!

Anyway, I’m getting distracted here… I always knew I needed to do something with the poster above, but I never really had a plan. At some point, I briefly pondered the idea of pasting it on the door at the end of a long hallway in my home, but looking this guy right in the eye every time I come home seemed a tad too creepy even for my taste.

It now servers as both an ‘opener’ and a ‘cornerstone’ of the shop exhibition and I am mighty glad I found such a great place for it!

More on the first set of my other exhibits next time!

Happy Trails,

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Willie Nelson: The Man, the Myth, the Movie Posters

By on August 2, 2022

Woke up this morning with Willie Nelson singing ‘My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys’ in my head. For those of you who have not yet discovered the blessings of sad country music, here it is:

The song was written by Sharon Vaughn and originally taped by fellow country music outlaw Waylon Jennings. Willie’s version was recorded for the soundtrack of THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN in 1979 and can be heard in the opening credits. Truth be told, I never liked any of the movie posters for this film (or the movie itself) too much, so I don’t have any of them in stock right now and I’m not overly eager to replace them.

What I DO have in stock, and here comes part one of this blatant cross-marketing attempt, is a US insert for HONEYSUCKLE ROSE from 1980:

Honeysuckle Rose Insert

The movie is pretty much a two hour long country song and more or less recommended to Willie Nelson fans only. Willie’s now classic song ‘On the Road again’ was nominated for an Academy Award but did not win. It did win another award, though: Amy Irving received the first ever Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress for this one. I always thought that was a tad unfair. She sure ain’t no great actress, but I did not think she was that bad either.
Honeysuckle Rose is of course the name of Willie’s tour bus, that can also be seen in the poster.

And since this is a cross-marketing post: I also have the US Onesheet for THE RED-HEADED STRANGER from 1986 available:

Red Headed Stranger US Onesheet

The movie is based on Willie’s immensly successful album of the same name. In my book, the album is one of the all-time greatest country music recordings ever. It definitely is a lot better than the film…
On the other hand, the movie gave us this wonderful Willie Nelson poster. For me, this one has everything any serious fan could wish for.

Needless to say, in the world of vintage movie posters, cross-marketing attempts like this one never really seem to work, but I figure it can’t hurt tryin’ either…

Happy Trails,

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Improve your Life: A reliable Cure for the Summertime Blues!

By on July 31, 2022

Some people will tell you ‘there ain’t no cure for the Summertime Blues’ but Dr. Postercowboy, proven expert for summertime mental ailments, sez: Those people are wrong.

In fact, there is an easy and almost failsafe remedy, Homemade Blueberry Muffins:

The Postercowboy’s Homemade Blueberry Muffins

The most important point here is ‘homemade’. Any store-brought crap will NOT do and will NOT produce the desired effect. Organic ingredients are not mandatory but recommended for tastier and more successful results.

My favorite recipe is from my favorite Southern cookbook: SOUL FOOD – Classic Cuisine from the Deep South by Sheila Ferguson:

(makes about 12 Muffins)

2 cups (8 oz. 250 g) sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (2 oz., 60 g) sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (2 oz., 60 g) melted butter
3/4 cup (6 fl oz, 175 g) milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup (6 fl oz, 175 g) fresh blueberries, washed and well drained

Preheat your oven to 400° F (200° C). Sift all the dry ingredients together, twice. Combine your butter, milk, and eggs, and add to the dry ingredients. Stirl lightly but do not beat. Fold in the blueberries, stirring just enough to distribute them through your batter, which should look lumpy.
Generously grease muffin cups and fill them two-thirds full. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot, smothered with butter.

This is an old-time recipe, so I assume Mrs. Ferguson used an iron muffin tray. As you can see on my photo, I use an aluminium tray with paper cups, so the greasing can be omitted. Canned or frozen blueberries may be used as well. Also, those ultra-nerds among you out there will have noticed that the volume and metric measurements do not translate exactly. As long as you stick to either set, it does not make any difference.

Mrs. Ferguson also offers some practical advice on muffin making:

Never, never over-beat muffin batter, it only serves to make them tough. If any muffin cups are unfilled, before baking fill these one-third with water to prevent them from scorching. It also helps to keep the muffins moist. Remove your muffins to a cooling rack as soon as they come from the oven. You can put them back into the oven for about 5 minutes to warm through. If you want to keep them hot without the bottoms sweating, lift them up and set them sideways while warming. You can freeze muffins in foil for later use. But don’t let them thaw out naturally. Just throw them in the oven, still wrapped in the foil, and bake at 350° F (180° C) for about 45 minutes. They’ll taste just as if they were freshly baked.

It is always a good idea to remove the muffins from the tray directly after baking. In our home, where the Summertime Blues is a regular guest, they have never lasted long enough to freeze them, but her advice is usually rock solid. Also, every oven is different. My muffins were good after 22 minutes today.

In any case, these should take care of your Summertime Blues, and in the unlikely case they don’t: Start over from Step 1.

And since this is supposed to be a vintage movie poster blog, here’s a list of all the vintage movie posters we have that relate to


Happy trails,


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Cantina Las Perras San Miguel de Allende

Dead but not forgotten: The Mexican Cantina revisited

By on July 28, 2022

Suffering in the summer heat in Berlin-Kreuzberg, the Postercowboy dreams himself back to Mexico…

A legendary, now pretty much dead institution was the Mexican cantina, here’s an example from the Cantina Las Perras, the Bitches Canteen in San Miguel de Allende that closed a long time ago. I think it is now home to a cultural institution or something, but fortunately, they saved the original house front:

Cantina Las Perras, San Miguel de Allende

The cantina was quite a special place, in this case one of the basic rules were actually etched into the wall: Access prohibited for women, uniforms and minors.

Cantina Las Perras Access Rules

This was a standing rule for cantinas in Mexico. The concept of the place was pretty simple: You only paid for your drinks, while the food was free and also became heavier and greasier as the evening went on, all in order to encourage and enable more drinking.
The basic idea was that you were not supposed to leave as long as you were still able to walk on your own two feet. These places were all about drinking HARD and getting STUBBORNLY drunk.

The Postercowboy has not had a hard drink in ages, but there was a time when he would’ve just LOVED those places. Germany has quite a drinking culture, but nothing I ever saw over here came even close to this wonderful and completely ridiculous Mexican tradition.

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Why is this Blog written in English?

By on July 21, 2022

Zwei Gründe: Dieser Blog zielt auf ein internationales Publikum und ich bin zu faul, alles zweimal zu schreiben. Unter findet sich der Google-Übersetzer. Blog-URL kopieren, einfügen und alle Beiträge in deutsch (oder jeder anderen Sprache) lesen.

Two reasons: This blog is targeting an international audience and I am too lazy to write everything twice. Open then copy and paste the blog URL and read everything in German (or any other language).

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