Jessie Matthews in “First a Girl” (1935) – reviewed by George

This first remake of the German film “Viktor und Viktoria” (which I cannot find, on either Amazon or Amazon.UK or with Netflix) is played mostly for laughs (and it is very funny), but also has some grand production numbers. Jessie plays Elizabeth, who works at a fashion house with a horde of other girls, all in the same costume, a workmanlike dress that could never be mistaken for one of Madame Seraphina’s creations. While Madame (Martita Hunt) has a great showcase of new fashions going on, the workforce is upstairs watching through a set of cantilevered windows that allow a grand view of not just the dresses, but also the wealthy women in attendance. At the arrival of Princess Mironoff (Anna Lee), Elizabeth says, “Look, here’s Lady Wiggle-Waggle”, which produces laughter so loud, you’re sure the customers and Madame can hear it. Then at the close, with the models coming in from both sides at floor level, then walking up the steps to the stage, Elizabeth starts vamping a dance to the music being played, and soon has twenty or so other girls up and dancing. She finishes her fun with a big kick, which unfortunately makes her shoe fly off her foot and go through the one window that is open, to land right at the feet of the Princess and Seraphina while they discuss the Princess’s purchases.
Well, Madame decides the most fitting punishment for Elizabeth is to have to deliver the large number of boxes containing Mironoff’s new clothes to the Princess’s hotel. This would be fine, except that Elizabeth is not the sturdiest girl in the shop and when she encounters a number of people entering a theater for an audition she is pushed and pummeled right along with them. Her attempts to land a job as a soprano are rejected, so she simply moves along, trying out as a contralto, then a tenor, then a bass. She gets a strong no at each position. While this is going on we are also seeing Victor (Sonnie Hale) audition for a Shakespeare play, very funny because the casting director is also arguing with a set designer and everything he tells the designer to do, Victor interprets as instructions for his recitation. As he leaves, unhired, he bumps into Elizabeth, still toting packages and with equally frustrated ambitions. They talk for a minute, sharing their woes, and Victor begins to lose his voice. Horrified, he tells her that yes, he longs to be a serious actor, but until that occurs he is earning a living as a female impersonator, AND he has a show this very night! Solution? Elizabeth must go on in his place. She will get to sing in front of an audience, and the laugh will be on the audience because she really is a girl.
Victor cuts her hair; she wears a blonde wig; she is a huge success as his stage name Victoria; and when she removes the wig and takes a bow as a man to tumultuous applause and laughter she is hooked. She is so good, in fact, that Mr. McLintock (Alfred Drayton), an agent, rushes backstage to offer her, and her manager Victor, a contract to tour Europe.
Now more fun as they meet Mironoff and her boyfriend Robert (Griffith Jones) on the continent, and Robert refuses to believe that she is a man.
Delightful and very entertaining.
Songs by Maurice Sigler and Al Goodhart and Al Hoffman, Based on an Original Screenplay by Reinhold Schunzel, Scenario by Marjorie Gaffney, Directed by Victor Saville.

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Rear Window (1954) – reviewed by George

Alfred Hitchcock’s 41st film is a knockout in two major ways. First the set is the most impressive studio construction since Babylon in 1916’s “Intolerance”, and second because the suspense starts fairly early and just does not let up.
First the set: the leading man’s apartment, from which the action is observed, is shallow, because his apartment is really another set, built separately. But what he sees outside his window is dynamite: starting from his left there’s the side of a building with a prominent fire escape, then a fairly narrow walkway between it and the main building. We see a milkman return to his truck down this walkway, and we also see pedestrians and passing cars on the street beyond. Then the main building in all its glory – a 2-story apartment with a back stair leading into the rather large courtyard, attached to a 4-story multi-apartment building with grass and a strip of flowers in back, and to the right of that a 4-story with an outthrust first story apartment with a small patio.
It’s 90 degrees and nobody is using curtains and we see into lots of apartments where people are getting ready for the day, and even a couple who have pallets on the fire escape and are sleeping outside. And L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries (James Stewart) is recuperating from a smashed-up leg, so has little to do but watch his neighbors. He’s a professional news photographer (we know because his walls are covered with photos, among them a photo of a race car crash with one wheel headed straight for the camera, and on a  table under that photo a broken camera), so he has good equipment for people-watching: long-distance cameras with telescopic viewfinders and binoculars and so on. He also has a day nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter), and a girlfriend who comes over after work as a fashion consultant, Lisa (Grace Kelly). And luckily he has a friend who is a Detective Lieutenant, Thomas Doyle (Wendell Corey).
As Jeff entertains himself spying on his neighbors, he gives some of them names: Miss Torso (Georgine Darcy) for a dancer who practices every day, and Miss Lonelyhearts (Judith Evelyn) for a woman who pretends to have a visitor to whom she serves wine, and then others who get less attention, like a songwriter (Ross Bagdasarian) and a pair of newlyweds (Rand Harper and Havis Davenport). But he seems most fascinated by the Thorwalds (Raymond Burr and Irene Winston). The man waits hand and foot on his bedridden wife, who looks very demanding and unappreciative, and he seems resigned to this, but when he leaves her room his expression changes to resentment. Also, occasionally he has to leave the house to do his job. He has a sample case which we see late in the movie contains jewelry pieces. And then she disappears from the apartment and the suspense starts and does not stop until the film is over.
This is outstanding in every way, and is easily the most suspenseful movie I have seen in a very long time. A true classic, and a must-see.
Based on the Short Story by Cornell Woolrich, Screenplay by John Michael Hayes, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

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Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017) – reviewed by George

This is a super movie; I only wish I could have seen it in 3D in a theater instead of on my TV at home, because I can’t tell whether the director James Gunn repeated his marvelous feat of utilizing the 3D in every single shot.
The film starts in Missouri with the romance of the parents of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), now also known as Star Lord. His mother, Meredith, is played by Laura Haddock, and his father, Ego, by (surprise!) Kurt Russell, who leaves Meredith behind and then dispatches Yondu (Michael Rooker) to retrieve the boy. Yondu does, but keeps him, prompting a 30-year search for his son by Ego, who can manipulate matter and thereby control events to some extent. Since the first film’s successful conclusion Quill and his friends are called Guardians of the Galaxy.
And a new and very powerful race has arisen: the Sovereign, ruled by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki). The Sovereign have asked the Guardians to retrieve some stolen anulax batteries, whose name is argued over by Drax (Dave Bautista) and Rocket Raccoon (voice of Bradley Cooper). When they deliver the batteries they will get Gamora’s (Zoe Saldana) sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), who is being held hostage by the Sovereign. The Guardians return the batteries, collect Nebula, and then Rocket, unknown to the others, steals some of the batteries before they leave, and now they have the Sovereign on their heels trying to blow them out of the whatever-you-call-the-space-between-planets. The Ravagers, led by Yondu, are after them too. Yondu’s crew is pretty anonymous, except for Taserface (Chris Sullivan) who leads a revolt against Yondu, and Kraglin (Sean Gunn), who goes along, then turns loyal to Yondu again.
Also on the Guardians’ ship are Baby Groot (voice of Vin Diesel), whose CGI face is a fantastically sweet and childlike part of the story, as he grows and matures into a teenager, and Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Ego’s servant, too innocent to be a spy. Drax and Mantis are an item.
This is a spectacular film, with cameos by Ben Browder (the Sovereign Admiral), Sylvester Stallone (Strakar), Seth Green (Howard the Duck), and David Hasselhoff, Michael Rosenbaum, Stan Lee, Greg Henry, Ving Rhames, and Michelle Yeoh.
But underneath all the action, color, and explosions, the film has some real things to say about family (particularly fathers and sons) and about loyalty and friendship.
Not as surprising as the first film (how could it be?), but just as good, and deep, and more emotional. And songs from the 70s and 80s are used to magnificent effect.
Written and Directed by James Gunn.

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Warehouse 13 – “Pilot”: 7-7-2009 – reviewed by George

I loved this show, so when I got a chance to watch the Pilot again I jumped at it. Then I was amazed; I had never seen this before! Did I miss the original showing of the Pilot somehow? And it was so good, such a marvelous introduction to the characters, that I just loved it all over again.
When FBI agents Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) and Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly), are assigned to separate teams protecting the President, and the assignment is botched big time (without any harm to the Prez – please realize I’m leaving out huge amounts of info involving a supernatural Aztec-type animal head, called a bloodstone, that bites somebody and makes hem dangerous), they are transferred separately from Washington D.C. and meet in South Dakota at the warehouse. Each thinks the transfer is punishment, but each has been vetted for this very special work. They have no idea what is going on. What are they doing there? Who is in charge? When Mrs. Frederic (CCH Pounder)  recruited Pete she said he would be on her team, and apparently she said the same thing to Myka, so where is she? And then Arthur Neilsen (Saul Rubinek) shows up, “Call me Artie”, and tells them to come inside this terribly rusted and disintegrating building and he will tell them all. Wisely they are skeptical, and then Artie says, “I made cookies”, and Pete says, “Oooo!”, and they go inside.
They enter a cluttered office filled with old filing cabinets and museum-looking stuff. Artie keeps them moving, opening one last door, and here was where I joined the pilot, later than I ever thought. Artie says, “Welcome to Warehouse 13!” The camera moves away from the group, but looking back at them, so it’s like the zoom though the storage facility in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, but facing in the opposite direction. As the camera continues to move, and move, you realize that this place is a helluva lot bigger than the one in “Raiders”. And as Artie says, “I like to think of it as America’s attic”, the credits begin to roll. So you can see why I thought I had seen the entire pilot. I just didn’t know it had started so long before I tuned in. Then the real case of the week begins, involving Lucrezia Borgia’s jeweled hair-comb.
Anyway, with the zoom and Artie’s line and the credits, I got a little frisson down my spine, and thought to myself, “Truly, this is great stuff!” I suggest you get ahold of some way to see the whole five-season run ASAP.

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Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime “The Unbreakable Alibi” (1982) – reviewed by George

Montgomery Jones (Tim Meats) is a pleasant but somewhat dim young man in love with a girl who is not in love with him. She is Una Drake (Anna Nygh) from Australia, now living in London and doing quite well working on a fine arts magazine, Pen and Palette. In a spirit of boredom Una tells Monty that she is going to set up two alibis, and if he can tell her which is false she will marry him.
Well, Monty is not that dim; he hires Blunt’s Brilliant Detectives to detect which alibi is false. Problem? Tommy and Tuppence (James Warwick and Francesca Annis) go to the places where Una is supposed to have been in each alibi, and interview hotel and restaurant employees and even a waiter in  a train’s dining car. Everyone identifies Una from her photograph and has some humorous or interesting story about Australia she told, or a comment about Una’s stylish outfits to share. So what to do? Failing Monty seems out of the question, and after all, she could only have been in one place at a time. Is it possible to go to Torquay and get back early enough to show up where she’s supposed to be and where people swear she was?
And then her principle witness for staying in town, Peter Le Marchant (Michael Jayes), is murdered.
This tease certainly makes the story seem less humorous and more concentrated on the mystery than is normal for the Beresfords, but actually there is a lot of humor here, at least until Peter is killed. Albert (Reece Dinsdale) is apparently channeling Douglas Fairbanks when he greets Monty the first time. And it is quite a good puzzle; who is lying?
Adapted by David Butler, Directed by Christopher Hodson.

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What are you watching this Mother’s Day? Comment by Anita

Sunday is a really important day, that being Mother’s Day.  She is a focus in our lives and never leaves us.  Unless she is Carrie’s mom.  That poor teenager was done for.  Maybe that rotten mom is not your mom, but your mother-in-law?  Monster In Law is not only funny but a great example of the many woe’s a bride has to deal with.  Do you think you could be so attached to your mother that becoming her is a good idea?  Anthony Perkins did.  Maybe that warm, loving role model has her own hang ups? We know Joan Crawford does NOT like wire hangers. Some cases a sister takes on the role of being your mother, because your mother has passed away.  Let’s hope you have a better sister then Baby Jane.  Some mothers are so happy with only sons.  Ma Barker had a really killer brood.  If you don’t have time to get that special, self-centered mom flowers don’t worry.  You can always live in an attic and make them from paper.  Flowers in the Attic is what every mother wants for a gift.

Hey!  Sometimes you have to live with an aunt.  She becomes your mother.  Auntie Mame is the best choice for that job.  Mame is the living example of “life is a banquet”.  Not to say a stay-at-home-aunt/mother is not awesome.  I’m sure Aunt Bee’s fried chicken was the pride of Mayberry.  Some women want so many kids they never stop.  Ma Kettle could  manage an army of children.  Some mother’s are pure magic.  Samantha and Endora sure kept things shaking.  A real mother will stop at nothing  to save her child.  If I needed a mother (aside of my own) to stick up for me I’d want Dolores Claiborne in my corner. She’s one tough cookie.

A mother will love you no matter how hairless you come out.  Lucky thing for Tarzan and Mowgli whose moms were fierce in their love of their foundlings.  And she will never let you go hungry.  Just ask skinny Charlie Bucket. Losing that mother (even in the movies) can bring tears no matter your age.  Dumbo’s mother proved that.  You know she always loves you, Bambi’s mother reminds us that fact.

No matter who she is to you, or how you came together she is YOUR mother.  Show her how much you love her by taking her to the movies.  Better yet, pick one out that we’ve talked about and stay in.  Have some popcorn, bubbly, and cake.  Oh!  Let us know what you watched.

Happy Mother’s Day.  I love you mom.

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Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and Edward Hardwicke as John Watson in “The Return of Sherlock Holmes” (1986) – reviewed by George

Alan Howard as The Duke of Holdernesse in “The Priory School”
Mrs. Hudson (Rosalie Williams) announces a late visitor and Watson tells her to delay the man. He then takes the card she has handed him and slips it into the vest pocket of a sleeping Holmes, who is only resting his eyes. He takes the card and looks at it, then slips it into a different pocket. The possible client makes a wild-eyed entrance banging through the closed door, sweaty and distraught, and collapses on the hearthrug. Watson brings him around and he turns out to be Dr. Huxtable (Christopher Benjamin), the Headmaster of the Priory School, Mackleton. As Huxtable recovers himself Holmes makes some typically astounding conclusions, with the final one being that whatever has so discommoded the man took place three days ago.
True, says Huxtable. One of his students disappeared at that time. And Holmes says it would be quite impossible for either himself or Dr. Watson to go to Mackleton; they are quite busy as is. And a slightly shocked Huxtable then identifies the missing student: Lord Arthur Saltire (Nissar Modi), aged nine, the only son of the Duke of Holdernesse. Now it is Holmes’s turn to be surprised. He identifies the Duke as one of the most important of Her Majesty’s subjects. Huxtable tells the two that the restrictions the very private Duke has placed upon the police have completely hamstrung the investigation and that now he is prepared to pay Holmes five thousand pounds to retrieve the boy and one thousand to be sure that the perpetrators are punished.
When asked about ransom demands he replies that none have been made – it is the most perplexing facet of the crime. Also Lord Saltire’s is not the only disappearance – Herr Heidegger the German professor is also missing, as is his bicycle. A skeptical Watson asks, if Heidegger took the boy, then why no ransom demands, and Holmes pooh-poohs the idea that Heidegger is involved: “Do you think he rode a bicycle across the valley with the boy in his arms? … But it is an admirable starting point for an investigation.” And the game is afoot!
Dramatised by T.R. Bowen, Directed by John Madden.

Eric Sykes and Colin Jeavons as Horace Harker and Inspector Lestrade in “The Six Napoleons”
The first four minutes are in Italian, but one understands later that a man, Pietro Vennuci (Vincenzo Nicoli),  is screaming at his sister Lucrezia (Marina Sirtis) and slapping her. An older man, Venucci Senior (Steve Plytas) comes in and speaks, and the brother, still so furious that he can only speak in a shout, breaking a chair, etc. storms outside and commandeers a cart. He has the hapless driver take him to a place where “Beppo” works. Beppo (Emil Wolk) is likely the sister’s lover. They fight and the brother is stabbed. Beppo runs off to a plaster shop where decorative pieces, as yet unpainted, are stored on open shelving. As the police follow him into the place, English is spoken: “What are you doing down there, Beppo?” The man asking the question is about to suffer a financial loss, because as the police close in, Beppo throws pieces at them and overturns whole shelving units, breaking dozens of plaster statues and busts. He is eventually overpowered and arrested.
Lestrade is visiting and Holmes asks him if anything is doing. Lestrade replies, “Nothing in particular.” So Holmes says, “Tell us about it.”, and Lestrade, smiling, says, “Well, this is currently on my mind.” A certain Morse Hudson (Gerald Campion) has a shop dealing in pictures and statues in Pennington Road. While Hudson was in back, someone came in and smashed a plaster bust of Napoleon, and last night the home of a Doctor Barnicot was broken into and a bust of Napoleon was stolen and then smashed outside. Barnicot had purchased two of these busts from Morse Hudson, one for his home and one for his surgery, and later last night the surgery was broken into and that bust was smashed.
Holmes is not very impressed, but asks to be kept up with developments.
Early the next morning Lestrade sends a message to come at once. Holmes and Watson arrive at the home of Horace Harker – his bust is missing and he has found a body on his front steps, a man with his throat cut and recognizable to the viewer, if not to Holmes, as Pietro Vennuci. A visit to Morse Hudson reveals that Beppo was hired at the shop, was a very good worker, but left after a week, without his wages. Hudson also says that there were six busts of Napoleon to begin with, ordered from Gelder and Company, Stepney, and that the last two busts were sold to Mr. Josiah Brown of Chiswick and Mrs. Sandeford of Reading.
A visit to Gelder and Company follows, where the manager of the factory Herr Mendelstam (Vernon Dobtcheff) reveals that the six busts shipped to Hudson were unlike any other of the dozens made, because Hudson wanted the entire uniform painted. Holmes shows him a photograph found on the dead man, and he readily identifies it as Beppo. “About a year ago he knifed another Italian in the street and then ran in here – the victim lived, so Beppo only got one year.”
And next, by visiting Mr. Josiah Brown, Holmes solves the case.
Dramatised by John Kane, Directed by David Carson.

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Jessie Matthews in “Evergreen” (1934) – reviewed by George

I found this to be delightful. Harriet Green (Jessie Matthews) is giving her farewell performance at a music hall, where she is a huge star, beloved by every music hall buff in London. She is about 38 years old, far too young to be quitting, but she is about to marry the Marquis of Staines (Ivor Maclaren). She is doing a standard revue performance, with solos, plus numbers where a large chorus backs her up, culminating in the song that made her famous: “Daddy Wouldn’t Buy Me a Bow-Wow”. This is  a priceless bit of Edwardian silliness, but the besotted audience eats it up with a spoon. The chorus goes: “Daddy wouldn’t buy me a bow-wow, bow-wow. Daddy wouldn’t buy me a bow-wow, bow-wow. I’ve got a little cat, and I’m very found of that, but I’d rather have a bow-WOW-wow!”
The number evolves into a huge chorus showcase, where Harriet’s understudy and good friend Maudie (Betty Balfour), who is also quitting the stage to marry – Lord Shropshire (Patrick Ludlow), and the director/choreographer Leslie Benn (Sonnie Hale) are prominent. And after tumultuous applause, Harriet is making a farewell speech, saying, “I don’t want to grow old before your eyes”, when one of the barmaids at the back of the theater (Norma Varden, uncredited) shouts out, “You’ll never grow old, Harriet Green!” And the Marquis from his box yells out “Evergreen!” and everyone repeats it and the applause is deafening. With everyone over the moon, the performance ends.
But when Harriet gets back to her rooms, she finds a man named Treadwell (Hartley Power) there. He is the father of her love child, carefully kept away from any public acknowledgement, and he is delighted with her coming marital status: “We’ve got it made, you know.” And so Harriet takes the baby out of hiding and leaves that night for South Africa, breaking the heart of the poor Marquis.
Skip to 20+ years later – Harriet has died and her child, a dead-ringer also named Harriet (but not Green) has come back to London to get on the stage. Her goal is a job in the chorus, but she meets rejection at every turn, usually because backing has fallen through or something – never has anyone told her she’s not talented enough – she’s wonderful. But those are the breaks. Until she meets Tommy Thompson (Barry Mackay) who sees what she can do and wants to help her find work. Then they meet Maudie (Lady Shropshire) and Mr. Benn, who are flabbergasted at the resemblance to her mother, and the decision is instant and unavoidable: stage a revue featuring the return of the wonderful and amazing Harriet Green, looking incredible at sixty! Of course it works and all of them are happy, except for Tommy, who is in love with Harriet, but is playing a public role as her son.
The songs in the show are fun, and the staging may start out looking as if it could be done on a theater stage, but frequently expansion occurs and you end up happily looking at a soundstage production number. The songs are by Harry M. Woods, except for one that was contributed by Rodgers and Hart to the original stage play, also starring Jessie, in the fall of 1930. That song, obviously included in this film, is “Dancing on the Ceiling”.
Wonderfully entertaining, and based on the stage play by Benn W. Levy, with adaptation and dialogue by Emlyn Williams, and scenario by Marjorie Gaffney, and directed by Victor Saville.

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Dial M for Murder (1954) – Reviewed by George

In Alfred Hitchcock’s 40th film, Londoners Tony and Margot Wendice (Ray Milland and Grace Kelly) are the picture of happily married domesticity, with Tony kissing Margot romantically on his way past her to his side of the breakfast table. Margot is reading the paper and sees the arrival notice for the Queen Mary, which lists the American mystery writer Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Cut to the ship, people disembarking, a medium shot of Mark smiling, and then Mark and Margot kissing longingly in the Wendice apartment. A lot of information in less than two and a half minutes.
Seems Mark and Margot had a steamy affair while Tony was busy being a professional tennis player with a lot of travel involved, but the same day Mark left for America and Margot had a good cry, Tony came home, announcing that he was quitting tennis and taking a job, and according to Margot, “… he’s been wonderful ever since.”
Mark arrives at the Wendice apartment and a theater evening is quickly planned, but Tony begs off, pleading work, and when he is alone he calls a man who’s selling a car and asks him to bring it around – perhaps they can arrange a sale tonight. There follows a long scene where Tony pretends to just realize that he and the man Swan (Anthony Dawson) were at school together, but Tony eventually reveals that he knows Swan needs money rather badly, and that he has a foolproof plan to murder Margot, with a big payoff for Swan after he does the deed. He tells Swan what he will have to do to get into the apartment and hide, and then Tony will call, and when Margot comes out of the bedroom to answer the phone, Swan will move in behind her and strangle her, while Tony listens. Swan accepts the deal, not exactly happily, but certainly greedily.
The resulting murder is then investigated by Chief Inspector Hubbard (John Williams), who is really bright.
The movie was filmed in 3D, which in the ’50’s required an Intermission to change reels, but the Intermission card has been retained for this DVD presentation (which is not in 3D). Why? And the actors all look as though they’re in their late thirties or early forties, so why don’t the Wendices have children?
The film is based on a play, which is fairly obvious, since most of the action takes place in the apartment, and the actors are somewhat mannered so that the characters seem a little plastic. The suspense comes in spurts, not in long sequences, and yet the film still delivers because of the plot. I think a murder plot is almost always interesting, and here Tony’s motive is revenge, since he has found out about the affair.
Certainly a good evening in front of the TV, but not the classic people say it is.
Note: The year the film was released the stars celebrated these birthdays: Ray Milland was 47, Robert Cummings was 44, and Grace Kelly was 25.
Screenplay adapted from his Play by Frederick Knott, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

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The Midnight Meat Train (2008) – reviewed by George

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