Tom Burman & The Burman Studios (1980’s)

Included on the list of “non-credits” are things like a corpse for Raise the Titanic (1980), the multi-eyed sheep’s head in Altered States (1980), and the stunt costume for Clyde the orangutan’s stuntman Bobby Porter that was used in Clint Eastwood’s Any Which Way You Can (1980). The latter was an innovation in the use of different materials.

The suit was made by putting a layer of highly plasticized polyurethane in the mold (cast from a sculpture of Clyde) as a skin, and then backing it with scotch-foam. It was then painted, and hairs were punched into the supple material, resulting in a realistic, translucent hairy look. Tom explains: “We used the urethane rather than rubber or foam rubber because it’s real durable, and supple enough that it’ll bend without crinkling; and it has a very life-like movement to it.”

The one mistake made in the construction of the suit, was that they were working from photographs of Clyde that had been taken in the winter-time, before the orangutan had been outside in the sunshine for three months filming. “They neglected to mention,” Tom remarks dryly, “that the silly ape tans.” Clyde’s coloring had changed so drastically, that the suit had to be painted to match the orangutan’s almost black summer coat. Clyde’s reaction to Porter in the suit was strange, according to Burman. “I think Clyde was ready to fall in love,” Tom laughs. “It was weird. You put Clyde and Porter [in the suit] together at a distance, and you couldn’t tell that one wasn’t an orangutan.”


Burman Studios also created the “fake” beheading victim in Carny (1980), and the rheumatoid arthritic legs of a woman who was healed by Ellen Burstyn in Resurrection (1980) (the deformed limbs straighten out on screen). There have been many projects Tom hasn’t received credit for, but his attitude doesn’t suggest regret. “I’ve done a lot of those types of things where you don’t get credit for them  but so what? It’s fun just doing them. Those are things ! just like to do; but if it’s an integral part of a picture, and really means something, then it’s only fair I should get credit.”


With the production of Robert Altman’s Popeye (1980), it was another case of the tyrannical Director, and not enough time or money to do his bidding. Tom ended up losing thousands of dollars of his own money; and, indirectly, causing his brother Ellis and Bob Williams (Ellis’ partner), who built the octopus and mechanical pelican for the film, to catch a good portion of Altman’s rage. “They just harassed my brother terribly because of me,” says Burman, “that’s a lousy thing to do. He had nothing to do with my job.”


Tom’s job was to build the arms for Robin Williams and Ray Walston. He had intended to create something totally new; arms that were seamless and that moved the way a real arm moves as though there was muscle throughout. It was all worked out on paper, and being put to use with a new material (a very supple polyurethane), when he ran out of time. “So I sent a make-up man friend of mine, Ken Diaz, over to Malta, where it was being shot, with some arms that would work to begin with; while I stayed here and tried to perfect the others.” As soon as Diaz arrived on the set with a letter from Burman explaining the situation to Altman, the director’s infamous anger erupted. “He went nuts,” explains Tom, “he lost his temper and fired me.” Tom was almost glad of that. “It was one of those jobs that would’ve been very thankless, and it would’ve been difficult to work with him,” says Tom. He has yet to get the money he spent on the project back, and doesn’t expect that he ever will.

 A director Tom enjoyed working for, but later became immensely disappointed with, was Michael Cimino, notorious for Heaven’s Gate (1980). Tom created most of the effects for the film, only to find that nearly 80% of them had been edited out (along with more than half of the entire original movie). Included among the effects Burman was responsible for, were age make-ups on Kris Kristofferson and Rose Vela (the latter was completely deleted), and “blood ‘n’ guts-type” things (as Tom describes them). “We tried to do things that hadn’t been done before,” Tom says; things such as demonstrating the path of the bullet. “There was a scene where a girl rides up on a horse and is shot. The bullet hits her hand  the palm, comes out the back of her head  all this at normal speed, so it’s very jolting  ‘B-BANGI’ like that. We used a series of squibs; different charges, and different amounts of blood.” Tom shakes his head, “People are shot without comment in this film, and it’s very startling.”

Heaven's Gate (1980)

The make-up job on Heaven’s Gate was, to say the least, enormous. There were scenes with over a thousand extras, and Tom’s crew made up everyone of them to look like immigrants, with farmer’s tans, haircuts, and whatever else was required to obtain realism. “We did everything we could to enhance the reality of the picture through make-up,” says Burman, who, at the time of this first discussion, had not seen the film, and was disappointed that he had not been invited to the initial premier after ali the effort he’d put into the movie.


The beheading effect in The Exterminator (1980) was originally offered to Stan Winston, but his price tag of $50k was too high so they went to Tom Burman instead. His studio accepted the job for half that price, but when he grew too busy to work on the effect Winston was brought on to complete it.


Happy Birthday to Me (1981) was one such success. Burman was able to interject his ideas, and, in actuality, direct some of the gruesome scenes in the movie. His participation was aided by what seems to be a rare element in filmmaking these days cooperation; even to the point of script modification. Burman was hired when Stephan DuPuis, the man they had on the job to begin with quit. “When we got there and saw the script,” Tom relates, “we knew that the effects they wanted us to do if done the way it was written  would not come off. So, we just reworked it here and there to make some of the scenes more logical.”

The changes mainly dealt with details in certain scenes that “poetic license” or “creative editing” would not cover, such as a scene where a fellow has his face chewed up when his scarf is snagged in the spokes of the motorcycle he is working on. The scene originally called for the killer who causes the mishap to simply hit the electric starter on the bike and drop the end of the chap’s scarf into the spinning works voila minced mug. There was only one small problem. The bike, a dirt bike the victim raced, was of the kick-start variety it had no electric starter (few dirt- bikes do). The scene had to be re-written so that the motorcycle, which was up on a block, was already running when the film’s menace came in to do the dirty work. It was a small amendment, but according to Tom, the script was full of similar continuity problems and inconsistencies that he and director J. Lee Thompson tried to overcome.

Other effects done by Burman and his crew (Tom Hoerber, Ken Diaz, and Eddie and Colleen Henriques) for Happy Birthday To Me were a crushed face, caused when one of the characters drops a barbell he was showing off with on himself (a gelatin head made from a mold of the actor’s face was used for the effect); cut throats, a corpse complete with wriggling worms (live meal-worms stuck onto the rubber dummy with spirit gum); and a brain operation effect for which a false- head prosthetic with a gelatin brain inside was used. The brain had tiny air bladders beneath it so that it could be made to pulsate.

Tom feels that all he did was very successful, and that he was able to make the effects, which were fabricated in less than three weeks’ time, look as though much more time had been spent on them. Without his background, and director Thompson’s helpful cooperation, such results could not have come about.

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 A movie that Burman did some extremely vivid effects for. My Bloody Valentine (1981), had been considerably toned down, and many of the nastier scenes (described in detail in had been so truncated as to destroy their impact. Knowing his feelings on gore, it seemed relevant to consider Burman’s thoughts on censorship. “It’s wrong to cut up films like that,” he begins, shaking his head, “at least not for the reasons that most of them are cut. The only reason Valentine was cut, was for sales purposes. The censorship people had little to do with it. The distributor is the one who pulls those strings. They may have balked at the blood and made them take it out. That kind of thing is a compromise between the distributor and the production company often at the expense of the film for money.” As for the other reasons for censoring violence, Burman shrugs, “I’m not against graphic gore if it’s done in good taste.” If that is the case, Burman feels, then there is no need for censorship.

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 One Dark Night (1982)  deals mainly with an occult phenomenon called psychic vampirism. According to some theorists psychic vampirism involves the transference of psychic energies, called bio-energy, from one living thing to another. The film  focuses upon a famous Soviet psychic, Karl Raymarseivich, or Raymar, as he calls himself, whose studies of psychic vampirism and bio-energy cause him to be ridiculed and branded a charlatan by both his peers and the public. When he and six young women are found dead in his skid-row flat apparently victimized by some incredibly violent force people begin to wonder just what kind of powers he actually had.

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The Burman Studio and Cosmekinetics put together some wonderful representations of Raymar’s bio-energy gone awry in the mausoleum. Though Raymar is dead, his spirit lives, by feeding on fear. Raymar’s spirit wants more power, and to gain it, he must frighten the three girls that have come to the mausoleum. To do this, he levitates coffins out of their tombs and sends their occupants floating after the misfortunate trio; and, as the girls become more frightened, Raymar becomes more powerful. Burman and his gang built, out of latex rubber, 14 corpses; some that have been long dead, and some of more recent vintage. Ellis Burman devised the manner by which they move through the air. “The corpses don’t come to life,” says Tom Burman. “They are manipulated by Raymar, like puppets.” There are no opticals to create the effect of dead things dragging through the air. It is done completely manually with dolly- like contraptions that Ellis and his partner came up with.

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 Halloween III Season of the Witch (1982) Effects Spotlight is the story of Cochran, a diabolical toymaker played by Dan O’Herlihy, who intends, in his own words, to “change the world” with the aid of his collection of mass-produced, mass- merchandised Halloween masks. Each of the masks has the Silver Shamrock logo of the toymaker on them, and implanted in each logo is a tiny, sophisticated electronic computer chip containing a piece of rock that was scraped from a mystical “bluestone” from Stonehenge. At the broadcast of a certain television frequency, the microchip excites the psychically-charged rock, causing it to zap the wearer of the mask with the power of Stonehenge bringing about his most horrible demise.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch’s makeup effects were done in a mere four weeks, with $25,000 of the picture’s $2.5 million budget. Says Burman, “We had three weeks before production started, and one when shooting started. We were even making stuff the night be- fore it was to be photographed.” Burman’s crew, which consisted of his two sons Rob and Barney (the latest to step into his father’s latex shoes), John Logan, Dale Brady, and Carl Cobery, delivered everything on time, keeping the production within the six-week schedule that producers Debra Hill and John Carpenter had set. “They are really nice people,” says Burman of Pumpkin Pie Productions, “and it’s really admirable that they did this picture a union picture  for only two-and-a-half million bucks.”

To protect the secret of his masks, the toymaker employs a small army of grey-suited “executives” robots to snuff out anyone who gets in the way. This, naturally, occurs periodically all through the picture, starting with a store keeper who happens upon the problem and wishes to tell all. An assassin takes care of the old chap by sheer brute-robot strength, jamming his gloved fingers into the victim’s eyes and pulling out the bridge of his nose; not an altogether pleasant way to go. For the effect, Burman made a fiberglass head, covered with the actor’s likeness in urethane rubber. The fiberglass “skull” was partially perforated around the eye sockets and over the nose so it would give the appearance of portions of the victim’s skull cracking lose and flapping back as the assassin removes his digits from the victim’s face. “It sounds really gross,” says Burman, “but it was shot quite tastefully.” In fact, most of the gruesome effects scenes in Season of the Witch are “tastefully.” done. Producer Debra Hill acknowledged that the movie doesn’t dwell on what gore there is. “That’s true,” says Burman, “at least not on the human gore, anyway,” meaning that the violent destruction of some of the robots is fairly graphic.

Not all of the robot scenes are violent, as when protagonist Dr. Challis (Tom Atkins) encounters what he assumes to be an old woman. The character was played convincingly by one of Burman’s creations which appeared in another film, called One Dark Night. “The woman who sat for the impression,” relates Burman, “was a missionary from South Africa.

There are other “tasteful” scenes in Season of the Witch, including the ghastly fate of a character called Little Buddy, who is so obnoxious he almost deserves what happens to him when he watches a Silver Shamrock mask commercial while wearing one of the nefarious disguises. For this scene, the actor who portrayed Little Buddy had a urethane “stand-in.” It was a likeness of the child, from the head to the navel, with a three inch wide plastic tube running through it, from its mouth, out the bottom and away to two plastic bags. A gelatin version of one of the Silver Shamrock masks was placed over the fake head and melted off with heat guns (which look an awful lot like hair dryers— but it’s not advisable to use them for that). As the mask melted away from Little Buddy’s face, horrible things took place. Crickets, spiders and snakes of various poisonous species began to slither forth from Little Buddy’s mouth (pushed through the tube from the plastic bags by the bug and snake wranglers)!

In the same sequence, Little Buddy’s parents aren’t spared any sort of harm, as the reptiles and arachnids begin to get out of hand and start attacking the terrified folks. The snake-bite scene was shot in reverse and extremely carefully by placing a somewhat perturbed serpent’s fangs into the padded pant-leg of one of the handlers, and letting it release its grip. Fortunately, the shot and the snake were pulled off without incident. As for the insects in the sequence, of which there were several thousand, 2000 crickets somehow managed to make their hasty escape, and unfortunately not all of that bunch were recovered. On a soundstage, such an accident could have proved disastrous to a production company with scenes remaining to be shot on that set, because of the random, and loud, chirping sound the annoying little bugs emit. Luckily for Pumpkin Pie Productions, the crickets don’t live particularly long, and only the males do the chirping. Also, what sounds did manage to intrude during the shooting were taken care of in the final sound mix by the company’s crack sound crew.

Other effects in Season of the Witch are mainly during the climax of the story, and in the “final confrontation” when Cochran “gets his,” so to speak. One particularly spectacular effect was not a makeup effect, but rather what some of the crew referred to as a “non-optical optical.” As mentioned in an earlier article, Cochran had absconded with one of the five-ton Little Buddy pays the price of obnoxiousness with an elaborate special effects death. monoliths from Stonehenge, from which he removed tiny pieces for his microchips. The huge prop that is the rock was painted with an exceptionally reflective formula of Scotchlight paint, much like that used to paint the lines on streets, only more reflective. Cinematographer Dean Cundey described the effect as being exactly like that of the “atomic cross” at the end of The Fog, only on a huge scale. At the price of $70 per gallon of paint, the success of the shot was quite a relief to everyone.

“The Halloween 3” collection of masks used in the film were not Burman creations. The Don Post Studios were responsible for their manufacture and design (with a little help from director Tommy Lee Wallace). The Post studios were also used as a location; conveniently. Post’s own facility served as the evil Cochran’s Silver Shamrock factory. Little set dressing was needed to make it look convincing. All this comes as a bit of amusing irony to Tom Burman who once worked, alongside his late father, for Don Post senior (who has since passed on). It was Burman’s father who helped Post put together the method of mass-producing rubber masks that is currently used at the Don Post Studios, and it was at the Post Studios that Burman met John Chambers, who pointed him in the direction of makeup effects.

The Post Studios will be marketing a special, limited edition of original “Halloween 3” masks that were used as props in the movie, packaged with a signed statement proof that the mask was actually up there on the silver screen. All the masks will have the Silver Shamrock label. But, as Tom Burman grins, “I don’t believe you can blame what might happen to you if you wear them while watching television on the Don Post Studios!”

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Mazes and Monsters (1982 TV Movie)


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The Beast Within (1982) Effects Spotlight

The elaborate & often acutely uncomfortable process of having head-to-toe casts made of my entire body, to be used in constructing the Beast suits. You know what it feels like to rip a Band-Aid off your arm? Well, just imagine a giant Band-Aid all over your body being torn of a bit at a time and you have some idea of what it’s like to have a full body cast made! It’s an experience I would not be overly anxious to repeat.

For a studio-financed, location shot picture, the effects for The Beast Within were kept to an economic bottom line and, as seems to be the rule in Hollywood, according to a minimal pre-production schedule.

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“Though this wasn’t a low budget film, it was a low budget creature,” says Burman; and here his stated philosophy of “less is more” has worked some unsubtle wonders.  The first half of the film is punctuated by increasingly grotesque-but-human facial makeups executed by Hoerber facial discoloration, tooth enamel for that “grimy” look, cosmetic perspiration and so on. But the effects highlight is the hospital scene that Ellen described, and thereafter an interconnected series of nine facial makeups (including foam latex appliances, hidden air bladders, and a series of ever larger dental appliances), supplemented by two articulated expanding heads (more air bladders here), another false head that projects a rather disturbing tongue, an extensive body makeup for Clemens’ appearance when he is wounded by a shotgun blast, before he finally sheds his last vestiges of humanity (along with his skin), and of course the Beast itself.

His face is changing (“plumpers”, small rubber dental implants between the cheek and gums, were employed to give Clemens’ face a slightly distorted look), and the skin on his back is splitting open (achieved with foam latex prosthetic appliances enhanced with make-up and Methycel, a slimy goo widely used in the industry for just such purposes). In shot #3, his face is even more distorted new teeth, more and different appliances give the effect. Shot #4 is an insert of a fully articulated fake head (from a mold of Clemens’ face) with air bladders beneath the rubber skin, and other disgusting embellishments which suggest something attempting to break out. Shot #5 is of Clemens’ own face. Prosthetics with air bladders were applied to show the animation of the character’s rapidly swelling face (lots of goo, too). Shot #6 is of his back splitting open and oozing ail over. Shot #7 is the head insert again, only the air bladders are allowed to burst, creating a skin-splitting effect on the face. The final shot of the scene is of Clemens, his body nearly (not completely, there’s a few stages to go, folks!) transformed, his face splitting open revealing something hideous beneath: and with hands that resemble nothing human. “We tried not to make it a lengthy demonstration of state-of-the-art effects, but rather to tie the whole thing together so that it progresses without distraction,’’ Burman explains.

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Otherwise, Burman is very pleased with the sequence, though he feels that one of the two brief shots used of the tongue-head doesn’t work quite as well as it should. Another small disappointment involves the scene where the creature’s shed skin is found hanging from a tree in the swamps. The skin had been made from a special plastic material, to give it a translucent, insectoid look, but a decision was made to make it up so that it would be recognizable as Michael’s human skin.

Burman seems particularly pleased with the Beast’s final appearance on film. “When it’s seen on screen in full, it withstands at least a momentary scrutiny, and you never see too much of it,” Burman says. In fact, this one bit of conservatism in an otherwise very unsubtle movie was more by accident than by plan. “It was decided to shoot the Beast running in slow motion,” we’re told, “and the slow motion footage didn’t work—the movement of the creature looked unbelievable. Because of the tight schedule, there was no alternate footage.”

Because the full dimensions of the Beast remain mostly unseen, one aspect of the Beast will go largely unnoticed the creature’s possession of a fierce looking, mutated sexual organ. “My hope,” says Burman, “was to avoid showing the Beast actually raping someone on screen, one aspect of the film I’ve never been that fond of. If people saw this insectoid organ breaking through-designed rather like micro-photography of a fly’s tongue, so that an adult would know it for what it was sooner than a child might felt that would be all you’d have to show. That became a fight with the producer over which was better; he wanted to see it more graphically, the Beast humping the girl missionary style.”


Cat People (1982) Effects Spotlight


When a mysterious black panther tries to murder him, and is shot in the attempt, zoo curator John Heard decides to perform an autopsy. Though he knows there is something odd about the animal, Heard isn’t prepared for what he finds: a human arm inside the dead panther. an odd twist of animal anatomy that helps explain the script’s human-to panther transformations.

Makeup artist Tom Burman made a number of sketches depicting stages of the autopsy, including a human face beneath the panther’s skull and an entire Picasso-ish” body inside the torso. Eventually, director Paul Schrader limited the sequence to the opening of the chest cavity and the subsequent disintegration of the panther’s body.

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Burman associate Lance Anderson and Allan Hall, a Universal effects technician working at The Burman’s Studio, sculpted the panther, while Kathy Clark worked on the fake fur body. The innards were sculpted from a large hunk of foam rubber, and coated with polyurethane. Kayo syrup blood completed the illusion. “I have a philosophy that you should never use real animal guts,” said Hall, “If you’re shooting for more than one day, you have problems with rotting and deterioration. Sometimes you’re shooting for three or four days, by then, real animal guts stink!”

To create the smoke and foam that accompanies the cadaver’s mysterious disintegration, a variety of techniques were used, including bubbling air through methylcellulose, adding water to calcium and whipping up a special soap-like substance. The disintegration itself involved a second panther built around a large air bladder. A vacuum pump was used to rapidly deflate the bladder, and the cat was pulled down through a specially rigged table, “sort of like pulling a sock inside out,” according to Hall

Although the effect was success fully shot, the sequence was largely left on the cutting room floor, part of Schrader’s plan to limit the emphasis on makeup effects. All that remains is the beginning of the autopsy and the end result: puddles of “goo” on the autopsy table, and a stunned John Heard.


Working with designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti, Burman was given wide latitude in planning the transformation effects, and be felt he was able to establish good lines of communication with Schrader during pre production. When it came to the actual filming, however, sparks began to fly. Approved makeup concepts were suddenly rejected by Schrader, and those that were used were often lit and stage in ways that, according to the Burmans, made them look awful.

There was also talk of dumping the Burmans altogether, and hiring another makeup artist. “I used to wonder why veteran makeup people always seemed so bitter,” said Tom Burman, shortly after the conclusion of his 11 month stint on CAT PEOPLE. “But as I progress, I’m beginning to sound more and more like them.”

Originally, four distinct transformation stages were planned for Nastassia Kinski’s character, two for Malcolm McDowell’s. “You are to suppose that the Cat People’s feline natures burst out from inside the human skin.” Burman explained. “A cat forms within the human body under the skin, and the contours fall away and collapse. It was a contrived, metaphysical way of doing it, but it got away from the time-lapse Lon Chaney stuff, with hair growing on the face.”

Irena’s transformation into a panther, an extremely graphic concept that seemingly demanded state-of-the-art makeup elects. Director Paul Schrader, however, who saw the film’s transformations as simply a means to an end-not as something that would, by themselves, be worth the price of admission. That was also the feeling of Tom Burman, who, along with brother Ellis, was tagged to handle CAT PEOPLE’s makeup effects.


“I thought if it were to be filmed psychologically, somewhat like the original CAT PEOPLE except in those areas you could no longer cheat-it could be a very successful picture. Although I earn my living at making these things physical, I really believe that showing less is more. They told me they were definitely going for psychological horror, and that was exactly what I wanted to do.”

For Kinski’s climatic transformation, Burman strove to create an effect which would be sensual as well as frightening-without becoming grotesque. “I assigned a women artist, Bari Dreiband, to design all of Kinski’s transformations to give it a feminine touch. We wanted it to be delicate. Being a pretty girl to begin with, we wanted to match her features with those of a sleek, regal cat. We wanted to show rippling muscles, not ballooning or stretching skin.”

The plan was to do the transformation with cutaways to actor John Heard’s reaction. First, there would be a subtle shift in the features of the girl. Second, would be facial and body contractions and distortions with the human features actually falling away. Third, would be a truly human-cat hybrid, followed by footage of a living panther.

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Watching the rushes of the transformation sequence, Burman was “horrified in the harsh lighting and dose camera angles Schrader had chosen. “They shot it exactly the way it wasn’t meant to be done, ” Burman said. “We had designed the suit for Angie Brown to wear in an upright position, with the lead raised almost majestically. When they shot it, they had her hunching down in this suit on all fours. It made the entire thing wrinkle and it looked absolutely awful.

“After eight hours of makeup. I looked at what was going on and thought, My God, this is not working! Well, Schrader had his own ideas. He told me the effect wasn’t going to work for his purposes unless she was hunched down on the bed. He went ahead and shot it his way. It looked bad and he knew it.”

Burman was right: Schrader was unhappy, and he reportedly began shopping around for someone to replace the Burmans, perhaps the most upsetting incident for the Burmans in a film filled with upsetting incidents. “Rather than have anyone come and say, ‘Look, this isn’t working. Is there any way we can do it better, they called Dick Smith and asked him if he could come in and save the thing. It’s only because Dick is a friend of mine that he let me know.”

Burman complained of Schrader’s cavalier disregard for what he felt was a sincere effort at giving the director what he was after. “I’d sit there in rushes and he wouldn’t say anything, good or bad.” Burman says “He’d just file out without a word. That isn’t helpful in what’s supposed to be a collaborative enterprise.

“Nobody had the guts to speak up.” Burman added, “I had arguments with John Frankenheimer on PROPHECY, and with Michael Cimino on HEAVEN’S GATE, but at least things got discussed. The kind of thing that happened on CAT PEOPLE is a shame it’s unnecessary. It was hard to swallow. Real hard.”

Schrader later said he recalled “something about contacting someone else” for the makeup effects. “We’re talking about 15 seconds of film,” he noted, and added that even if Burman’s footage had been eye-popping, it would still have played a relatively minor role in the overall design of the film.

The Burmans were eventually called back to rethink the sequence Unlike the first round of shooting, where Kinski’s flesh appeared to break away in gobs, the new effects were more stylized, and thus, Far less graphic. “Now you won’t see things like pieces of the girl’s leg bursting open.” Burman said. “You also won’t see her shaking away her shedding skin. The whole concept of splitting flesh is now downplayed. Frankly, I don’t think it ever should have been done that way. As I’d kept saying, it seemed to me that the audience would relate to Nastassia’s character as sympathetic and pretty. To play upon her transformation too long or too grotesquely-with skin ripping open would be destructive to the film.”

In the reshoot, supervised by 2nd unit director Bud Smith while Schrader was on vacation, Kinski wore the makeup originally designed for her double. An insert was also filmed, in which her spine rises and falls and breasts shrink. replacing previous shots of bursting and cracking skin.

Though Schrader insisted the actress still play the scene hunched over, the focus is now upon Kinski’s face, which subtly expands, pulls apart and then splits open as a panther emerges from within. “She begins to change shape, then the skin splits and falls away to be replaced by this articulated panther head that snarls and grimaces,” Burman explained. “The expansion of the head was done by using expandable pneumatics that we had made actually part of the appliance.”

The Burman’s sculpted cat’s head made a plaster copy and sculpted a human face to fit over it. A difficulty arose when attempting to match the eyes and mouth of the two faces

“Ellis devised a way of putting the eyes on long tubes,” explained Burman “When we pulled the human face away, the eyes retracted back into the leopard’s head. He also devised a mechanism for pulling the lips back and making the teeth grow.

Though it worked fine in their workshop, making it work on the set was a major frustration. “We wanted the eyes to be constantly in motion, even while they were retracting.” explained Ellis Burman. “The eyes were on rods that pivoted in the middle and were articulated in three places. Unfortunately, audiences never got to see any of it.”

Due to jurisdictional issues between unions, the Burmans are not allowed to operate their appliances on the set. Effects technicians from Universal were required to master the mechanism literally on the spot.



Hours spent in makeup for the actor, though only a seconds of the transformation were used. Malcolm McDowell’s brief transformation scale went relatively smoothly. For the sequence, which called for McDowell to slither along the floor in shadow with only his eyes visible at first, the Burmans fashioned a cat like mask with glowing eyes, recruiting the services of scleral lens specialist, Dr. Morton Greenspoon.

“We took macro photographs of both Nastassia’s and Malcolm’s eyes,” explained Tom Burman. “I started experimenting with distorting the eyes: shifting the color and size of the corner of the iris, We tried airbrush, acrylics, water colors and finally, enamels, which had nice color to them. Everybody seemed to like the effect.”

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Another mechanical effect that was well received involved McDowell’s hand, which begins to split and become cat-like in an early sequence. Ellis Burman sculpted an appliance over a cast of the actor’s hand. Wrist movements and the extension of the claws were accomplished mechanically, “The whole thing was made of stainless steel, which is how aircraft fittings and bearings are done,” said Ellis Burman.


Since working with animals is unpredictable not to mention dangerous-Paul Schrader requested that a number of articulated cat props be built, including an articulated panther head and an entire radio-controlled mechanical cat. The puppets were built under the supervision of Ellis Burman at his effects house, Cosmokinetics. Though filmed extensively, Schrader and editor Bud Smith eventually decided the fake cats did not intercut well enough with the live pumas, and scrapped nearly all of the footage.

“A puppet is never going to be as good as nature,” admitted Allan Hall, a Universal effects technician who operated and helped design the mechanical cats. But it can be good enough to get the actor or actress close, or have it in an action shot.”

The articulated panther head required three operators. The head and neck were controlled by twisting handles similar to a motorcycle throttle. Facial movements were controlled via a series of ” Dacron cables attached to points on the skull. The cables were connected to a hand grip, and manipulated by individual “expression rings, one for each finger

The fur that covers the cat is something of a brilliant device by Tom. A fur with a stretchy backing was needed to cover the cat, so when it moved, the “skin” would give with the movements, much like real skin does. Unfortunately, nothing remotely similar to this stretch-fur existed that is, until Tom Invented it. He imported from Germany synthetic “Fun-Fur” (Tom hates the name), and shaved the hairs from the fabric backing in one large, uniform patch, rolling them up so they would stay together. He then brushed a thin coat of smooth-on, a polyurethane rubber, onto a surface that it would not stick to, and rolled the shaved hairs out onto it; creating, when the rubber dried, a durable, stretchy backing for the fur. The result is a life-like coat with “skin” underneath that stretches in accordance with any movement that the understructure may make.

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During actual photography, Hall worked closely with Schrader and Cinematographer John Bailey. “We would set it up and show Schrader all the possibilities of movement.” Hall recalled. “He would usually disappear for a couple of hours, and then come back and tell us. ‘I want it set up in this corner, and I want it to do this, this and this … John (Bailey) would then tell us if he thought a shot wouldn’t make it, and we’d have to move it or add more shadows. In all, several days were spent photographing the head. Why, then, wasn’t any footage used?

Because Schrader wanted to shoot close-ups of the head, which caused problems with resolution and depth of field. They were shooting so close, Ellis Burman sighed, “that even somebody walking on the soundstage would make the mechanics vibrate.

More successful, at least in Schrader’s eyes was a completely self-contained mechanical panther which could rise up from a prone position and flick its tail. Due to scheduling difficulties, the scene the panther was built for was shot before the cat was ready. But Schrader was so enthralled when the panther was finally demonstrated to him, he used it in the film’s fantasy prologue.

The stainless steel armature was modeled after the skeleton of a real cat, and powered by a small tank of compressed air. A radio transmitter regulated valves leading to seven air-rams, which controlled the movement of the legs, tail neck and mouth. The live cats would react to Hall said “They’d go berserk especially if it moved. They thought it was a real cat. Although he would ultimately abandon the mechanical cats. Schrader was seemingly delighted with them at first. “Schrader got very excited about most of the animation Hall said. “We would let him operate some of the stuff, and he really got a kick out of it

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Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983)

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For De Palma’s Body Double (1984), “Brian wanted the killer disguised as an Indian to be very Arapaho-looking. He pointed at one of my sketches and said, ‘I want that exactly so that’s what I did. We didn’t do any of the gore. There was also an old British comedian (Monte Landis) who dies in that movie, and I had to make a perfect dummy of him dead, not because it was going to be involved in a special effect, but because he refused to climb into the coffin for his death scene! He thought it was bad luck and told Brian, I just can’t do it.’ I believe that was the first photorealistic, scrutinized head ever did.”

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De Palma intrigued the fledgling artist: “On set with Brian, we could never have a conversation he would always be yes or no, handing me back my sketches and pointing to what he wanted to see. He’s a very friendly, likable person when I run into him between movies “Hi, Tom, how’s it going?’ but he’s always very quiet and aloof on set. Brian is so quiet when he’s directing a movie!

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

Star Trek III The Search for Spock (1984)

Leonard Nimoy 5 - 5 c

THE BAR SCENE where McCoy, the troubled host of Spock’s spirit or katra, tries to charter a ship to Vulcan featured background aliens for the bar scene, playing an arcade game, Barney Burman center, made-up by Bari Dreiband-Burman. Prototypes for background aliens for the bar scene by the Burman Studio which never appeared in the film. The one at center was called “Bonehead” due to its exposed skull.

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Makeup artist Thomas R. Burman suggested that Fletcher was asked to help because the studio neglected to contract the work out; Burman received a contract only three weeks before the start of photography. Burman’s bid of $160,000 was much higher than Paramount’s $50,000 budget, but he secured the job when his competitor dropped out close to the start of production. “It didn’t come down to money in the end but to who could do it quickly, we had a reputation for working fast and doing quality work,” Burman explained. Fletcher and Burman agreed that the cragged foreheads of the Klingons in The Motion Picture were too prominent, obscuring the individual’s faces. “It was just too cartoonish, and I didn’t want a Star Wars look in the movie. There had never been a good marriage between the forehead appliance and the actor’s faces. We tried to keep them in character rather than have these obtrusive things on their heads,” Burman said. The resulting Klingon makeup took two hours to apply.

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Irwin Allen’s Alice in Wonderland (1985 TV Movie)

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Responsible for the creation of the “Jabberwocky”

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Three pieces of production art for the film Teen Wolf (1985), depicting an early concept for the film’s hairy hero. The werewolf is seen in close-up and in long shot, sporting a skateboard. From the Burman Studios. And the final prosthetic make up for Michael J Fox.

A pair of Burman Studios ghoul character sketches and make up from The Midnight Hour (1985 TV Movie). In the film, a group of high school friends unwittingly wake the dead great-grandmother of one of the friends on Halloween night, who turns out to be a witch seeking revenge on them all.

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A number of special effects sequences which were actually filmed for The Goonies (1985) ended up on the cutting room floor. Although Spielberg had approved the sequences in the shooting script, when he saw them in completed form while looking at the rushes, he decided that they interrupted the pacing of the story. Spielberg also felt that the film worked better as a believable adventure if the fantastic elements were played down.

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Among the changes made were the deletion of a substantial portion of the scenes with the monstrous but loveable Sloth, played by former football star John Matuszak, one of the most heartwarming and memorable makeup creations in recent years, realized by Craig Reardon and The Burman Studios. Much of the relationship and most of the dialogue between Sloth and the pudgy and equally loveable Chunk, the clown of the Goonies gang played by Jeff Cohen, fell by the wayside in the process. Two other sequences, one in which the kids battle a giant octopus and another in which they fight a band of apes, were cut in their entirety.

Special effects makeup master, Tom Burman, who worked on the makeup and special effects for Sloth and the giant octopus readily admitted that the cuts made by Spielberg, “hurt (his] feelings… my contribution to the success of the film was lessened. Obviously we sat the Burman Studios would have liked the success of THE GOONIES to bank on our work.” Sloth is Burman’s favorite character to date which made his reduced role all the more disappointing.

Makeup artist Craig Reardon poses with one of his early designs for Sloth (detailed left and right), deemed too realistic by Steven Spielberg, who wanted a cartoon approach.
Makeup artist Craig Reardon poses with one of his early designs for Sloth (detailed left and right), deemed too realistic by Steven Spielberg, who wanted a cartoon approach.

Burman was assisted on THE GOONIES by his brother Ellis, and his wife Bari Dreiband Burman, a special effects makeup master in her own right. The Burmans were called in to complete the film’s special effects makeup work when makeup artist Craig Reardon, who executed Sloth’s original design, was dismissed by co-producer Harvey Bernhard.

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Reardon was brought in to work on Sloth only a month and a-half before production was scheduled to begin. Spielberg conceived of Sloth as a cross between cartoon character Baby Huey (a humongous baby duck that is constantly demolishing things during attempts at play because he doesn’t know his own strength) and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Spielberg presented Reardon with a thumbnail sketch that was more or less a stick figure with big ears and a lowered eye.

With a deformed skull, one eye inches lower than the other, snaggled, missing teeth and peaked ears that rotate to follow the movement of sound, Sloth was a particularly difficult character to realize. The role required numerous closeups, which would reveal any imperfections in the makeup, its design or application. Reardon’s first approach was a series of highly realistic sketches but Spielberg felt that they were too realistic and had Reardon change to a more cartoonish approach.

Spielberg’s concept called for Sloth’s ears and lowered eye to be animated. Because Spielberg and Bernhard took several weeks to decide between Jake Steinfeld and John Matuszak to play Sloth, Reardon had only three weeks to put the makeup together and it wasn’t enough time to incorporate the animated eye. Reardon also blames his “stubborn determination to make something amazing ‘out of” Spielberg’s concept for his failure to complete the effect on time. “I did not want to go the simple route of building on a big false eye that would protrude from the face in an obvious manner,” he said. “But trying to achieve an inset look and have it operate realistically proved to be an insurmountable problem. Before I was let go I built a hemisphere mechanism for the eye which rotated on a miniature universal joint, and it showed every sign of success without protruding very much from the face. It was a shame I didn’t make this compromise earlier.”

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Bernhard finally lost patience with Reardon’s attempts to get the special effects functioning (the ears worked fine) and Reardon was let go. Despite the disappointment, Reardon parted amiably with Bernhard and Spielberg, and hopes to work with them again in the future. THE GOONIES was Reardon’s fourth Spielberg production, having worked on POLTERGEIST, E.T., and TWILIGHT ZONE-THE MOVIE.

With time running out, Bernhard called in the Burmans with whom he had worked successfully on THE BEAST WITHIN (1982). Somewhat ironically, years before Spielberg deleted Tom Burman’s credit on CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND after a disagreement over Burman’s alien design. The Burmans redesigned the Sloth makeup for Bernhard with mechanics supplied by Ellis Burman and partner Bob Williams to make it work. Ellis Burman and Williams operate their own special effects studio, Cosmekinetics, specializing in mechanical and electronic character effects.

The radio-controlled mechanism that made Sloth’s ears wiggle, raise and lowered the lid of his dead eye and made the eye itself move, fit John Matuszak’s head like an electronic skull cap. The dead eye apparatus rested against the lower part of the actor’s left cheek. To disguise the rig, a foam rubber appliance mask created by Tom Burman fit over Matuszak’s face and head, changing its contours and hiding the mechanism that controlled the eye.

Goon 4

Reardon praised the work of the Burman Studios for their quick solution to the makeup’s mechanical problems, but pointed out that the look of the character, aside from its grotesque protruding eye, is his design. “The Burman Studio’s copy of my makeup is so good that it is indistinguishable from my own makeup in the film,” said Reardon. “In spite of its malfunctioning eye, the production saved a great deal of footage featuring my makeup in the final cut, in the scenes where Sloth is first discovered and meets Chunk.” A photo of Reardon’s Sloth was even used in the film’s merchandising, in a poster for Baby Ruth of Sloth and Chunk which exploits the scene where the two share a candy bar.

It took three and-a-half hours for the Burmans to turn John Matuszak into Sloth, and the process had to be repeated each morning for filming. Sometimes Matuszak had to sit sweating in the mask for hours waiting for his turn before the cameras. “Obviously when you’re encapsulated in makeup like that, glued, wearing an electronic helmet piece, it is extremely uncomfortable,” said Tom Burman. “Matuszak never complained, though I know he was very distraught at times. And his performance was wonderful.” · Burman was assisted on THE GOONIES makeup sessions by his wife Bari, who had several years experience in the field of makeup before meeting Tom when they were both hired to work on the special makeup effects for Paul Schrader’s CAT PEOPLE. Bari Dreiband Burman’s training and talent for the creation of foam rubber and appliance masks overlap those of her husband.


Because their abilities are interchangeable, the couple are able to pick which aspect of a given special effects project they prefer when working on shared assignments. The film’s makeup is so realistic and Matuszak’s acting so moving, that Sloth has become GOONIES fans ‘favorite character. Like E.T., many of the younger viewers seem to think he is real. Ten year-old Jeff Cohen who played Chunk, discovered that not even his classmates are immune to the feeling. Said Cohen, *They’re always saying, “Hey, Jeff, come over to my house–and bring Sloth with you!’ They think he lives with me.”

Cohen worked more closely with Sloth than anyone else in THE GOONIES. “The hardest part was to get the scene over fast,” he said. “With all that makeup you don’t want to take any more time than you need to.”


Coincidentally, Chunk was also in the giant octopus scene, the Burmans’ other special effect that was completely cut from the final film. “The Octopus we made for THE GOONIES was thirty feet across,” said Tom Burman. “Lying on the floor it stood about 4/2 feet tall. Its eye alone was four inches in diameter. It was animated and articulated by the special effects people at the studio (Amblin Productions). We made it out of polyurethane molding compound that was very flexible. It was painted. Another glazing compound was laid over that to make it look real wet and slippery.” The octopus took nine weeks for the Burmans to make.

In the scene that was cut, Chunk and Sloth fight the Octopus prior to rescuing their friends from the Fratellis. Ironically, a mention of the Octopus was left in the film even though the scene was cut. At the end, when the kids are reunited with their parents on the beach, Chunk is asked to name the most harrowing part of his adventure. “The Octopus,” he says, an editing oversight caused by rushing the film’s post-production to meet its scheduled summer opening.


Captain EO (1986) American 3D science fiction film starring Michael Jackson, written by George Lucas and directed by Francis Ford Coppola (who came up with the name “Captain EO” from the Greek, cf. Eos, the Greek goddess of dawn) that was shown at Disney theme parks from 1986 through 1996. Anjelica Huston’s Spiderwoman makeup is the work of Tom and Bari Burman of the Burman Studios. “It’s very Gigerish,” Tom Burman admitted, referring to H. R. Giger, the the Dutch design genius behind ALIEN, but added that the similarity was unintentional. Huston’s character is supremely evil in the film, but the Burman’s makeup is both surprisingly sexy and strangely beautiful.

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Originally, the makeup and other work for CAPTAIN EO was to be handled by Rick Baker. But Baker bowed out and recommended the Burmans. Although Baker had submitted his own designs, the production company asked the Burmans to come up with something of their own. They hit upon the Spiderwoman concept and developed the design.

“Then we went to meet with Francis Coppola and George Lucas,” said Tom Burman. “We walked in and put the designs down and George Lucas said, ‘This isn’t what I want. I already approved Rick Baker’s design!’ I didn’t know! I was kind of taken aback.”

Lucas may have wanted to retain Baker’s design, but his performers first Shelley Duvall, then Anjelica Huston were not fond of having their faces completely obscured in a film where they were to receive no credit. “Duvall was going to play the character originally,” Tom Burman recalled. “She came in and looked at the makeup Rick Baker designed and said, I’m not going to wear that. I’ll have no credit. How will anybody know it’s me? You could put anybody up there!”


Anjelica Huston was brought in after Shelley Duvall balked at playing the part, but Huston was no more willing to have her face totally obscured by a mask than was Duvall. Since time was running out the Burmans pleaded with the production to be given a free hand to come up with something that would make everyone happy, and dusted off their Spiderwoman designs.

The makeup that had created all the fuss, as envisioned by Rick Baker, was a witch-like creation, a beautiful concept, but it covered the performer’s entire face. “It was very much like a Medusa,” Tom Burman said. “It was much more of a horror makeup, very bold, and very thick.” The Burmans adapted some of the elements of Baker’s design in their Spiderwoman: the head full of snakes became a headdress of bio-mechanical cables.

“Anjelica Huston is a model, and she really wanted to be pretty,” said Bari Burman. “She never said that, but after we did the appliance she started to get a little shaky about what was going to happen with her face. We understood that she was to be beautiful, and she was happy with it.”


Ultimately, Tom Burman’s design led to Lucas and Coppola re-thinking Huston’s character entirely. Burman felt that since Huston was hanging from a mechanical web, that she wasn’t so much a witch as a spider. Said Burman, “I suggested to Coppola that what we really had, to my mind, was a black widow, a feminine monster. ‘God, that’s wonderful,’ he said. “We’ll call her the Spiderwoman!”

Building the elaborate body suit that Huston wore during her three day shooting schedule was a fairly complex operation that required the use of sculpted and constructed pieces to create the final look of the character. A headdress of foam rubber duplicated the look of plastic tubing for flexibility. The body suit was fabricated by John Logan out of L 100 foam. The fingernails were made of neoprene.

“We put little valves on her breasts,” said Tom Burman. “We didn’t know if we’d get away with it. Ultimately, we had to reduce the size of her breasts, but they let us keep the ornamentation! We made the suit only from the waist up, because when she’s hanging from her web, the body fades into black. All the tubes that hang off her body wrap up and attach to the ceiling of the set. We made duplicates of pieces of the set in foam rubber, cast slip rubber or urethane to put it all together.”


Once Tom Burman applied the prosthetic makeup, Bari Burman took over to give Huston an alien but seductive vampirish quality. “Bari is a fine beauty makeup artist,” said Tom Burman. “She’s very good with shadows and pearlescent colors, so a lot of the makeup is in a pearlescent tone.”

Though the Burmans were pleased with their work for CAPTAIN EO, they were delighted with Francis Ford Coppola’s reaction to their creation. In the midst of an incredible menagerie of aliens and monstrous creatures designed for the film, Coppola stopped everything the moment the Spiderwoman arrived on the set. “Look everybody,” he said, “This is a beautiful makeup!”


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Amazing Stories” Mirror, Mirror (TV Episode 1986)

Tom Burman and Bari Dreiband-Burman of the Burman studios created a seven-stage makeup that transformed Dr. Jenning (Jeffrey Jones) from brilliant scientist to creeping Dark Overlord in Howard the Duck (1986). Their makeup sets the stage for the climactic go-motion creature designed and animated by Phil Tippett. Originally the makeup chores were to have been handled by the Creature Shop at ILM, but when they proved to be hard pressed with the task of creating a duck, producer Gloria Katz turned the transformation over to the Burmans. The Burmans were also selected for their reputation for delivering brilliant work on short order-and due to the Snafus at the ILM Creature Shop, time was indeed short.The Burmans were given about four weeks to come up with everything, including a mechanical tongue for Jones capable of steering a truck.

“They had some preliminary designs,” said Tom Burman, “but they wouldn’t work on film, so we redesigned it. We took the direction they liked, enhanced it and made it real.” Assisting the Burmans were mechanical expert Larry Odien and production coordinator John Logan.

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By stage four, Jenning is beginning to look decidedly inhuman, with the addition of increasingly prominent face and body appliances. “We wanted a slightly comic book feel to it without extending it to the point where it lost believability,” said Burman.

Working on the makeup's fifth stage mechanical head (right) and tongue.
Working on the makeup’s fifth stage mechanical head (right) and tongue.

For stage five Jones’ ears were glued back. At stage six the character is re-energized by a nuclear reactor, calling for the addition of white, up swept hair and healthier-looking skin. A hump in his back shows that his body is beginning to change, with fingernails that have burst through his gloves. For stage seven, the fingers have become more accentuated and his hump pushes through his clothes, revealing a raised spine the length of his back.

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The application process took five hours with the Burmans working in tandem as a team. Tom Burman would “ballpark” the look of the makeup. Wife Bari Dreiband-Burman would concentrate on the fine detailing. “We both go back and forth and continually fine-tune each other’s work,” said Bari. “We switched sides constantly, completely roving around Jeffrey Jones.”

Anne Ramsey stunt mask
Anne Ramsey stunt mask

Throw Momma from the Train (1987) Anne Ramsey stunt mask  


1987 Teen Wolf Too (1987)

Teen Wolf Too (1987) (Wolf prosthetics)

“I did several films for Brian. On The Untouchables (1987), we did a fake head and shoulders for a guy who is either shot in the face or has his head crushed. I never went on set for that, it was just something I did for the film’s special effects coordinator, Allen Hall.”

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Scrooged (1988)

Tales from the Crypt Season 01 Episode: Collection Completed (1989)


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