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Thunderball

From Academic Kids

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2003 Penguin Books paperback edition

Thunderball is the ninth James Bond novel written by Ian Fleming, based on a screen treatment by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham and Ian Fleming. It was published in 1961 and stands, technically, as the first novelization of a James Bond screenplay, even though at the time it was written and published, no such film had yet been produced. It was subsequently adapted to a comic strip beginning in 1961.

Thunderball has, to date, been adapted twice in film. The first adaptation was released in 1965 with James Bond played by Sean Connery. It was the fourth official Bond movie in EON Productions' franchise. McClory later produced an unofficial remake, 1983's Never Say Never Again, which again starred Connery as Bond. Thunderball was actually scheduled to be the first James Bond movie in 1962, but this was later changed to Dr. No due to a lawsuit brought about by McClory (see below).

Contents

The novel

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1963 paperback edition by Pan Books.

The novel features the first and technically the last appearance of the criminal organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E. in its full form in Ian Fleming's novels. After Thunderball, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. attempts to re-form; however, it is prevented from doing so by 007. The book also features the first appearance of Bond's greatest enemy, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld, although 007 does not actually meet the man in this book; this differed from the films, which introduced S.P.E.C.T.R.E. in Dr. No and Blofeld in From Russia With Love.

The book is the first chapter in what is known as the "Blofeld Trilogy", which, after the interlude novel The Spy Who Loved Me, resumes with On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and concludes with You Only Live Twice. S.P.E.C.T.R.E. and an offspring of Blofeld's would later appear in John Gardner's Bond novel, For Special Services.

Plot summary

Thunderball begins with a meeting between M and Bond during which 007 is informed that his latest physical delivered terrible results due to his drinking and habit of smoking sixty cigarettes a day. As a result, M sends Bond on a vacation to a health farm in the country so that he can rest and get away from the office and work off some of these bad habits. Upon his return Bond is a new man, having a new diet and smoking considerably less. This "new" Bond is ready for action when MI6 receives a communiqué from a new terrorist organization, S.P.E.C.T.R.E.; short for SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion.

S.P.E.C.T.R.E. has hijacked a new military aircraft, the Vindicator, by paying the NATO observer on board to kill the pilots and redirect the plane to the Bahamas. Once there Emilio Largo and the crew of the cruiser Disco Volante, kill the NATO traitor and steal the two nuclear warheads aboard the jet. S.P.E.C.T.R.E. afterwards announces its existence to the world by threatening to destroy a major city unless a ransom of £100,000,000 is paid. This plan is dubbed "Plan Omega" by Blofeld and is overseen by Largo, who is known within S.P.E.C.T.R.E. as "Number 1".

To the Americans and the British, the task of foiling S.P.E.C.T.R.E. and recovering the two warheads is dubbed "Operation Thunderball", a thunderball being the scientific name for the expanding head of the mushroom cloud seen following a nuclear explosion.

James Bond is sent to the Bahamas to investigate. Once there, 007 meets up with his friend Felix Leiter, who is once again working for the CIA as a result of the current crisis (in his previous appearance, Leiter had been working as a private detective after losing an arm and a leg while assisting Bond in Live and Let Die). Bond also meets Dominetta "Domino" Vitale, Largo's mistress, and the sister of the NATO observer who Largo had killed after successfully delivering the warheads to him. Once she learns of this, Domino turns against Largo and agrees to aid Bond.

After alerting the "Thunderball war room" of their suspicion of Largo, Bond and Leiter team up with the crew of the Manta, an American nuclear submarine, and pursue the Disco Volante, hoping to capture and seize the warheads while they're being transported to the first target. After a large undersea battle between the crews of the Manta and the Disco Volante, Largo squares off in battle against Bond, but is shot in the back by Domino.

Template:Bondbook

Comic strip adaptation

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2005 Titan Books reprint featuring Goldfinger, Risico, From A View To A Kill, For Your Eyes Only, and the abbreviated Thunderball.

Main article: James Bond comic strips

As with all previous Bond books, a comic strip adaptation of Fleming's original novel was published as a daily comic strip in the British Daily Express newspaper and syndicated around the world. The adaptation began on December 11, 1961, however, the Daily Express suddenly cancelled the strip (on the orders of Lord Beaverbrook) on February 10, 1962 when a dispute between Beaverbrook and Fleming occurred over the rights to the short story of The Living Daylights. Fleming had sold the rights to the Sunday Times, a rival newspaper which upset Beaverbrook to the point of terminating his relationship with Fleming. Writer Henry Gammidge and illustrator John McLusky were given only a few days notice and were forced to wrap up the story in only two daily strips.

The original strip seen in the Daily Express only got to the point in the story where Giuseppe Petacchi hijacked the plane and the two nuclear warheads for S.P.E.C.T.R.E.. The strip ended in the next panel (#1117) stating that afterwards S.P.E.C.T.R.E. sent their demands to the Western governments and that all agents, including Bond were sent out in search for the hijacked plane. The final line reads, "Bond finds them and the world is safe." Six more panels for the Daily Express version were originally completed by artist John McLusky detailing the hijacking of the plane, however they were never printed. A further six panels were also created to expand and conclude the story. These additions are included in a number of syndicated versions of the strip.

Beaverbrook and Fleming would later work out their differences and the James Bond comic strip would resume in the Daily Express in 1964 with an adaptation of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The abbreviated Thunderball strip was reprinted by Titan Books in 2005 and is a part of the Goldfinger anthology that also includes Goldfinger, Risico, From A View To A Kill, and For Your Eyes Only.

The controversy over the novel

From a screenplay to a novel

Thunderball was originally conceived as the first film in a possible series of films for a production company called Xanadu Productions formed by Ian Fleming, Ernest Cuneo, Ivar Bruce and Kevin McClory. The history of Xanadu Productions is very complicated and even today very controversial. The first draft of Thunderball was written by Cuneo and sent to Ivar Bruce. The rough draft was specifically designed around an idea by Kevin McClory to shoot the film underwater using Todd-AO cameras. Thunderball would later go through several rewrites although some elements from Cuneo's version would remain in the final novelized story by Fleming. The main villains of the screenplay at the time were the Russians but after the first draft was subsequently changed to S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Some sources, including Raymond Benson's The James Bond Bedside CompanionTemplate:Ref claim that the idea of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. came from McClory, while other sources including "Insider Thunderball"Template:Ref an article by John Cork who is also the author of many official biographies, documentaries, and DVD featurettes on Ian Fleming and the James Bond films, claims S.P.E.C.T.R.E. was created by Fleming. The second draft of Thunderball was written by Fleming where the villain "Largo" is introduced as well as some of the main plot points from the novel and film including the theft of a nuclear device. The rest of the project was a collaborated effort between Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, and Ian Fleming on a story and a screenplay over a two year period. During this time, Xanadu went bust and Ernest Cuneo supposedly sold his rights to the drafts of Thunderball to Ivar Bryce for one dollar.

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James Bond creator Ian Fleming

The finished screenplay was meant to be produced by Kevin McClory, however McClory had recently finished an unsuccessful film called The Boy and the Bridge. This lead to complications with getting proper financial backing for the film. In John Pearson's biography, The Life of Ian FlemingTemplate:Ref, Pearson claimed that McClory had visited Fleming at Goldeneye, Fleming's house in Jamaica, where Fleming explained to McClory his intention to deliver the screenplay to MCA with his recommendation for McClory to produce the film. Additionally, Fleming told McClory that if MCA were to reject the film because of McClory's involvement that McClory should either sell himself to MCA, back out, or prepare to go to court. A few months later, however, Fleming met Harry Saltzman and later Albert R. Broccoli and sold them the film rights to the current series of published books as well as future James Bond novels except for Casino Royale, the rights for which had already been sold to other parties.

Because the deal between Fleming and McClory collapsed, Fleming took the story and the screenplay and novelized them as his ninth James Bond novel. Initially, the novel credited only Ian Fleming as writer although the book is dedicated to his friend Ernest Cuneo ("Muse"). Prior to publication, McClory received an advanced copy of the book and consequently filed suit along with Whittingham against Fleming in 1961 for "plagiarism and false attribution". Additionally, McClory filed a lawsuit against Ivar Bryce for "injuring him as a false partner in Xanadu Productions". The courts ruled that the lawsuit wouldn't interfere with the publication of the novel because a number of books had already been shipped to retailers. The lawsuit, on the other hand, did prevent Thunderball from becoming the first James Bond movie, although screenwriter Richard Maibaum, who in the future would either co-write or adapt thirteen James Bond films, did complete a screenplay adaptation.

In December 1963 Fleming settled out of court with McClory at the behest of Ivar Bruce who felt Fleming's health was being seriously affected by stress from the lawsuit (Fleming had already been victim to one heart attack and in 1964 would die from a second). During the lawsuit, Whittingham had dropped out due to financial difficulties and had sold his rights to the scripts to McClory. The settlement forced future versions of Thunderball to credit on the title page: "based on a screen treatment by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, and Ian Fleming", in that order though Ian Fleming's main author credit remained. Additionally, McClory was given the right to make a film adaptation of the book as well as the rights to all aspects of Thunderball, which supposedly included the rights to the villainous organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E., the character Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Blofeld's white Angora cat, and nine additional plot treatments and outlines. In an October 1997 interview with The Daily TelegraphTemplate:Ref, McClory stated this included the rights to any James Bond film plot that would include an "atomic bomb hijacking".

Bond Battle Royale

After being awarded the rights to make a film, McClory attempted to get backing to turn Thunderball into a film, however, he was unable to do so. He reluctantly later went to Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli and proposed collaborating on an adaptation of Thunderball as the fourth official James Bond film in 1964. In 1965, Thunderball was released starring Sean Connery as agent 007. In the agreement between EON and McClory, McClory agreed that he would not attempt to make another Thunderball adaptation for ten years.

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Artwork from Time Out magazine's June 1983 issue depicting Connery's Never Say Never Again versus Moore's Octopussy

In 1976, after the ten-year agreement expired, McClory teamed up with Sean Connery to write an original James Bond adventure. It has been reported that it was to be titled Warhead 8, Warhead, or James Bond of the Secret Service and possibly not only to have starred Connery as 007, but directed by the actor as well. This original Bond adventure was scrapped when EON Productions filed suit against McClory. Moreover, John Brosnan's book James Bond in the CinemaTemplate:Ref claimed that McClory and Connery learned specific plot details for The Spy Who Loved Me that were supposedly similar to Thunderball and Warhead. Early scripts for The Spy Who Loved Me indeed featured Ernst Stavro Blofeld and S.P.E.C.T.R.E. as the main villains of the film. They were later replaced by Karl Stromberg and his unnamed organization.

In the 1980s, McClory sold the license to make one James Bond film based on the source material for Thunderball to Jack Schwartzman. Schwartzman was key for receiving backing from Warner Bros. and for hiring Lorenzo Semple Jr. to write the screenplay. Together, Schwartzman and McClory produced the 1983 film Never Say Never Again, a remake of Thunderball that starred Sean Connery as James Bond, in a much-publicized return to the role after a 12-year hiatus. That same year, EON Productions released Octopussy starring Roger Moore as agent 007. The media quickly dubbed this unique situation the "Battle of the Bonds", particularly during a brief period when both films were scheduled to arrive in cinemas nearly simultaneously (they were ultimately released several months apart).

In the 1990s Sony and McClory teamed up and planned a third remake of Thunderball, titled Warhead 2000 A.D. with either Liam Neeson as Bond or with Timothy Dalton returning to the role of 007. In 1997, Sony announced a rival James Bond series, which forced MGM and Danjaq, L.L.C. (owner of EON Productions) to file suit against Sony and McClory, barring them from making the film. Plans for this third movie were abandoned in 1999 when Sony settled with MGM, ceding any rights to making James Bond films. Likewise MGM relinquished to Sony their partial-rights to Spider-Man allowing Sony to release the film in 2002. (In 2005, a Sony-led partnership ended up buying MGM.) MGM obtained the film distribution rights to Never Say Never Again from Warner Bros. in 1997.

Kevin McClory's ongoing lawsuit to which he calls "The Greatest Act of Piracy in the History of the Motion Picture Industry" against Danjaq, United Artists, and MGM was thrown out in 2000 and finally struck down in 2001 by a three-judge appellate panel. Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote "So, like our hero James Bond, exhausted after a long adventure, we reach the end of our story."Template:Ref

The film

Template:BondInfo Prior to the agreement in which Thunderball would become the fourth official James Bond film, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had planned to follow Goldfinger with On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which some prints of the film claim in the closing "James Bond will return" line. For the film, Richard Maibaum revised his 1961 screen adaptation he initially wrote to be the first James Bond film. John Hopkins was later brought in to add the finishing touches.

Since teaming up with Ian Fleming, Kevin McClory had always wanted to direct the film himself, however, the agreement with EON didn't allow this. Instead McClory took on the role of executive producer. Consequently, Thunderball is the only James Bond film for which Broccoli, during his lifetime, did not receive credit as producer. Initially, Broccoli turned to director Guy Hamilton, who directed Goldfinger. Hamilton turned the job down claiming that he had done all he could with the Bond character, although he would later return in 1971 for Diamonds Are Forever as well as Live and Let Die (1973), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), and was at one point attached to direct The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), but backed out to pursue other films. Terence Young, who directed the first two Bond films, Dr. No and From Russia With Love was subsequently chosen.

Sean Connery, who already had a contract to do a certain number of Bond films, returned to the role of James Bond, however, he had started to have reservations about the role and the future of the James Bond film franchise. In February 1965 Connery was quoted in The Daily Mail saying,

"I think it could be better than the last one, but I can't see the cycle going on past that. Though I am signed to do two more - OHMSS and one other. But who knows? America seems to lap them up... My only grumble about the Bond films is that they don't tax one as an actor... I'd like to see someone else tackle Bond, I must say - though I think they'd be crazy to do it."

Although this is the fourth, official James Bond film, it is the first time Sean Connery performed the gun barrel intro sequence. Previously, stuntman Bob Simmons performed the scene. The sequence was reshot primarily because this is the first James Bond film to be shot in the widescreen process, Panavision. The sequence is also, for the first time, in color rather than in black and white (although a black and white version of the sequence would be used in Diamonds Are Forever).

Thunderball is the most financially successful of Sean Connery's official Bond films, taking in $140 million worldwide. It also became the top grossing film of 1966 in North America, which to this date is the only James Bond film to rank #1 on the chart. With inflation taken into account, Thunderball is also technically the most financially successful Bond film to date. Thunderball was the second James Bond film to be nominated and win an Academy Award. John Stears won for Best Visual Effects.

Plot summary

Like most of the earlier James Bond films, Thunderball is a close adaptation of the Ian Fleming novel with changes mostly for the pre-title credits, the inclusion of gadgets, and an update of technology.

The film begins with James Bond attending the funeral of Jacques Boitier, an agent of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. who had murdered two British agents. As it would turn out a woman who Bond notices open a car door for herself at the funeral is Boitier in disguise. Bond comes to this realization and ambushes Boitier at his château where he kills him. Afterwards, Bond escapes using a jetpack to fly to his car parked outside the château where he has a brief battle with his pursuers, during which Bond uses water cannons on the Aston Martin DB5.

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Emilio Largo at a casino in Nassau

A major difference between the movie and film versions of Thunderball is that, in the film continuity, Bond was first introduced to S.P.E.C.T.R.E. in Dr. No and the events of From Russia With Love are also masterminded by the organization. The plot of Thunderball deals with S.P.E.C.T.R.E. attempting to hold the world hostage by hijacking two nuclear bombs. In the film, the Avro Vulcan that is transporting the bombs is hijacked by a henchman of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. who has undergone plastic surgery to appear as a NATO observer that would accompany the pilots on the trip. Once in control of the plane, the henchman lands it in the middle of the ocean near the Bahamas where Emilio Largo (number two in S.P.E.C.T.R.E.) and his men hide the plane from any sort of overhead reconnaissance looking for it. Additionally, the man posing as the NATO observer is killed by Largo's men after asking for more money prior to the hijacking.

Prior to this event, Bond is ordered by M to attend a health farm in order to improve his physical condition. While enjoying a massage from a sexy attendant, Bond meets Count Lippe, a shifty individual who becomes distrustful of Bond when 007 notices a gangland tattoo on the Count's arm. Lippe subsequently attempts to murder Bond on a traction machine, but Bond is rescued by the attendant (whom he promptly beds); Bond subsequently has his revenge by trapping Lippe in a steam bath, although the count survives. Things become stranger when Bond finds a dead man wrapped in bandages, and survives yet another attempt on his life.

Due to the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. crisis, MI6 calls an emergency conference where a number of 00-agents are briefed and given assignments (although no faces are clearly seen, this is the first time 00 agents other than Bond have been seen on screen). Initially M assigns Bond to Canada, but Bond recognizes a photo of the NATO observer as the dead man he saw at the health club. Since the NATO observer's sister is in Nassau, M allows Bond to journey there to investigate. The sister, Domino, played by Claudine Auger is Largo's mistress. Bond exploits this connection to get close to Largo after meeting Domino while scuba diving.

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Largo's men battling Bond and the U.S. Navy underwater

An additional character in the film is Fiona Volpe, who is not in the novel. A member of S.P.E.C.T.R.E., she was responsible for the substitution of the NATO observer, and attempts to kill Bond after rendezvousing with Largo in Nassau. She is later shot in the back by a bullet intended for Bond while dancing at a nightclub with him. Amongst Bond fans it is controversial as to whether or not Bond intentionally moves her into the path of the bullet, Fleming's Bond being against killing anyone in cold blood.

In Nassau, Bond teams up with Felix Leiter and the two set out to find the hijacked plane, which they eventually find along with the corpse of the phony NATO observer. Afterwards Bond informs Domino that her brother was killed by Largo and pleads for her to aid him in finding the nuclear warheads. She gives Bond information that allows for him to take the place of a S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent on a mission with Largo who is planting one of the nuclear warheads at its target, just off the coast of Florida. After an underwater battle that Bond barely escapes from, he his rescued by Leiter. Bond informs Felix of the location of the bomb and the two as well as a platoon of U.S. Navy Frogmen parachute to the location of the bomb where a massive underwater battle takes place. During the battle, Bond sneaks aboard the Disco Volante and encounters Largo who is attempting to escape by using the Disco Volante's hydrofoil to speed away. The two have a fierce hand to hand fight, however, Largo is shot in the back by Domino. Bond and Domino jump overboard as the out of control hydrofoil runs aground and explodes.

Cast & characters

Crew

Due to the agreement with Kevin McClory, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman are not credited as producers of the film, and are instead credited as the movie being "presented by" them.

Soundtrack

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Original Thunderball soundtrack cover

Main article: James Bond music

The original title credit theme to Thunderball was entitled "Mr. Kiss-Kiss, Bang-Bang", which was written by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse. The title was taken from an Italian journalist who in 1962 dubbed agent 007 as Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. The song was originally recorded by Shirley Bassey, but was later re-recorded by Dionne Warwick, whose version is the official version found on the soundtrack. The song was removed from the title credits after producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were worried that a theme song to a James Bond movie would not work well if the song did not have the title of the film in its lyrics. John Barry teamed up with lyricist Don Black and wrote "Thunderball". "Thunderball" was sung by Tom Jones who, according to Bond production legend, fainted in the recording booth when singing the song's final, high note.

The rest of the soundtrack for the film was also composed by John Barry; this was his third soundtrack for the series. The soundtrack was actually still unfinished days before the release of the film and even when the soundtrack album was released to stores. The original soundtrack only featured twelve tracks, roughly only the first half of the film; the last seven tracks listed below were unreleased in 1965.

Track listing

  1. Thunderball — Tom Jones
  2. Chateau Flight
  3. The Spa
  4. Switching the Body
  5. The Bomb
  6. Cafe Martinique
  7. Thunderball
  8. Death of Fiona
  9. Bond Below Disco Volante
  10. Search for the Vulcan
  11. 007
  12. Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
  13. Gunbarrel / Traction Table / Gassing the Plane / Car Chase
  14. Bond Meets Domino /Shark Tank / Lights out for Paula / For King and Country
  15. Street Chase
  16. Finding the Plane / Underwater Ballet / Bond with SPECTRE Frogmen / Leiter to the Rescue / Bond Joins
  17. Underwater Battle
  18. Underwater Mayhem / Death of Largo / End Titles
  19. Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Mono) — Dionne Warwick

Vehicles & gadgets

Main articles: List of James Bond vehicles, List of James Bond gadgets

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Agent 007 using the Bell Textron jet pack in the pre-title sequence

In Thunderball, the famous Aston Martin DB5 makes its second appearance, previously in Goldfinger. For this film a surprise modification of rear water cannons were used in the opening pre-title sequence, although the vehicle itself has a noticeably weathered appearance that goes unexplained (perhaps suggesting other, unseen adventures). Also used in the pre-title sequence was the Bell Textron jet pack, which was used by Bond to escape from a building. Q branch provides Bond with a number of gadgets throughout the film, which were given to Bond while in the field, a first in the Bond films. Included was a homer pill that when swallowed emits a signal that helps headquarters trace his whereabouts, a waterproof watch that doubles as a geiger counter and a camera that doubles as a geiger counter. Bond was also outfitted with an underwater jet pack that was armed with a spear gun. It was used by Bond to maneuver through the water faster than anyone else. Lastly, Bond was given a "rebreather", which was a small scuba device that can be carried unnoticed, and, when used, provides a few minutes of air in underwater emergencies. The rebreather would appear again in a couple of Bond films, while the airborne jet pack makes a cameo appearance in Die Another Day and is a feature borrowed for the video game adaptation of From Russia With Love.

Locations

Film locations

Shooting locations

Filmed in Caribbean locales, Thunderball is remarkable for its underwater scenes, which contributed greatly to the popularization of scuba diving as recreation. While in Nassau during one of the final days of shooting, John Stears, the special effects supervisor was supplied experimental rocket fuel to use to blow up Largo's ship, the Disco Volante. Not knowing how volatile the fuel was, Stears doused the entire ship with the fuel and took cover from a safe distance of the ship. When the ship was detonated, the resulting explosion was massive, so massive in fact that it shattered windows along Bay Street in Nassau roughly thirty miles away.

  • Pinewood Studios — London
  • Silverstone racing circuit was used for the chase involving Count Lippe, Fiona Volpe, and James Bond's Aston Martin DB5.
  • Paris, France
  • Nassau, The Bahamas

Trivia

  • At the last minute, a reference to a then-recent, famous Great British Train Robbery was inserted into the S.P.E.C.T.R.E meeting near the beginning of the film.
  • In the conference room, Agent 007 sits in the 7th chair.
  • Throughout the entire film, James Bond never introduces himself as "Bond, James Bond".
  • The name of Emilio Largo's yacht, the Disco Volante means "Flying Saucer" in Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. In the 1983 remake Never Say Never Again, Largo's ship is named the Flying Saucer.
  • Some prints of this film are lacking the trademark "James Bond will return" message at the end, while others include it.

References

  1. Template:Note Template:Book reference
  2. Template:Note Template:Web reference
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  5. Template:Note Template:Book reference
  6. Template:Note Template:Web reference

Further reading

External links

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