Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Bellero Shield



Production Order #23
Broadcast Order #20
Original Airdate: 2/10/64
Starring Martin Landau, Neil Hamilton, Sally Kellerman.
Written by Joseph Stefano from a story with Lou Morheim.
Directed by John Brahm.


Richard Bellero, Jr.'s (Landau) latest laser invention does not impress his boss (and father) (Hamilton) When he manages to reel in an alien (John Hoyt) with an impressive defense mechanism, his wife (Kellerman) thinks they can use that technology to gain control of her in-law's company, once and for all.

JS: Did the OL prop department get a new box of  knobs and dials just in time for this episode? Sure looks like it to me!

PE: By this time, I think the knobs behind the scenes would throw the box of gizmos in the air and see how they'd land. I'd love to see a new blog "Outer Limits: The Knobs Explored" discuss and examine each new lever and doodad. Several of the gauges have followed the "Spinal Tap" theory that there is a measure above 10. Gotta love those spinning dials!


JS: The poor bear, in his cheap white track suit, leaves much to be desired. I guess paying for all the new dials came at the bear's expense. From his initial arrival, sliding down the laser beam, I found it hard to take him seriously. Fortunately, his was the only performance that I felt detracts from the story.

PE: Really? I thought, yep, the suit was a cheapy but John Hoyt (Is that really John Hoyt from "Don't Open Till Doomsday" under that mask?) sold the alien for me.  I think you objected to the Elvis belt buckle. And do I detect a not-so-subtle reference to Christ in that trip down the dancer's pole?

JS: Martin Landau does a fine job as the young, excited scientist. He is well supported by Neil "The Commissioner" Hamilton, as his unimpressed father, who fortunately doesn't have to resort to an "Invisibles" moment this time out. 

PE: Gotta disagree here though. Landau almost gets lost in this one and when he does surface I don't see the "Star in the making" turn we got in "The Man Who Was Never Born," but the Landau who would phone it in now and then in supporting roles.

JS: The real scene stealers are Sally Kellerman and Chita Rivera. They are a dynamite, if bizarre, pairing. I never knew what to expect next from each of their clandestine encounters, and was honestly shocked when Rivera pulled the gun out of her garter. Talk about noir!

PE: Kellerman, at times, seems a bit high. That could be attributed to the dialogue Stefano gives her to memorize. Her motives are shady at times. Is she wanting fame and fortune? At one point, Landau tells her he can only give her money. With most of these TV broads, that would be enough, right? So what does she want? Landau on the cover of Time? A talk show gig? I get that she wants her husband to be Top Cat but is that the final goal? 

JS: Director Brahm had Conrad Hall firing on all cylinders this time out. I could have pulled dozens of screencaps from this episode to highlight the amazing lighting at play. He literally brings shadows to life. While not my favorite episode overall, I think this may have some of the most impressive photography to date.

 

PE: Yep, very impressive. And because I know nothing about lighting and special effects (as I've been told countless times these past few weeks), I'll mention my admiration for the "glowy unfocused alien" trick as well. In any scene our friend is featured, he glows a fuzzy bright white. In all that black and white, it's still a startling effect.

JS: I'm not a big fan of the vaseline smeared lens... particularly when other characters get inadvertently blurred as a result. My L-OL moment was when the mannequin is dropped from the ceiling after Kellerman shoots the alien.

PE: It's a scientific fact that when aliens from "just above the ceiling of our universe" are shot, their bodies lose their bone structure and they become rubbery. Read your Outer Space Weekly a little more often. We're being graded on this.

JS: I'd be okay with a rubbery alien... but this one  was stiff and inarticulate. The only thing missing was the sound of the brittle guy shattering when he hit the ground.

JS RATING:
PE RATING:









David J. Schow on "The Bellero Shield":






As David J. Schow explains below, there was an overlap in the production of the final episodes of Season One. Watch for our review of The Unknown/"The Forms of Things Unknown" as our final Season One entry.
From The Outer Limits Companion, Copyright © David J. Schow, 1986, 1998.  All Rights Reserved.  Used by permission and by special arrangement with the author.

Chita Rivera

Be sure to check back later today for Christa Faust's Spotlight on "The Bellero Shield."

Next Up...

24 comments:

  1. Another favorite. For me, for the most part, the series is still on a roll. I mentioned the teaser in my "Nightmare" Spotlight, with that moving alien mouth looking so freaky to this young viewer.

    I find the deliberately heightened style of the dialogue consistent with the piece as a whole: Hall's stunning shadow-play, Brahm's strong theatrical blocking, the sheer musicality of the alien himself (who comes off as something of a magic being), and the full-blooded performances of Kellerman, Landau, Hoyt, Rivera and Hamilton who embrace the style with gusto and relish and mustard.

    The Macbeth framework plays nicely, giving us a clear Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and Duncan, and even borrows perhaps a touch of Othello's Iago in Mrs. Dame. Kellerman is particularly riveting here. As with Lady Macbeth, lust for power for her husband makes a strong catalyst (another dark side temptation from Stefano) and her scenes with Rivera are electric. Her final self-imprisonment resonates with other Stefano "trapped prisoners", as well as packing a dramatic punch that hasn't lessened with the passing of time.

    As for the "bifrost" being, I strongly believe Hoyt's elegant performance, the soft glow, the dynamic facial design, and the luminous accompanying sounds collaborate to present one of the finest representations of an alien in all of TV and movies.

    Oh, and some of the most sinister foot acting ever on TV, care of Rivera.

    Three and half Zanties.

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  2. I don't see the alien as the "bear" in this episode. The real monsters are the Wife and the Housekeeper. They scared the hell out of me, with the bare feet scenes invoking menace and evil some how. The alien and males were innocent fools, but the female of the species...Very deadly!

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  3. The original short story is in the public domain and can be found on the net in many places, including here:

    http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0604281h.html

    It's amazing that they (the Stefano team) can take a such material as the short story 'The Lanson Screen' and novel 'Corpus Earthling', material that time would have forgotten and turn it into solid gold. What would they have done with something far more celebrated?

    This is a top of the tier classic for me and the comparison with 'The Galaxy Being' is so very apt. What I love about it is the sheer murky intrigue of the thing, which is only appropriate considering 'Macbeth'is it's source.

    Four of it's five characters goes through some breakdown or break through. For Kellerman, it's is a psychological one with a lose of reality. For Landau, it's the realisation that his wife is a lying, thieving and murdering spouse whose true colour he has been blinded too. For Rivera, it's the touching, tear-streaming awakening that her mind's psyche receives when she encounters the alien in the cellar. For Hamilton, in a marvellous moment of splendid conversion, it's the realisation that he's son is one of the great ones. From that moment on, he can do no wrong, every revelation just underpins it. He didn't invent the shield! Well, he invented the laser that caught the alien that invented the shield. None of these jaw-dropping conversions, all in the space of 48/9 minutes feels wrong or forced.

    Rich, fruity dialogue gushes forth revealing the nature of the person, supplemented and complimented by their movement and positioning and body language. Just the way Hamilton sits or holds himself conveys the manner of a man used to being the focal point of others. Rivera is in the shadows, barefoot and elemental in her devotion to her mistress. The Chita Rivera character, I think, owes more to Mrs Danvers in 'Rebecca' than any other character, sharing a similar name too.

    Kellerman has a role to open the doors to a career, indeed. It's magnificence can't be overstated. I can only imagine the sheer, heavenly bliss these actors must have felt when they received the script.

    The use of a vaseline smeared lens was good enough for director William Dieterle and photographer Joseph August in 'All That Money Can Buy' (The Devil and Daniel Webster') and much the same artistry can be found here, on a much shorter schedule. Both Hall and Braham are on fire and the movement, sense of place and striking compositions (one of which features Rivera, Kellerman and Landau in a doorway, looking in at Hoyt's alien, all captured in one sublime shot).

    John Braham was lively and inventive with the material in 'Zzzzz' but here he is on fire and with this episode, he achieves the holy trinity of having directed at least one top of the pantheon classic to go with the ones in 'The Twilight Zone', 'Thriller'.

    This segment has always reminded me of the original 'Star Trek' excellent episode 'The Conscience of the King' directed by Oswald and also heavily indebted to the Bard. Both are ardently Shakespearian in flavour and theme.

    I love the way the alien is caught, so outlandish and as equally as startling as 'The Galaxy Being'.

    Four Zantis.

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  4. Another standout episode for me. I remember seeing this as a kid and my reaction to the ending was, "What's the matter with her? She's free! Why doesn't she just walk away?" Aaah, the guilt-free innocence of youth.

    So many nod nod wink winks to Shakespeare here ... talking of 'kings,' the weak prince, the ambitious wife, the out out damn spot final shot. The only thing missing was Chita Rivera holding up the alien's skull and lamenting, "Alas, poor Hoyt, we knew him well" (from the last episode, actually). And who was that statue of the king on a horse in the background (King Henry V?) that kept getting framed and spotlit so prominently between the talking heads at several points?

    Quentin Tarantino gives this episode 10 Pinkys for Chita Rivera's feet. Though they were pretty beat up from her considerable experience as a dancer.

    And Sally Kellerman owes a debt to Stefano (and Conrad) for such a juicy showcase role that must have gone immediately to the top of her demo reel.

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  5. An instant classic, for all the reasons mentioned above. Money alone isn't enough to placate Kellerman because she has an insatiable lust for pure power, something money can't entirely buy. Unlike "Man Who Was Never Born," Landau's character is not the focus of this story; as a matter of fact, being the only decent person in sight (other than his ill-fated extraterrestrial alter-ego), young Bellero can't help but fade into the background somewhat -- everyone else is front-and-center with their deliciously juicy venal behavior. Camera work, lighting and cinematic touches to die for... Just wonderful stuff, overall.

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  6. Wish I had a housekeeper who was that capable, dependable, and devoted!

    Gosh, I don't have much to add other than to lend my thumbs up to this episode as well. It's a solid job, and DJS and our hosts, along with the bloggers above, have captured most of the reasons. Great ensemble cast, each with a powerful showcase scene; assured directing and photography; effects that really look good (and some of the best sound effects in the whole series); and a literate script with a clear narrative that aspires to big themes. Great all the way!

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  7. Perfectly constructed classical tragedy. Well-designed in every respect, from the gothic mansion lab to the searing performances to the dialogue, which I find Stefano's most eloquent and dazzling, this side of "Forms."

    We slide, with the "space-angel," from heaven to hell in a single traverse of "the Trembling Way" from a celestial "amplification of light" (as unique a statement of "place" as I've ever heard in sf) down into the fermenting acid pit of the Belleros' wine cellar. From high aspiration to corrupting lust.

    Once again Stefano displays his disdain for science: Can a being composed of solidified light be shot to death? And once again an amazing laser weapon is lightly discarded as irrelevant to the purpose. ("Naivete and mindless courage"---the province of children and scientists.) But the caustic character interplay overwhelms such concerns.

    We're treated to favorite Frontiere music cues at poignant moments. Wonderful characters played like fine instruments: Martin Landau's harried, desperate-for-affirmation Richard. John Hoyt's surprising turn as a softly shimmering entity of pure piety, replete with gently modulated voice that hums in resposne to "what your eyes teach me" (he reminds me somewhat of H.B. Warner in LOST HORIZON). Sally Kellerman's ulceratingly ambitious Evil Queen and her sinister familiar, Chita Rivera, with her silent assassin's feet and severe beehive hairdo (I'm just glad Joanna Frank didn't sport one). Even tiny moments between this subtextually bonded pair speak volumes: "Stay," Judith tells Mrs. Dame at one point, as if evincing a mistress-pet relationship. And Neil Hamilton's purse-lipped, impossible-to-please captain of industry.

    Judith and Bellero, Sr. are fun to watch, pitted ego-to-ego in their death-match of iron wills, Kellerman languidly exuding pure hubris.

    It's all excitingly staged by Brahm and photographed by Hall, deep shadows limning actors and isolating conspiracies in sharp relief. Every frame oozes intrigue and tension. Is there a moment of release, save for the very brief tender exchange between Richard and Judith, underscored by the "Architects" love theme?

    And, of course, there is the quotable dialogue, line after line, worth highlighting here:

    "Fear is the spur."
    "Until I've acquainted myself with ALL your weapons"
    "He wants your love. I want your empire."
    "We must show these men what great men they are."
    "Rule the world---or SAVE it, if you prefer."
    "It's customary for one to comfort a broken enemy before you discard him." (Mrs. Dame's searing note of triumph here echoes both Shakespeare and Bergman, where any humble character might spout lucid philosophy. This is followed by a breathtaking dramatic turnabout, as Dame's egotism melts into abject defeat and panic.)
    "Fathers often demand what strangers don't even expect."

    Then we have the satisfying character beat when Richard's filial resentment boils over. When he excoriates his father for "hopeless words in that tomb of yours." Only moments earlier, the old man had practically teetered on tiptoes, giddy with the proposition that "great men are FORGIVEN their murderous wives." And now he's a whimpering shell of a man, pouring out a lifetime's regret. Did Bellero Sr.'s guilt projection crystallize out of another of Stefano's own counseling sessions? It doesn't matter.

    What ensues is the real meditation.

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  8. The conclusion is a mighty whisper, followed by a forlorn howl in the dark.

    We have the satisfying character beat when Richard's filial resentment finally boils over. When he excoriates his father for "hopeless words in that tomb of yours." Only moments earlier, the old man had practically teetered on tiptoes, giddy with the proposition that "great men are FORGIVEN their murderous wives." And now he's a whimpering shell of a man, pouring out a lifetime's regret. Did Bellero Sr.'s guilt projection crystallize out of another of Stefano's own counseling sessions? It doesn't matter.

    What has branded its portent into my capsule-recall of this stellar episode, more than Kellerman's "Out, damned spot" guilt-ridden madness, is the moment that precedes it. It's the single most damning passive indictment of humanity's lack of intuitive compassion that I've ever seen played.

    The luminous being has just exhausted its last lumen-drop to free Judith from the shield before it expires. Mrs. Dame recounts her confrontation with it:

    "I expected it to kill me. Then I heard myself say, 'Can you help?' And it said... 'Can I NOT?'"

    A pin dropping, in the aftermath of a bomb.

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  9. Wow---sorry for the repeated paragraph in my extended comments above. Luminous beings were obviously dancing in my head. This tends to happen when I wear out my allotted welcoming space and scramble to extend it!

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  10. This is the antithesis of yesterday's episode -- hushed and classical rather than hysterical and baroque, with cold machinations aimed at social gain instead of desperate measures taken for personal fulfillment. Its characters are corrupt to a man (and woman), too -- no virgins here -- and even the benign, luminescent alien is a total flip from "Doomsday"'s belligerent fecal cupcake.

    So how come I don't like it more? Too schematic and overly eager to wear its influences on its sleeve, I suppose -- I prefer the murky antics of Stefano's other OL genre-shredders to this pat Shakespeare lesson. In that regard even Hall's work is too binary (although I can't get enough of that glow effect), and the things I admired about Brahm's work on "ZZZZZ" seem stuffy here. Plus, with no one to identify with except for the light-man, and his fate is foregone the second he slides into frame, there's too little at stake. I pity him; let the rest of them burn.

    Then again, this may be my favorite Outer Limits alien ever, and John Hoyt does a really beautiful job; his silent pauses speak circles around the arch dialogue. Hoyt's is one of the best performances of the entire series, I think, up there with Jeff Corey and Miriam Hopkins.

    Maybe I've just got a tin ear for poetry. For what it's worth, Ted, your analysis almost changed my mind, and Christa Faust's noir-focused Spotlight added dimension. And Hollywoodaholic, I caught the prominence of that horse statue, too; anybody have any theories on this? Another of Villa di Stefano's geegaws as unbilled guest star?

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  11. I can't identify the statue either, Mark. It's prominently framed in the composition, so it's clearly not just set dressing---that wouldn't be TOL. I've always thought of it as a conquering hero prancing in glory---the antithesis of Richard and the frustrated ambition his father would see him attain.

    If DJS doesn't know, that's what we're stuck with.

    Glad my thoughts could at least give you pause. But I'm not disappointed that I couldn't swing your vote. Tomorrow you may be a bit disenchanted with me, judging by your feelings about "Spider County" on your splendid site.

    My props of the day to you for the delicious phrase "belligerent fecal cupcake"!

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  12. Ted: Your reading of the horse-and-rider statue is sound, and I wonder now if it fades from prominence as the Belleros lose their grip on the situation (and the alien). I'll rewatch at some point to check, and hope DJS has some insight. Guess we've reached the trainspotting portion of WACT now...

    Looking forward to your take on "Children of Spider County"; I have reservations as well.

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  13. Ted--

    When I saw the name H.B. Warner in your post, I was sure you were going to compare the Bifrost alien to Warner's performance as Christ in the 1927 King of Kings, where he is often bathed in a gentle, radiant glow.

    The array of influences from which Stefano's scripts were created seems endless. Here, they blend together quite seamlessly, producing TOL's most elegant and lustrous episode, visually and verbally.

    John Hoyt's performance belongs in the top tier of TOL cast achievements, but it is the CONCEPT of the being that is so remarkable and memorable. From his description of the ethereal world he inhabits to the gentle, pulsating hum of his speech, this graceful and benevolent figure is perhaps the series' most perfectly realized alien entity. Thus, the reprehensible qualities of his feckless human hosts are magnified greatly by his demise.

    TOL's ultimate chamber-drama, beautifully rendered.

    LR

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  14. I got to agree with our hosts on this one. Pretty decent episode, but nothing outstanding. 2 Zantis. I actually liked it a lot until the ending, which was sort of anti-climatic. It didn't seem as if the Femme Fatale got the comeuppance she deserved.

    For some reason, I thought the ending would have Sally Kellerman transported back to the alien's home planet, where she would stand trial, then be executed. Maybe my generation is just a little blood thirsty.

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  15. This is what I consider among OL's -- probably that season of all shows -- best episodes. The story was of classic nature but had all the human elements, including sexy feet. Each performer was right on the mark to the point that it seemed impressively intense for what was essentially a stage production. The direction was top notch, shimmering from tight closeups to science fiction trick shots. The special effects did neither distract nor seem ridiculous, which is one of the biggest problems I have with most episodes. And the story was well-honed; the natural way that they introduce classical elements was seamless.
    Sally-K truly emerged out of her shell as she revealed her ulterior motives, while Chita-R was reliable, loyal and powerful. Landau and Hamilton did their parts, while how they managed to get Hoyt to take this virtually invisible role is beyond me, but he created one of my favourite 'bears' of all times. But I've had issues with the 'bear' shell game so far, with so many of the creations unbelievable and just shoddy.
    One more thumb's up for the music -- that four-note spectre that loomed over the heavy scenes was extremely effective. Nine Zantis (converted to Four-point-five on Krel) for this one!

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  16. I think the horse statue is a reference to the Bellerophon/Pegasus legend that DJS mentions.

    Boy, did I have a sleepless night after I saw this episode! And despite hating everything Judith Bellero represents, I couldn't help but feel sorry for her at the end, even though she brought her fate on herself

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  17. There's one clever line from Judith that almost has to be have double meaning, considering her ego -
    I crawled to get away from it. I CRAWLED, Richard."

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  18. 2 Zantis is exactly right. Both Sally and Hayden Roarke are pretty nutty in this one. Dig his line to Sally: "Your ambition is singularly the most active form of violence I've ever encountered"- pretty srton for someone who works in the military field! A waste of very good actors- Roarke and Rivera overact, Landau/Sally good as usual. Way too talky. That she gets trapped is the best touch. Some good photography, particulary in the cellar. Main problem is all the father-son conflict is tough to take. Also this is too similar to the Galaxy Being.

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  19. When I was young,this one knockef off my rocker, okay with that goofy goofy stuff about the bar for sale in little machine increase for shields I musta missed the ending was looking wasn't sure the shield disappear or she was just nuts now I see a more likely she's rich just nuts where is the bet you see this Bifrpst alian.with ball like contron in hand what that could be just to stay in a more containers enough murder I like to the goofy catfish looking to get to have John who plays I have no problem is get up with Elvis call the guy here says whatever strange thing the

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    Replies
    1. And the. Strange bufrost slirn in you cannot wonder mix with the Galaxy meeting alien inspired models Silver Surfer.

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  20. This is one of my favorite episodes and I think it deserves more than two zantis. I like the dark spooky setting and the alien. I like the moralistic message, too. Good acting by the whole cast.

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  21. This episode features one of the most striking display of one of Stefano’s clever writing tricks : the repetition of words or sentence in two different contexts (and therefore two different meanings). After the commercial break following Judith’s entrapment under the shield, we come back to a distraught Mrs Dame who says : - Can she live without air to breathe ? Is there a perpetual supply of oxygen in that tomb of hers ? Only a few seconds later, Bellero Sr tells his son that the situation is hopeless and Landau angrily responds : - Is there a perpetual supply of hopeless words in that tomb of yours ? Clever, isn’t it ?

    Stefano does that quite a few times in the series. In the early scenes of DON’T OPEN TILL DOOMSDAY, Vivia tells Gard : - Will I spend my life keeping trespassers out of my graveyard ? A few minutes later, noticing Vivia’s reaction to her wedding bouquet on the door, Mrs Kry tells her : - Don’t let my petrified memories frighten you. It’s there to keep trespassers out of my graveyard !

    Want another one ? In FUN AND GAMES, Laura tells Mike at one point : - We can win, I know we can win. I don’t know why but I feel it, inside me, I feel it ! Later, the Alien ‘Senator’ talks to the two gorillas from Calco and says : - I’m convinced that you will have the battle you long for. I don’t know why but I feel it, inside me, I feel it !

    Strangely enough, I don’t think this fascinating Stefanian particularity is ever once mentioned in the 200 pages of THE OL COMPANION .

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  22. I love the observation by my fellow Anonymous about Stefano's brilliant repetition of words and phrases. Don't forget the use of "executioner" in several different contexts during Zanti Misfits.

    I have a subjective love of OBIT as my all-time favorite, but Bellero is number 2 and objectively speaking it is the series' most dazzling hour, still almost literally breathtaking each time I watch. Moment by moment it is crammed to the point of overflow with genius and hard truth, like Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony.

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  23. It took me a long while to think of it, but the ending of this episode has one thing in common with THE FORMS OF THINGS UNKNOWN (apart from the two murderesses, I mean). As everyone here knows, the alternate ending of FORMS has Kassia shooting poor Tone, thinking that he's harming Leonora. So after finding out that she didn't kill Andre, she ends up committing a killing after all.
    The reason THE BELLERO SHIELD makes me think of that just a little is this - even though Richard tells Judith "We'll have to tell someone what we've done," you can't help wondering whether she COULD get in trouble for it, especially since the Bifrost creature just vanished into thin air. But no sooner do you wonder that than you remember what happened with Bellero Sr. and Mrs. Dame.

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