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Germans will be off to see ‘Wizard’ again

When the Martin Scorsese-directed “After Hours” is screened in Germany and Rosanna Arquette tells how her former lover would “Surrender, Dorothy!” at every orgasm, there is dead silence in the audience.

Here, few cinemagoers have ever seen “The Wizard of Oz,” one of the most quoted cult films ever.

German distrib TiMe is out to change that. “Wizard” was released for the first time in the ’50s in Germany, and for the last time in the ’60s. Since then , it has been shown sporadically on TV to a children’s audience, but with no great success — this is not fare for modern kids. Next month, TiMe will re-release the classic not as a children’s film but as a much-quoted cult film that cineastes especially should know.

“In the test runs,” says TiMe managing director Wolfram Tichy, “critics and audiences were extremely positive. We aren’t hoping to make it as popular in America, where it’s an institution, but we want to make it so that everyone at least knows it.”

TiMe will start cautiously, with only three prints in two cities, and hopes to go from there. At the same time, they have to avoid certain marketing pitfalls. “We can’t sell it as a children’s film,” says Tichy.

Hollywood cult films in Germany have a varied and unpredictable track record. “Casablanca” first became popular in the ’60s in the English version on the heels of the Bogart renaissance, but an uncut German (the original release was removed of all Nazi references) version was not available until much later. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is still running in some German theaters.

TiMe has experience in the area — they made the black and white “The Plot Against Harry” and the early Peter Weir film “Picnic at Hanging Rock” work, but failed to get the re-release of “American Gigolo” off the ground. “Wizard” is their most ambitious project yet.

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