Warner drops thalidomide drama

German DVD release canceled

Warner Home Video Germany has canceled the DVD release of pubcaster ARD’s TV two-parter “Side Effects” (Contergan — eine einzige tablette) amidst ongoing litigation regarding the film, which chronicles the thalidomide scandal.

A Warner spokeswoman declined to comment on why the title was dropped, although the litigation surrounding the film may have played a part in the decision. Warner was due to release the DVD on Nov. 9.

A district court in Hamburg is to rule in January whether the film — a fictionalized account of the thalidomide scandal of the early 1960s that resulted in birth defects in thousands of babies in Europe — violates the personal rights of actual people portrayed in the film.

“Side Effects” has been the subject of a lengthy and much publicized court battle since early 2006, when Gruenenthal, the pharmaceutical company that manufactured the drug, tried to block the film from airing on German TV. The country’s highest court ultimately greenlit the broadcast two months ago, a decision that also paved the way for international sales. That ruling does not effect the ongoing litigation in Hamburg regarding potential violation of personal rights, however.

Beta Film, which is handling domestic and international sales for the TV movie, is in negotiations with a slew of domestic home entertainment distribs eager to land the title, which last week proved a ratings bonanza for ARD.

Pic, which was produced by Cologne-based Zeitsprung Entertainment, attracted nearly 7.3 million viewers and garnered a 22.2% market share.

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