About a movie that never existed, “The Day the Clown Cried”

Written by Vanitas

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First of all, I want to give some background info. If you want to skip that and jump right at the review then go ahead, the review will be below the next picture, but there’s some really interesting information about the movie so I suggest you don’t skip it. But I ain’t your mother so, follow your heart, and do whatever you want.

“The Day the Clown Cried” is a movie by Jerry Lewis and Nathan Wachsberger produced in 1972 (while the script was being written since 1961). It was really controversial due to its content which was about a prisoner of war in a concentration camp. The movie could just never be completed; money shortage, disagreements that lead to fights and ultimately lead to the movie being stuck in production, probably, forever. The only copy of the movie was locked in the safe of Jerry Lewis and he refused to ever show it to anyone. After much persuasion, the movie was allowed to move at the Library of Congress. Only a handful of people have seen the incomplete movie and Lewis himself jokingly said that he will release it in 2025 or after he dies, we don’t know which is true and if any of that is true. That being said, the people who watched the movie have described it as “perfect” in its awfulness. It is after all, a tragic dark comedy, pretty heavy stuff. Thankfully, a part of the movie was released in private domains on the internet (30 minutes out of the 1h 30mins) and eventually leaked to the public, so I had the incredible chance to watch it and I most certainly did. I am fascinated by the unknown and of course I am drawn in stories like these and I feel as if I should somehow share my experience with the movie.

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“I took a child by the hand… To lead him on his way. I told him of the love of God… And taught him how to pray. And as I searched for better ways his guide and help to be… I found, as we walked hand in hand, that he was leading me”.

The movie starts with this quote and a circus scene, where our main protagonist Helmut Doork acts as a clown. Early on in the film he is fired from the circus and ends up in a bar. The bar is unfortunately filled with Nazi soldiers at the time the, now drunk, Helmut, decides to make fun of the Furher. He ends up in a concentration camp. There he keeps his “clown identity” alive by performing for the Jewish children on the other side of the fence but obviously “fun” isn’t something that is allowed in a concentration camp so he is prohibited to continue doing so. It’s interesting to see the contrast between the incredibly tragic stories we have heard from inside the camps and the hopeless attempts of Helmut to bring some joy in the hearts of the most innocent creatures around there. But all of this puts him in a very dangerous position which is that he is a friend of the children and the Nazis know. He will be faced with a tragic decision that isn’t much of a decision in itself more like a tragic moral choice. After all, pretending to be a clown in a place filled with death and sorrow is tragic in its own poetic fashion. During these 30 minutes of the released content you cannot stop feeling the darkness that engulfed places like a concentration camp, the nihilism and the apathy of guards that feel more like puppets than humans. I will not spoil the ending though I believe it’s the movie’s strongest part, as someone would argue that it should be. I will provide a link below that will lead to our blog’s facebook page where you can watch the content yourself. But before you do, you have to know, that the movie is not a masterpiece. There’s some German dub over the English dubbing and there are scenes replaced by images of the script just because the scenes were never actually filmed. But you can get the general idea and you can get the feeling the movie tries to inspire in you. Nevertheless, it’s worth a watch, if not for how good it is, then just for the sake of being able to say that you have watched a dead film.

Here’s the post with the movie:

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