Sunday, January 22, 2012
THE MOST QUESTIONABLE FILM YOU WILL NEVER SEE!
Don't ask me why, because this never happens. I mean, I have no good explanation for why I woke up with Jerry Lewis on my mind. Other than his turn in Scorsese's King Of Comedy, I have no real affection for the man. So why it was that I woke up at 5:30 in the morning obsessing over his almost mythical film The Day The Clown Cried is a puzzler. Still, I spent the first two hours of my day trying to find out everything I could about it on the interwebs. And I here I am, five hours later, doing the same thing.
I'm sure we must have posted something about The Day The Clown Cried before. It's weird and tasteless and impossible to find, which means it's right up our alley. For those that don't know about this film, it can be summed up as such: Jerry Lewis plays a clown that leads kids to the gas chamber at Auschwitz. YEAH. If you're like me, you probably read that description and said "that sounds too unbelievable to NOT see! SHOW IT TO ME NOW!" Well, here's the rub: The film has never been released. In fact, probably only 10 people in the entire history of the world have ever even seen it.
Harry Shearer is one of the few people to have seen The Day The Clown Cried, which is almost too perfect. I mean, he is the ideal person to really understand everything that is wrong and unbelievable about this movie, and at the same time understand why these factors make the movie incredible. He described the movie in Spy Magazine like this: "if you flew down to Tijuana and suddenly saw a painting on black velvet of Auschwitz. You'd just think 'My God, wait a minute! It's not funny, and it's not good, and somebody's trying too hard in the wrong direction to convey this strongly-held feeling."
I know. You wanna see it even harder now, don't you? Well, you're still screwed. There is ONE copy in existence, and it's on 3/4" videotape in Jerry Lewis' private vault. The negatives are being held for ransom by a film lab in Sweden until the $600,000 bill is payed. The screenwriters refuse to allow its release. Jerry Lewis' own website says "Jerry hopes to someday complete the film, which remains to this day, a significant expression of cinematic art, suspended in the abyss of international litigation."
This movie aint comin' out.
SO... what can we turn to? There are two versions of the script floating around on the interwebs. The first is the original rough script by Joan O'Brien and Charles Denton, which is more serious in tone than the second and final version that Jerry Lewis rewrote and shot. Both version are available HERE at the Subterranean Cinema website. You can also find the full text of the 1992 Spy Magazine article that digs into the mythology of The Day The Clown Cried, and features interviews with many key players in the saga.
Some reviews of the script can be found at filmthreat.com and at Film Buff Online.
Also there's the youtubes.
Here's a great clip of Harry Shearer discussing the film on The Howard Stern Show
These clips shot on the set of The Day The Clown Cried are probably as close as we'll ever get to seeing the film.
Here's a clip from the 10th Anniversary of The Tonight Show, where Jerry briefly mentions shooting the film, and he seems pretty optimistic about how it turned out.
Finally, here's my plea, even though folks that are way more powerful and connected have tried and failed. PLEASE! If you have a copy of The Day The Clown Cried, PLEASE let the gang at Shuffle Function have a copy! WE'D LOVE TO HAVE A SECRET GRIND-FU CINEMA DEVOTED TO IT! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks. Also, get the Talking Heads back together. Actually, that's more likely than seeing The Day The Clown Cried.