Friday, June 17, 2016



In the world of legendary unreleased media, one of the most legendary - maybe THE most legendary - objects of obsession is Jerry Lewis' film The Day the Clown Cried.  If it wasn't for the existence of scripts and set photos, the movie could almost be an urban legend.  It was supposed to be Jerry's masterpiece, but instead it was buried in his vault for the past 45 years.

What is it about this film that has made it the most desired unobtainable film in history?  Mainly, it's the subject matter.  Distilled to the most simple explanation, it shows Jerry Lewis as a clown in a concentration camp, where he ultimately leads the children to their death in the gas chamber.


Only a handful (if that) of people over the years have seen this film, but the most vocal person to see it is Harry Shearer.  Shearer explained that it's as"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, but somebody's trying too hard in the wrong direction to convey this strongly held-feeling." Lewis himself, after decades of angrily refusing to discuss the film, finally admitted during a Q&A that the movie would never see the light of day because it simply wasn't good and he's embarassed by it.

We've gone on about this film for years on Shuffle Function, constantly scouring the web for more and more information, and it was pretty much a dead end until the past few years, when footage from the set slowly started to trickle out on YouTube.  First it was behind the scenes footage, and then an interview from the period with Jerry discussing his hopes for the project.  Each sliver of video was incredible to see, simply because this is something that wasn't meant to be seen.  Maybe the film would never be seen in our lifetime, but these fragments gave us a sense that this is, in fact, a real thing.

Last year it was revealed that the Library of Congress acquired the Jerry Lewis archives, and it was revealed in an almost offhanded comment, that this included a print of The Day the Clown Cried.  The catch is that it couldn't be screened until the year 2024.  Again, it's STILL something that many of us may not see in our lifetime, but we now knew that the film is in the hands of an archive that could potentially do something with it.

Today, the unbelievable has hit the internet.  Thirty minutes of footage has surfaced.  THIRTY MINUTES OF ACTUAL EDITED FOOTAGE. It appears to be drawn from a 2016 German documentary called "Der Clown".  How did we never hear about this?  What adds even more excitement to the documentary is that it features Jerry Lewis' first extensive interview on the project in over 40 years.  But enough about that.  HOW'S THE FOOTAGE?

What you'll see isn't anywhere close to complete, and occasionally title cards will be inserted to give a sense of context.  The footage is presented in chronological order, so you have a basic idea of what is happening. The thing that is most compelling is that footage was shot recently with the same (much older) actors from the film to pad out the missing sections.  It's very intense, and the bed music they add to the scenes is haunting.  While it is shocking to even see this footage, it's all the more shocking because it includes what has been widely reported as the final footage of the film.  You just need to watch it.  It's crazy stuff.

Seeing this footage in this context presents The Day the Clown Cried in a more palatable context, so it probably takes quite a bit of edge off the so-wrong-and-it-gets-more-wrong that the movie reportedly has in full.  Does it diminish the legend of the film?  Absolutely not.  If anything, the added proof that the film is out there makes it larger.  Furthermore, if these bits and pieces are floating around, it makes one wonder how much longer it'll be before even more makes its way out into the world.

Watch this now, because who knows how much longer it'll be available?  At the same time, the Internet always finds a way...

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