Fans of filmic curios and tacky Holocaust art are having a party right now on the Internet, thanks to the recent resurfacing of legendary Jewish comedian Jerry Lewis’s “buried” 1972 film The Day the Clown Cried.
The film—about a gentile clown with a conscience who literally leads Jewish children to the gas chamber — was condemned by Lewis himself as being “all bad because [he had] lost the magic.” Lewis gave the film to the Library of Congress with the stipulation that it not be released until 2024. Presumably so that he’d be dead by the time the general public reacted as negatively to it as, well, it now is. Indeed, his friend, comedian Harry Shearer, one of the only people to have seen the film, described it as like going “to Tijuana and seeing a painting on black velvet of Auschwitz.”
The spliced-together 30 minutes of the movie feature an amalgamation of scenes from a German documentary about the film, title cards with dialogue, and a staged recreation of the film.
No one’s quite sure how it appeared though. And oddly enough, this isn’t the first time this film has mysteriously surfaced online. The last sighting, in 2013, had a similarly shady genesis.
A recent BBC documentary explored the whole affair: