It's either better than Citizen Kane or the worst piece of shit that anyone ever loaded on the projector...
said director Jerry Lewis jokingly about his film, The Day the Clown Cried last year (via Indiewire). Movies can usually start their journey to rise to immortal fame after they had a release date, but cinema has a couple of tragic holy grails that viewers were never able to admire on the screen, like this never officially released holocaust drama.
keeps the one existing copy of The Day the Clown Cried locked up in his vault, but a behind the scenes footage has made it online from a vintage Flemish documentary about the making of the movie. A shorter 7 minute film already appeared online in August, but now you can watch a longer, 13 minute long version.
According to Indiewire, Lewis also stars in the in the holocaust drama as a circus clown, who is arrested by the Gestapo after mocking Hitler. As a horrendous punishment, he has to help the Nazis to lead Jewish children to the gas chambers of a concentration camp.
Lewis shared this intensive anecdote with EW about the shooting:
I traveled for 18 months from Stuttgart to Belsen to Auschwitz. I was putting together my crew and they brought me a man named Rolf, who was the guy who pulled the f—ing lever on the gas chamber. And I said the only way I ever allow him near me, no less interview him, would be if he understood that I am concerned about the accuracy of the film and it would be because I need some information. But I said to my production manager, “I’m not sure I can handle it.” After about six weeks of pretty good meditation, I talked to the guy. The question nobody could answer, that the victims couldn’t answer, was: Where were they [when they] were waiting for the ones ahead of them in the gas chambers? How long were they waiting? Where were they standing? Was there an adjacent room? Did they sit? What kind of time was involved? The torture here was waiting! And they couldn’t dull the sound effects, the screaming. Could I get that information from this man? I wanted to wear a mask so he wouldn’t know it was me. When he came into the office and sat down, I thought, This poor human being. I’m sitting there and it was five after nine at night by the time we were done talking and I was…undone. But he gave me the bottom of his f—ing soul! He wanted penance. I kept looking at his right hand. I was going to ask him which hand did you do it with? I couldn’t do it.
The director also said:
Nobody can touch it. After I'm gone, who knows what's going to happen? I think I have the legalese necessary to keep it where it is. So I'm pretty sure that it won’t be seen.
Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that a cinema audience will ever witness its release, but you can comfort yourself by watching the behind the scenes footage of this never released cinematic holy grail here.