SHOCK CINEMA
HOME PAGE
SUBSCRIPTIONS
AND BACK ISSUES
FILM REVIEW
ARCHIVE
Hundreds of Reviews from Past Issues!
AD RATES
MAGAZINE
REVIEW INDEX

An A-Z list of SC's
Print Reviews
SHOCKING
LINKS

Our Favorite Sites for Cinematic Dementia and Fringe Culture
SHOCK CINEMA
FACEBOOK PAGE
'Chirashi'
MOVIE POSTERS

A Gallery of Japanese Film Posters
SHOCK CINEMA
BLOG
MISTER KEYES
At the Flicks and Shit
SHOCK CINEMA
Film Favorites
SHOCK CINEMA
MySpace PAGE

"Some of the best
bizarre film commentary
going... with sharp, no-nonsense verdicts."
-
Manohla Dargis,
The Village Voice
 
"One of the few
review zines you
can actually read
and learn from...
You need this."
-
Joe Bob Briggs 
 
"Whenever you
see a film critic,
pick up a brick and throw it at him...
No great damage
can be done
to his head."
-
Jonas Mekas 
 

 Need additional
 information?
 E-mail us at:

 ShockCin@aol.com















THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED [Script review] (1972).

Although it's impossible to criticize a finished film on the basis of the script alone, I've seen more than enough Jerry Lewis films to know how badly he can stumble when starring and directing in moments of pathos. This script, which weighs in at a whopping 164 pages (since one-page equals approximately a minute of screen time, it's longer than THE ENGLISH PATIENT) was originally planned as a Summer '74 release, with much of it funded by Jerry's own private cash (after his producer ran dry); yet the flick has spent the last quarter-century in litigation limbo (since it turned out that Lewis didn't actually own the script, after all). While a Good Movie would have people clamoring to settle the case, I doubt anyone (with the exception of Jerry and his hardcore fans) cares if this ever sees the light of day. Scripted by Joan O'Brien and Charles Denton (with "additional material" -- uh oh -- provided by Jer) and filmed in Paris and Stockholm, it's the circa-1940's story of Helmut Dorque (more often spelled as Doork), an old clown who's fired from a German circus. After drunkenly impersonating Hitler in front of the Gestapo, he's tossed into a prison camp, where poor Helmut is abused by bullying inmates and guards. Unfortunately, there's no reason to sympathize with the character, since he's an unbearable, self-pitying sort, who mouths off at the most inappropriate times. As years pass and WWII deepens, the prison becomes the home of Jewish women and children, with Helmut discovering THE CHILDREN NEED HIM AND LOVE HIM! With the help of other prisoners, he creates a make-shift clown suit and make-up, and begins entertaining the tots. When Helmut is beaten by a guard in front of the children, he even pretends that's it's all part of his comedy routine. Later, Doork is used by the Nazis to keep a boxcar full of children quietly amused, only to accidentally (oops!) winds up in Auschwitz, where this "Judas goat" leads the smiling kids straight into gas chambers. Proudly labeled "A Family Film" on its intro page, this is a painfully obvious story, overflowing with stock characters, sledgehammer discussions, and maudlin monologues. Still, if played totally straight (and in the hands of a more appropriate director), this had a slim chance of working. There's no chance here, since script-notes explain how even dramatic moments (like being abused by a guard when Helmut refuses to eat, or trying to get dressed when his clothes are totally frozen) "will work comically as well." It's easy to imagine Jerry doing his worn-out, slapstick schtick in the middle of a supposedly-gritty concentration camp -- and just how embarrassing it must be. More than simply misguided, this makes you question your own tolerence for cinematic swill.

© 1998 by Steven Puchalski.