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The Day the Clown Cried (1972)

6.9
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 185 users  
Reviews: 16 user | 7 critic

A circus clown is imprisoned by the Nazis and goes with Jewish children to their deaths.

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Title: The Day the Clown Cried (1972)

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Helmut Doork
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Peter Ahlm ...
1st New Prisoner
Lars Amble ...
Guard
...
Ada Doork
Jonas Bergström ...
Franz
Carl Billquist ...
Gestapo Officer #2
...
Circus Band Conductor
Tomas Bolme ...
Adolf
Curt Broberg ...
Galt
...
Ludwig
Johnny Cacao
Anton Diffring ...
Captain Curt Runkel
Nils Eklund ...
Bartender
Victor Fratellini
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Storyline

Helmut Doork, a once great and famous clown, is fired from the circus. Getting drunk at a local bar, he pokes fun at Hitler in front of some Gestapo agents, who arrest and send him to a prison camp. Helmut angers his fellow prisoners by refusing to perform for them, wanting to preserve his legend. As times passes, Jews are brought into the camp, with fraternizing between them and the other prisoners strictly prohibited. Eventually, Helmut is forced by the others to perform or be beaten. His act bombs and he leaves the barracks depressed, trying the routine out again alone in the prison yard. He hears laughter and sees a group of Jewish children watching him through a fence. Happy to be appreciated again, he makes a makeshift clown suit and begins to regularly perform. His audience grows, but a new prison Commandant orders Helmut to stop. When he refuses and continues to perform, he's beaten and thrown in solitary confinement. But the Nazis soon come up with a use for Helmut, keeping ... Written by Jonathan D. H. Parshall <parshall@citcom.net>

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2.20 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of the most talked about, yet little seen, films in history, only a select few have ever seen the film. Among them, actor Harry Shearer who told Spy Magazine that the film was "perfect" in its awfulness. See more »

Connections

Referenced in DVD-R Hell: The Day the Clown Cried (2014) See more »

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User Reviews

Sounds as if it might have worked in the right hands
16 November 2002 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

If you have read the screenplay to this apparently completed, then deep-sixed film, you quickly comprehend there isn't anything particularly fatal on paper. It is humanist, yes, and delves into a situation so ugly and desperate that the pathos and horror should arise naturally, unforced from the material. I would venture worse-reading films have made it to the screen as star vehicles, and sometimes done pretty well-- by an alignment of miraculous chances-- as both box office and as cinema.

I am merely guessing that the entire problem with the filmed version is (as Harry Shearer says in so many words) one of failing to find precisely the right tone. The tone and mounting would make or break this material, veering it toward Apocalypse Now on the one hand, or Plan Nine From Outer Space on the other.

I have to confess, after reading this, that I wish someone, maybe some goth, dour euro director (maybe Bergman or Bresson) had filmed this during the late 50s or early 60s. In Lewis' hands, it had no chance to rise to its greatest potential, and now no one will likely ever touch the original material again. But with some goofy dialogue and some of the more obviously inappropriate suggestions as to where to camp it up exponged, I think it all could have worked. The results, still, might be a film no one would want to watch.


26 of 37 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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