The Day the Clown Cried
This is the Jerry-Lewis-is-a-clown-at-Auschwitz movie of legend, you might have heard the story: couldn't pass the laugh test, Lewis tried hard to bury it (succeeded for the most part) but recently someone's pieced together a thirty-minute or so version from random available clips. Stuff that was shown as promotional material in the '70s on various TV shows around the world, some re-enactments from the original actors, even a few places where the shot you're watching is actually taken from behind-the-scenes footage of an editor who's watching playback of that shot, etc.. It's assembled from scraps, it's entirely in German, the version I watched had sporadic subtitles, and it's at most a third of the actual movie... but it's enough to get a sense of the thing.
I dunno, maybe I was over-prepared to cringe, but this wasn't nearly as offensive as I was expecting. I mean, yes — Jerry Lewis plays a down-on-his-luck clown who crosses the wrong guy and gets sent to a camp for political prisoners, adjacent to a concentration area for jews, where he takes to doing impromptu juggling/tumbling shows for the kids next door until the guards come down hard on him for fraternizing with 'em. Spoiler alert, if you care: he eventually is given an ultimatum by which he can either A) help the guards lead the kids into the gas chamber and then leave, or B) not help the guards and join them in the gas chamber. He seems to submit to the ultimatum at first, but once he's led them to the gas chamber, a little girl gives him "aren't you coming with us?" eyes and he decides to go in with them. Door closes, roll credits.
(In this version, at least.)
Here's where the major distinction lies, and my whole read of the movie is centered on it, so if I'm mistaken with this then my whole read is wrong: I'm pretty sure this isn't a comedy and wasn't conceived of as one. If you say "and the whole thing is played for laughs!," then of course it sounds grotesque, but... to me, this simply reads like bad taste — like the proverbial "going full retard" — not grotesquery. It's not a holocaust exploitation comedy, in other words; it plays like Lewis just wanted play a tricky dramatic role that needed to be played by a comedian ('cuz clown) in what's actually a "serious" movie, meant to ask questions about moral quandary and whatnot, and it just fell flat.
I mean, they buried it for a reason, it is pretty fucking horrifying. But it's not evil or bewildering; it's mostly just a poorly-written misfire. The hype I've heard from the likes of Patton Oswalt and Harry Shearer seemed completely alien to what I saw; I'm not sure if they were drawing from a different sample, or were more just... you know, excited to tell a weird Hollywood story that most people wouldn't have an opportunity to investigate for themselves, and they got carried away with the superlatives.
In any case, let mine be another opinion you've heard: this isn't salacious enough to care about.
(Hat tip to Seth Brower.)
I have a tendency to fix your typos.