Lewis played a circus clown named Helmut Doork who is imprisoned by the Nazis in a concentration camp, where he performs small gags for children to keep them entertained. He eventually decided against releasing the movie, and has almost never publicly acknowledged it.
A 31-minute condensed version of the movie recently appeared on Vimeo. The film was shot in Paris and Sweden in 1972 and at one point was expected to play at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival. Lewis was reported to have scrapped plans for releasing the film after being embarrassed by how it turned out. The film is scheduled to be made available in its entirely in 2025.
In 1992, Harry Shearer told Spy magazine the movie was so “drastically wrong,” calling its pathos “so wildly misplaced, that you could not, in your fantasy of what it might be like, improve on what it really is.”
“I don’t see what’s so godawful about it,” Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeffrey Wells wrote. “Yes, the scheme is manipulative [and] bordering on the grotesque — Lewis as a German-Jewish clown in a Nazi concentration camp who’s ordered in the final act to amuse a group of children being sent to the ‘showers’ — but that elephant aside it didn’t strike me as all that arduous or offensive.”
Watch the condensed version of the movie here.