Jerry Lewis: The Man Behind the Clown
R0 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (2nd January 2018).
The Film

"Jerry Lewis: The Man Behind the Clown" (2016)

Born on March 16th, 1926, Jerry Lewis found fame at quite an early age. Father Danny Lewis" was a vaudeville entertainer. Mother Rae Lewis was a musical director. Sometimes appearing on stage during his father's performances, his first feat of laughter came when he was five years old, when he tripped and fell coming onto the stage. From that moment on Jerry Lewis knew that making people laugh would be what he wanted to do in his life. His early routines started in his teens, though his big rise to stardom was teaming with one of the biggest entertainers of the day - Dean Martin. In 1946 the duo of Martin and Lewis was formed, and the two would lead in radio programs, early television, and sixteen feature films including "That's My Boy" (1951), "Sailor Beware" (1952), and the 3D filmed "Money from Home" (1956). Sadly and unexpectedly the duo parted ways in 1956, with no concrete explanation as to why, but there were accounts of turmoil between the men near the end of their partnership.

But as Martin continued on with his successful music and movie career, Lewis was only getting started. With his own production company, he was ready to show the world his comedic skills both in front of the camera on screen, and behind the scenes in the director's chair. With "The Bellboy" (1960), "Errand Boy" (1961), and "The Nutty Professor" (1963) and others, he was able to show brilliant character portrayals with slapstick humor and zany antics putting him at the top of the game with audiences. But not everything was as successful or as well received. "The Ladies Man" (1961) was one of the most expensive films in its day due to the extravagant set built for the film and was a technical marvel, but short on laughs compared to his other work.

American critics did not take much notice in the technical craftsmanship of his work, but French cineastes certainly did. In the 1970s Lewis' work was championed in France and Lewis was more than pleased that the creative works were embraced. Like Japanese actor/comedian/director Takeshi Kitano, at home he was just a comedian. Overseas he was considered an auteur. Lewis may have been shorthanded in receiving the attention he deserved as an artist in his home country, and for many later generations knew him as the man leading the Muscular Dystrophy Association telethons (and to kids of the day known as the guy who blocked regular programming for the day including the cartoons we wanted to watch!). Roles in television and film were sporadic from the 1980s, but he was still able to make memorable appearances in "The King of Comedy" (1982), "Mr. Saturday Night" (1992), and "Funny Bones" (1995).

French filmmaker Gregory Monro got in contact with Lewis to make a documentary on his life when Lewis was 89 years old. The interview session was a conversation of sorts, with Lewis reminiscing through old photographs and his witty ability to tell stories. From this came "Jerry Lewis: The Man Behind the Clown" a documentary focused on the life and career of Lewis, with additional input from critics, actors, scholars, and more interspersed with clips of films and TV appearances. The documentary is able to cover a lot of ground in the short one hour runtime. For people wanting to hear the deep down comments on why the Martin and Lewis duo split, or anything on the near mythical unreleased Jerry Lewis production "The Day the Clown Cried" (1972) will be sorely disappointed. But for people wanting to hear Lewis in his own words and a trip down memory lane will be granted happiness, and of course laughter.

The film was screened at a few festivals in 2016 and planned television airings in 2017. Unfortunately Lewis passed away on August 20th, 2017 at the age of 91.

Note this is a region 0 PAL DVD which can be played back on any DVD or Blu-ray player with PAL capability

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in 1.78:1 with anamorphic enhancement in the PAL format. Half of the film is comprised of interview clips from various people. For the interview sessions, colors are quite good, well balanced, and looking very clear. The other half of the film is made up of vintage footage and film clips and those can be hit or miss. Some of the earliest TV appearances come from kinescope recordings and they can look very rough. Some of the early film clips also have some weakness, sometimes not coming from HD sources. Vintage film clips can have some dust and specs, while vintage video clips have its share of tape sourced weaknesses. It should also be noted that the vintage clips have been cropped to fit the 1.78:1 frame. Overall it is a fairly adequate transfer, and many would wish the older Paramount films would all get HD upgrades soon.

The runtime of the film is 60:35.



















Audio

English/French Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
The original English audio track with a few portions in French is encoded in Dolby Digital stereo. The track is mostly center heavy as the dialogue is the main point, with some stereo separation used for music. The audio with the interview sessions sound fine with voices well balanced. As for the vintage footage, depending on the clip, it could sound rough on the edges with some lack of depth and audio damage. But overall it is a fair track and like the video quality, depends on the source.

There are optional English subtitles burned-in for French portions in a white font. With only about 10% or so of the film in French, there aren't many French segments. There are no issues of spelling errors or grammar errors in the subtitles.

Extras

"Jerry Lewis: The Art of Clowning" featurette (9:51)
This is more of a deleted segment as it features clips of some of the same interviewees such as Martin Scorsese and Sean Hayes with clips of Lewis and his examples of physical humor.
in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Dean and Jerry" featurette (10:16)
Again this is more of a deleted segment featuring interviewees and clips showcasing more about the Martin and Lewis duo.
in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Interview with director Gregory Monro (11:42)
In this interview the director talks about how he was able to meet Lewis, his thoughts on the comedy legend, plus some behind the scenes of the interview with Lewis is also shown. Note that in these three featurettes the interview segments are in 1.78:1 but some of the vintage clips are actually presented in their original 1.33:1 ratio.
in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Here is a clip from the documentary, courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment:

Overall

"Jerry Lewis: The Man Behind the Clown" is a wonderful goodbye to a comedy legend and true artist. Even though the documentary doesn't cover much of the controversies or getting into each film as much as one would like, it has moments that could never be caught again, with the voice of Lewis guiding the way. Umbrella Entertainment presents fair video and audio with some interesting extras making this recommended.

The Film: B+ Video: B Audio: B Extras: B- Overall: B

 


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