Fantasia 2018: 'The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot'

Sam Elliott as Calvin Barr in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (IMDB)

We got our ticket to see a zany free-for-all of monster hunting and fascist assassinating. Set aside your expectations aside, however, for a pleasant surprise.

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot
Robert D. Krzykowski

20 Jul 2018 (Fantasia)


The title alone is a genre fanatic's wet dream! A premise that involves men grappling with hairy woodland creatures and an audacious attack on Der Führer? Surely the genre gods are smiling.

But a funny thing happens on the way to the schlock fest; a real story of dramatic substance takes shape. Surprisingly, this movie has a heart the size of Bigfoot's beating in its chest.

Indeed, with the exception of one campy Sasquatch encounter, director Robert D. Krzykowski plays things surprisingly straight. You can certainly point to various tonal and stylistic influences sprinkled throughout, but The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot, screened at Fantasia Festival 2018, is a decidedly singular experience. There's nothing quite like it. Your expectations are defied again and again; a defiance that becomes both the film's greatest strength and its biggest weakness.

Our hero, Calvin Barr (the impossibly grizzled Sam Elliott), is the kind of old timer you see sitting alone at the end of the bar. He occasionally mutters into his beer, but mostly he just stares into the mirror behind the indifferent bartender. When the evening is over, he slurs a lament for glory days past and then stumbles bleary eyed into the alleyway shadows. The difference with Calvin is that his glory days are extremely… classified.

You see, Calvin killed Hitler. Yes, the Hitler.

History records that Hitler died by his own hand, but Calvin has a different recollection of events (the details of which shall not be spoiled here). The price Calvin paid to murder history's most notorious murderer was a lifetime of anonymity and loneliness. His scars will never heal. Each day, he retrieves an old lockbox from beneath his bed and ponders whether to open it. The contents of said lockbox are never revealed, but one suspects it contains the means to end his pain. Every day he finds an excuse not to open the box. Every day he probably regrets finding that excuse.

Like most men consumed by regret, Calvin has come unhinged over time. Every object, every picture that reminds him of his past sends him spiraling into his memory banks. Krzykowski's feature debut draws heavily on disjointed flashbacks that are reminiscent of George Roy Hill's adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five (1972). It's only after you get a feel for Krzykowski's editorial rhythm that you come to anticipate where (and when) young Calvin (Aidan Turner) will appear next in his jumbled timeline.

Promo still of Aidan Turner as the young Calvin. (IMDB)

Through these sequences, primarily recalling Calvin's ill-fated love affair with the fetching Maxine (Caitlin FitzGerald), our empathy finally overcomes our expectations. We got our ticket to see a zany free-for-all of monster hunting and fascist assassinating. Instead, we got a thoughtful character drama that just happens to involve Bigfoot. Excuse me… The Bigfoot.

It takes nearly an hour before a persuasive FBI agent (Ron Livingston) approaches Calvin with a preposterous story necessitating the eradication of the Bigfoot (the details of which shall not be spoiled here). By that time, you're more concerned with Calvin's well-being than his next military conquest.

"It's nothing like the comic book you want it to be," he tells Livingston's FBI agent, who's eager to extract juicy details surrounding Hitler's 'alleged' assassination. It's also a direct message from Krzykowski to the audience; this isn't going to be the movie you were expecting to see.

Ron Livingston as Flag Pin (IMDB)

The ingenious narrative structure also helps Krzykowski hide what is, basically, a paper thin story. There are two major events that transpire – both spoiled by the perfect title – while the rest serves as the connective tissue of Calvin's life. Many of these scenes fail to distinguish themselves, with the exception of one bravura sequence that could be ripped straight from a Quentin Tarantino film.

Young Calvin needs a Russian escort to complete the final leg of his quest to find Hitler. First, he must stare down the lead officer (Nikolai Tsankov), who insists upon shaving Calvin's face with a straight razor as part of a ceremony to divine omens about the mission. According to legend, "If the shave is perfect and I don't cut you, then you will fail and you'll die," he warns Calvin. Each agonizing stroke of the blade, coupled with some pitch-perfect dialogue, ratchets the tension higher. It's the type of scene that crawls under your skin and disrupts the film's otherwise languid pacing.

Just how much you're willing to accept The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot on its own terms will determine your enjoyment. If you're set on Sam Elliott hamming it up in a campy genre piece, you're in for a long trip. Sure, Elliott has some fun chewing the scenery, even taking the time to school three young hooligans with his fists. It's like watching Wade Garrett from his Road House days, only he's five times slower and ten times grouchier. It's hard to imagine Wade Garrett muttering "for Pete's sake," after kicking someone's butt.

If, however, you're willing to change your perspective on what a Hitler killing / Bigfoot hunting movie has to offer, there are many subtle pleasures to be found. There's drama, romance, political intrigue, and plenty of dry humor. What you won't find is anyone winking at the camera. When you're about to fight the Bigfoot, there's simply no time to mess around.







A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.


Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.


DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.


JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.


​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.


Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times


Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.


How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.