Film

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)

Other

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.

6


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.

Books

John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.

Music

Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.

Music

Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Books

Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.

Music

Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.

Film

Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.

Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Music

John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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