This week’s Monday Morning Movie Review is by special request—sort of: Audre Myers of Nebraska Energy Observer asked me if I’d seen The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (2018), and encouraged me to write a review of it. She’s also asked me to write a review of 1999’s Bicentennial Man, but I haven’t seen the flick since… well, 1999. I’ll get around to that one, too, eventually.
But The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot has the kind of exploitation title I love. When I first heard about the film (on RedBox), I became obsessed with seeing it. I remember making a special trip to a distant RedBox kiosk to rent the DVD.
I mean, clearly this flick had to be the greatest movie ever made, right? What kind of crazy, evil genius cooked up the concept of a man assassinating Hitler and Bigfoot?
Well, it’s not quite the greatest movie ever made—far from it—and the film is way different than what the ridiculous title implies, but it’s still quite good. Just temper your expectations.
Naturally, my expectations were high: I figured the titular “Man” would be involved in some crazy plot that involved assassinating Hitler, then eliminating the Bigfoot (perhaps the result of Nazi genetic experiments gone wrong)? The “Man”—Calvin Barr, played beautifully and stoically by veteran character actor Sam Elliott—actually did kill Hitler during the Second World War. Instead of being wreathed in honors and given a ticker-tape parade, though, Barr’s mission was completely secret: no one but his superiors (and, I guess, Hitler) knew he had killed Der Führer. German High Command found a look-alike who masqueraded as Hitler, and the war continued.
That’s the first sign that something is different about this flick. How many science-fiction short stories, movies, novels, etc., have been premised on the notion of changing history by killing Hitler as a baby or the like. These stories often wrestle with the moral dilemma of taking an innocent life before it has committed any atrocities, but possessing the foreknowledge (of hindsight?) to know what the child will become. Then there are those that see Hitler killed the wicked leader of Nazi Germany, and what the consequences would be.
Rarely are the consequences “nothing” (usually the would-be assassin—often a time traveler—finds his scheme disrupted by one thing or another, suggesting the immutability of the predetermined path of history). So when we see Barr—an old man chilling with his dog in a lonely existence—as a grizzled war veteran in the 1980s, we’re shocked to find he isn’t lauded as the greatest man in American history.
(One note: the time period of the film is not clear from the movie, at least as far as I recall; I only know the film is set in the 80s thanks to the film’s Wikipedia entry. The entire time I was wondering how old Barr was if he killed Hitler in the 1940s and was still alive and healthy in 2018. Assuming he was 18 in, say, 1944, he’d be 92 if the film were set in 2018—and he’d have to have been a remarkably skilled eighteen-year old, and an improbably spry ninety-two-year old.)
In the midst of his elderly ennui, Barr is approached by a joint American-Canadian task force that asks him to kill Bigfoot for them (a sure sign of a B-movie is any kind of joint national task force; it’s the kind of thing I would have come up with for a story device in middle school in the 1990s). It seems that the Bigfoot is spreading an incredibly deadly virus (remember, this is way before The Age of The Virus, so it’s not meant as a commentary on COVID-19) that has killed humans and wildlife in the backwoods of Canada. Because of Barr’s experience killing Hitler, they reason that bringing an elderly man out of retirement is the way eliminate the threat (to explain that, they note that Barr is one of the few people immune to the virus).
Barr not only has to kill the Bigfoot—he has to do so within a set amount of time; otherwise, the governments of the United States and Canada are going to nuke the wilderness, taking the Bigfoot, Barr, and any living infected out in a single, spectacular blast.
Barr finds Bigfoot and wounds him. He tracks him for a bit, and finds the great creature succumbing to his wounds. Barr decides to do the honorable thing and give Bigfoot a proper burial on a funeral pyre. Naturally, the Bigfoot is not dying and attacks Barr. Barr stabs and shoots the Bigfoot, but not before sustaining grievous injuries himself.
The Bigfoot in the film is nothing exciting. Like most Bigfoot sightings, the Bigfoot looks like a man in a cheap gorilla costume. The IMDB page for the movie doesn’t even feature a picture of the creature in its photo gallery!
The point of The Man Who Killed etc., etc. isn’t really killing Bigfoot, though (much to my chagrin). Rather, it’s an intimate character study of Calvin Barr, and the effects of loneliness and isolation on the elderly. Here’s a man who should be celebrated by his countrymen and loaded with honors, but who lives a meager existence with his truck and his dog (to his credit, Barr likes it that way). He’s also jaded, as anyone would be after killing Hitler and realizing it was pointless and changed nothing.
In that regard, it’s an interesting flick. As the movie the title suggests it’s going to be, it’s a bit of a flop. There’s a lot of Barr wandering around the wilderness.
Indeed, it’s a bait-and-switch, but I didn’t mind too much. Although the film failed to live up to my impossibly lofty expectations, it did strike me by the sheer creativity involved in concocting a story so absurd: a plague-carrying Bigfoot must be destroyed, and the only man capable of doing it is the man who secretly assassinated Adolf Hitler.
Kudos to the Robert D. Krzykowski—the writer, producer, and director—for conceiving of such an unusual premise. The execution might not that compelling, but he did something fresh. Instead of the mindless absurdity I hoped for, he came up with an amazingly unique premise.
My verdict: it’s a bit boring compared to what its title promises, but it’s worth checking out.