The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot has a glorious B-movie titles in history. It’s truly a thing of beauty, and although some viewers expecting a knockabout creature feature will be wrong-footed it speaks volumes about the old-fashioned simplicity of its hero. Sam Elliott’s Calvin Barr is an honest fellow living a quiet life, haunted by the memories of what he did for America in World War II and what it cost him at home.
Yes, Calvin (played with equal parts shyness and steel by The Hobbit’s Aidan Turner as a young man) was sent to kill Adolf Hitler at the end of the war and completed his mission with deadly efficiency. But it meant leaving his sweetheart Maxine (Caitlin FitzGerald) behind and living alone with his secret. When American and Canadian government officials (Ron Livingston and Rizwan Manji) ask him to hunt and kill Bigfoot before the US delivers a tactical nuke to stop it spreading a deadly plague across North America, Calvin must decide if he’s willing to kill and lie for his country again.
Writer-director Robert D Krzykowski walks an incredibly fine line between pulp and prestige in his feature debut and the result is truly unusual, decidedly uncategorisable and quite magical. Yes, it’s wryly funny at times and occasionally creeps towards self-awareness but never at the expense of its hero or its tone. The filmmaker’s respect for his character in the midst of such an odd concept brings to mind the work of Joe R Lansdale and Elliott is the perfect choice to convey that sense of dignity, humanity and almost-entirely concealed sorrow. We see him beat the crap out of a gang attempting to rob him (briefly reminding us that he was in Road House), but the thrill comes with the loss of a prized photograph. Like a great Western hero, every act of violence costs Calvin dearly and soon he won’t have anything left.
Which is not to say that there isn’t warmth to be found. The romance between young Calvin and Maxine is well-played and genuinely sweet, and there’s a big-hearted turn from comedy staple Larry Miller as Calvin’s younger brother Ed, who’s thrilled by any chance to spend a little more time with him. There has always been the possibility of a life for Barr out there if he’s allowed one, and if he’ll allow himself to take it, and while Bigfoot must be hunted, it’s this struggle which is the consistent focus.
It’s definitely worth noting the unshowy but impressive craftmanship throughout, with cinematographer Alex Vendler and composer Joe Kraemer delivering excellent work. The presence of the likes of John Sayles, Douglas Trumbull (who is also on visual effects duty) and Lucky McKee in the list of producers was an indicator that this would almost certainly be something interesting, but this film proves to be something special.
The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot was seen and reviewed at Fantasia 2018.