Little Box of Horrors: The Man Who Killed Hitler & then The Bigfoot
The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot is an odd, entertaining tale without a whole hell of a lot to say.
This time around, I decided to forgo a road trip and my normal 3 movie battle royale. Sometimes, you just know what you want. While Neil has been laser focused on Terry Gilliam‘s newest film, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, my interest has been piqued by Studio Laika‘s newest animated tale, Missing Link. And lo and behold, there’s a movie that just hit Redbox about a man who kills, and it involves a sasquatch. It even stars our favorite cookie duster, which happens to be attached to Sam Elliott. It’s *chef kisses* perfect!
While it is a perfect selection, that doesn’t make The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot a perfect movie. It’s entertaining, absorbing even. But it’s just a story about a bunch of stuff happening. There’s no real purpose behind the stories on display. The film is like tubing down a river: perfectly enjoyable, in a pointless kind of way. If you’ve got a lazy Sunday with nothing to do, and enjoy watching the best flavor-saver in the industry ambling along, The Man Who Killed Hitler (et al.) might be right up your alley.
The Man Who Killed Hitler & then The Bigfoot (2018)
Calvin Barr (Sam Elliott and his mouth mirken) is an old man just rambling through his twilight years. Honest, polite, and aloof, he keeps the world at arm’s length. He’s got a good reason to. As a young man he was tasked with the most important mission of WWII: assassinate Adolf Hitler. In the process of stalking his prey, he encounters a Russian gypsy who performs a rite that will guarantee his success. But in return, it will curse both men.
After returning from the successful operation, Calvin finds out the price: Maxine, the love of his life has passed away while he was gone. Haunted by both this loss and the murder he committed, Calvin drifts through what remains of his days. But Uncle Sam isn’t done with him yet. The Bigfoot is real, and real sick. The strain of flu it is carrying could wipe out the North American continent, should it break it’s remote Canadian quarantine. Once again, the government needs it’s best tracker to eliminate the greatest threat the world’s ever faced.
A Tale in Three Parts
The story of Mr. Barr (and his lip lettuce) is told in three segments: The current aimless old man, the young man on the days before and during his deployment in Europe, and vignettes of an old tracker hunting his prey. Each one has a unique feel to it.
The first two segments remind me of a less campy version of the biography told in Big Fish. The romance is pure and chaste, an idyllic 1940’s love story. The hunt for Hitler is equal parts Inglourious Basterds with a campfire ghost story mixed in. The second story flitters in an out (often uninvited) of Calvin’s current quagmire, which feels like the “day in the life of” absurdities of a film like The Big Lebowski. Combined, they give The Man Who Killed Hitler an unmistakable air of narratives like Forrest Gump, or even The 100 Year Old Man. The bigfoot segment, however, is pure Sam Raimi. Director Robert D. Kryzkowski has definitely seen The Evil Dead (and Army of Darkness), and he likes what he saw.
Time to De-Camp (Slightly Spoilery)
All of these references are to campy movies (well, Evil Dead waited one movie before setting up camp, but stay with me here). Yet The Man Who Killed Hitler isn’t campy at all. It’s played straight, and there’s no tongue in cheek (the cheek being just off center of a fantastic soup strainer) banter to be found in Sam Elliott’s performance. The romance is earnest, the assassination plot serious, and the stakes of a sasquatch-alypse are presented with nary a titter or guffaw.
*Unhide the next paragraph if you want Spoilers*
There’s even repeating visuals and story portents that just… resolve in the least over the top way possible. You are dying to know what Calvin’s right shoe portends, and well, it’s just a rock he couldn’t get out all movie. AND WHAT THE HELL WAS IN THE BOX!?
As such, The Man who Killed Hitler is an odd yet mesmerizing duck. It’s engaging because it’s not taking the bait of how outlandish this should all be. It keeps you waiting for the wink. Whether you’re satisfied with what payoff this movie does have is going to determine a lot about whether you end up enjoying this movie. For me, it worked.
Sometimes, There’s a Man….
I came in expecting pure camp, a bizarre tale about the further exploits of Elliott’s “The Stranger” from The Big Lebowski. I got an intriguing yet fairly hollow character drama. The acting is fantastic, from Elliott (and his Manometer) to Ron Livingston to the best performance I’ve seen out of Larry Miller. The camera work is fairly straightforward until the final showdown, where it lets loose in that signature Raimi style. It’s a solid film. It just wasn’t what I was expecting.
If you like character driven films like Big Fish or Forrest Gump, you’ll probably enjoy your time with The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot. Or if you like mustaches. Especially character driven mustaches.