The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot explained
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot explained
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This post is a cry for help. Normally, the way things work here on THiNC. is that I scour the interwebs, and look hither and yon for crazy-strange, and hard to understand movies. And after watching them, I break them down, I attempt to explain them, and then we discuss them at length. Right? I mean…take for example the fun we recently had with the movies The Fare, Knives Out, or Daniel Isn’t Real. Just to name a few. But we’ve been doing this now for something like ten years? And all the while, I’ve done literally the same exact thing. Find movies. Explain movies. Talk about movies. But today is different. Today. Today, I need an intervention. Today I need you to be the one to write “The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot explained” for me, because I got nothing.

The movie I’m bringing your way today is entitled, “The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot,” which, is a mouthful at half the length. Heck, the entirety of the Quiet Place movie screenplay was half the length of this movie title. But, if the movie title was the extent of my problems I would be fine. No problems here. I could sort this flick out in a heartbeat. No issues. But the title just hints at a larger issue going on here. OK?

So what I need to happen here, is a reverse THiNC. movie deconstruction. What I need is for you guys to come alongside me, and for you guys to make an effort to keep me sane here. Because there is nothing in this movie that I understand. I’ll spell out literally what I saw happen, but then you guys are going to need to paint between the numbers. There were so many allusions that I didn’t grasp. So many, “wait, WHAT?” details that I couldn’t keep the entire thing straight. Actually, the movie this most reminded me of was Music of Chance. But the difference here is that I was able to figure that movie out. This movie? Nope. Alright – so here is a trailer if you’ve never heard of it.

Quick Spoiler Filled Walkthrough

Alright – the film features one Calvin Barr (played by Sam Elliott), an elderly gentleman who is starting to wind down the clock on his life. He spends his time flashing backwards to his halcyon days when he changed the world. For example, during World War II, Barr was a spy sent out to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He attempted two different times to get access to the Fuhrer, and manages to succeed on the second attempt. Killing him with a tricked out cask and go-go-gadget arms. Or something. Wait, he killed Adolf? How didn’t this change history forever? Well, it was deemed an American secret, and was never released to the public.

Flash forward again, and arrive again in the modern day 1987 (I think?) and watch as some kids try to steal his car – but are routed by the old man as he fights them off. But soon after, he notices that he is being followed by an American and Canadian agents who need Barr on one last final mission. Why? Because a strange virus is attacking the world. Better yet, the virus is caused by Sasquatch. Or Bigfoot if you prefer. The two agents know that Barr is a brilliant tracker and outdoors-man. And to top it off, Barr also happens to be immune to the Sasquatchian virus. (???) But if Barr is able to kill Bigfoot, maybe he’ll single-handedly save the world from yet another evil pandemic.

Barr agrees, and sets out to find the Bigfoot. And after hunting him down, wounds the beast. But instead of giving the beast back to the government, he burns the animal. Only problem? The ferocious animal is still alive, and he attacks Barr, hurting him. The two larger than life heroes fight to the death, until finally, Barr shoots the beast to death. And it would seem that Barr is dying. Cut to Barr’s funeral. But a moment later, we learn that Barr is actually alive, and Ed and Barr go fishing together. And as the movie ends, Barr digs up his casket in order to retrieve a box that had been buried along with his uniform and his medals. The end.

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot explained

What I Don’t Get About this Movie

It is obvious to me that what is happening in this film isn’t actually what is happening. I mean, you have Sasquatch for heaven’s sake as a central character. And you also have the assassination of Hitler as a central plot point. So yeah, the actual details of this film aren’t really the thing that is happening here. But what is going on?

Well, throughout the film it sort of feels like Barr is waxing eloquent about dollar bills that should have been pulled out of circulation and destroyed… that they are past their prime. It seems like a reoccurring theme. It’s as if, maybe, he died in World War II, and his brain is wandering far afield as he is dying. From the Fuhrer to Bigfoot. Or maybe none of it is true and Barr has some sort of Alzheimer’s happening as he is deteriorating. I really don’t know.

If I were taking a final right now – and the professor were to ask the question: “Write an explanation for the movie ‘The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot’ and its prime movers/raison d’etre,” and I couldn’t run away screaming…I’d probably write something like this. “This movie is a delusional raving of an elderly man. The delusions have been brought on by an entire lifetime of regret and disappointment. The pinnacle of regrets that Barr is suffering from would be his failure to propose to the love of his life. Missing that one opportunity, Barr is forced to live a life of solitary confinement, pent up with his fantasies and delusional mind, that are constantly writing and rewriting new fantasies as the clock on his life winds down.” But outside of this forced theory, I really have nothing else that could possibly explain this film.

The pacing came off as a Hallmark movie that is missing out on its brighter fantastical days. A remembrance (whether real or imagined) of things past. Of glory days and of adventures that Barr has long been forbidden from discussing. But ultimately, it feels as if Barr is just longing to live. Longing for one last adventure. One more moment in the sun. Or one more crack at a single life failure. Barr is realizing that our collective days are numbered, and that we all will have to wind down and ultimately die, (or walk off into the sunset, as the case maybe) regardless of how adventurous our lives have been. And that one missed opportunity? That moment will never come back. But hey, that’s all just a guess. Because I can’t make heads or tails out of this thing. No offense to those of you that enjoyed it. I didn’t say I didn’t… but I just can’t decipher it, no matter which way I turn the runes.

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot explained

Your Turn

So now it’s your turn to step up and explain this thing to me. What am I missing here? I think you guys owe me one or two. So, please, do me a favor, and take a crack at this thing. Because now it’s starting to really bother the heck out of me.


Edited by: CY

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16 Responses

  1. deKev

    First a caveat, you won’t get anything erudite from me, but like you, this has also been bothering me since I watched it a few weeks ago, so I’ll have my little say, to get it out of my system, so to speak.

    At first, I thought the whole point of the movie was about redemption of sorts, or the road to realization that there is just no redemption for some. Having given up his own chance at happiness for the greater good, Calvin felt bitterly cheated that his mission, which was the successful assassination of Hitler (a replaceable figurehead as it would turn out), would ultimately prove utterly pointless in the grand scheme of things. So when a second chance came around some 40 years later, he took it somewhat under protest, he was a selfless American hero after all, only to finally come to the realization that no matter what he did, like saving humanity by killing Bigfoot no less, he would still fall way short of undoing the one regret that has been bothering him for 40 some years.

    I read from some unfavourable reviews that the movie was one big Dadaist joke, or a plodding mashup about nothing, possibly true, but I’d like to be more generous and call it a rumination on American Stoicism, with which Sam Elliot played to a perfection, I think.

    I watched this a couple of months ago, so my recollection might not be all that reliable, but there was this recurring theme about the little keepsake box that Calvin was on the verge of opening up but never did… any thoughts on that?

    • Taylor Holmes

      I wondered what the significance of the two tries at getting Hitler was. Was the first one real? And the second one was false? IE didn’t happen?

      Also, I didn’t understand the repetitive conjecturing about things that were past their prime – past their expiration date. Seemed like that came up a lot, in a number of different ways.

      And the fact that he died, but didn’t die? Because he already died? He fought with Bigfoot, but survived, and a fake funeral ensued? This is indicative of something else. But what? I think you are right DeKev… he “killed Hitler” and yet!?! It didn’t matter! This might be the crux of the problem. Powerlessness!! He was to be the hero of the world – and yet, he wasn’t! He was anonymous. It was secret mission that was never declassified. WORSE, Hitler was just one in a line of replaceable figureheads that were just the inculcation of some mindless cult of personality of a personless cult.

      It’s so funny, I disliked this movie because it literally made no sense. But the more we talk about it the more I enjoy it! hahaha.

  2. deKev

    Alternatively, you’re so right about what is happening on screen is NOT what it is. C’mon, Hitler and Bigfoot, duh! Calvin imagined the first mission because he had to find a big enough justification for choosing to leave to fight in the War, instead of staying to be with the woman he loved so dearly. And what bigger mission could there be than the assassination of Hitler? Also, imagining Hitler to be a replaceable figurehead that made little difference to the grand scheme of things, would also help in the suspension of disbelief.

    Yet having numbed himself over the years by replaying in his mind the fantasy of having killed Hitler, he still could not find peace, and so he decided to kill himself… in the woods. Now, if he could create the fantasy of killing Hitler, why not create another one that involve killing Bigfoot, except in this one, he would imagine Bigfoot getting the better of him. Why Bigfoot? Maybe that’s because he saw himself as an absolute loner, like Bigfoot? Not to mention it would also provide an excuse of dying alone and quietly in the woods.

    I think it was only the thought of his brother (still someone to live for) that he stopped short of actually going through with his suicide, although he must have already hurt himself real bad in the woods by then, and was incommunicado for a long time, so much so that his brother and friends saw fit to hold a funeral for him at which point.

    To be honest with you, when I finished watching the movie weeks ago, I felt disappointed and even cheated, because the absurd title has got to be a clue to something zany, or at least tongue-in-cheek fun, right? Instead we have Sam Elliot playing it straight and solemn from beginning to end, in spite of the absurdity piling up on absurdity without any levity whatsoever. So no, I don’t think I will give it a go again to check if my second theory works or not. Sorry, haha.

  3. Lisa

    I watched this film a bit ago and I think it’s about regret. That the things he did wound up doing turned out meaningless to him (where he says Hitler was just a man) and that he never got to marry his love. It was alluded to that she wound up dying very young so I think she was gone by the time he got home from the war. There were things that were never fleshed our properly to make much sense but I found the film entertaining enough for what it was. With the title you’d think you were about to watch something crazy or possibly comedic but they managed to make the entire story fairly melancholy which in itself was a bit off putting. But again, I’ve seen much worse. I wouldn’t watch it again, though.

  4. Dan T

    I, too, went into this movie expecting it be something of a lark (based on the title alone). After it was over I was utterly perplexed (“What did I just watch here?”) and had to watch it a second time just to be sure that it wasn’t a dream. I read some reviews online claiming that it was a fantasy cooked up by Sam Elliott’s character (and maybe it was) to justify his cowardice in dealing with his fiancee. While there were some farcical moments (the creation of the gun to assassinate Hitler) the movie was played so straight, so solemnly by Sam Elliott (who really does deserve some sort of award recognition for his performance) that I was sucked into the taking of the film at face value. Whether or not those 2 key elements of his life *really* happened is almost beside the point. The point of the movie is regret and the toll that deep, heartfelt regret has on the human psyche. He killed a man who “had it coming” but ultimately the ideas behind the man lived on and all he did was take a life for which he could not forgive himself. Killing Bigfoot may have been easier to justify (stopping the spread of contagion) though he certainly didn’t want to do it. He did, however, seem to come to a better understanding of himself (and maybe even forgiveness of himself) after that accomplishing that. Old dollar bills, lottery tickets that don’t belong to you… it’s all tied up in the thoughts of honor and self-worth that have plagued Calvin all his life. Fantasy or reality? Does it truly matter? I don’t have it ALL figured out (everytime I think I know what’s in the box I realize “No, it can’t be THAT!”) but I expect to watch it another time or two and maybe I’ll come up with the definitive answers.

  5. Lisa

    Who knew this movie could be so confusing? I honestly chose to take it at face value instead of trying to interpret it further such as he’s dreaming or delusional because it’s played so straight that it’s hard to take it as anything but and there’s no indication that he’s mentally ill, just regretful.

  6. deKev

    If I remember correctly, while Calvin’s two missions are decidedly grandiose, bordering on the fantastical, his love affair is anything but. Let me recall, there’s a meet cute, a dinner, a night walk… hardly anything epic or larger-than-life like his other adventures, right? Maybe that’s a clue to what’s real and what’s imagined? The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that this is just his way of coping with regret and what could have been, when faced with the grim reality of old age and mortality.

    Don’t know about you guys, but this somehow reminds me of Big Fish and Birdman, where the line between reality and fantasy is oh so blurred by movie’s end.

  7. Dan T

    Just saw Starfish finally (wife hated it, I loved it) and was struck by how similar in tone it was to TMWKHATTB… both are low key dramas with fantastical elements which may or may not actually be happening… both center on extremely strong lead performances… both deal with severe emotional pain (grief for one, regret for the other). They are both on my Top 10 for the year.

  8. Lisa

    I don’t think we are giving this little movie enough credit. I mean, look at the discussion it spurred. So many different interpretations. Is it meant to be real or some kind of allegory? I guess only the person who wrote the film knows that for sure. Even I brushed it off after watching it but after reading this walkthrough and the following comments I thought about it a bit more. Sam Elliot was actually fantastic at playing this straight throughout the entire film. I imagine it would have been difficult to nail down an actor to take the lead in a film with this kind of name and plot. The more I think about it, the more I think I actually enjoyed the movie.

  9. Ines

    Hi Taylor! I watched this movie some weeks ago and I suppose I’d have to watch it again in order to try and find a better explanation. I enjoyed the movie but I wasn’t able to decipher it either. I remember I got emotional when he kills Bigfoot. He does this with respect and compassion. I remember thinking that he was killing a more primitive, perhaps purer? version of man and I felt so sad through that scene. But the movie is quite a mistery as a whole. I remember thinking that perhaps this was in an alternate, comic-like reality, like Watchmen, or a downright delusion.
    I don’t think I’ve said anything useful, but I want to thank you for starting this discussion. I’m gonna watch it again. It’s definitely worth a second viewing.

  10. Dan T

    The scene where he tells the two FBI agents about killing Hitler and how little it actually meant beyond “just killing a man” alone made this performance Oscar-worthy, I thought. Sam Elliott is so due.

  11. Jack

    I’m certainly confused, but I have a few thoughts. I took it to mean that he went to war, and regrets the loss of his love (obviously). He was cursed initially, (russian barber) and we see that curse played out partly as a stone in his shoe that he can never locate. It’s entirely possible that the hitler story was a lie, but his second adversary, I think is certainly a fantasy (to us, if not to him), and worse, it is now a fantasy that spreads and destroys all life. The only person capable of killing it is him. So I guess, face value or otherwise, he really just went away and battled with that part of himself. When he returns, he goes and digs up that box. It is obviously representative of her in some way, perhaps her ashes. He can’t quite bring himself to look inside, but we get right at the end that he will do tomorrow. It’s like he’s going to live with what he has and try to engage with his family and the people around him, and with that, the curse lifts. The stone falls from his shoe, and he sounds pleased to be going home.

    So I guess at the end, it’s about acceptance. It’s about accepting that some things are never really resolved, but there’s no point dwelling and missing out on life. Something like that.

    It feels to me like this began as a writing exercise, that felt evocative enough to follow a certain tone, but like so many allegorical stories are difficult to define. Almost as if the meaning was crowbarred in as the thing took form. It hits a nerve somehow, but not clearly. Were it not for Sam Elliot’s great performance, it would probably have missed altogether.

    A film that strikes a similar nerve for me is “All is Lost”, though the plot there is far simpler, the melancholic tone resonates in a similar way for me. That sense that we all go alone in the end.

    Happy New Year!

  12. Joe D.

    I’ve always liked Sam Elliott’s style of acting! This movie being no exception!
    I think, for the most part, the theories are pretty much covered here! So i will not be adding anything earth shattering!
    The one thing that i did not see anyone interpret is his funeral! How was he able to pick up right where he left off at home, and no one noticed he was still living? If this was all in his mind, than was his funeral just a form of closure? And if so, was digging up the grave for the box, fantasy or reality?
    I guess the answer could be to keep us guessing! If that was the intent, than bravo!! Job well done!!


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