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The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot explained

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.

THANKS IN ADVANCE!!

Edited by: CY

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43 Comments

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Apologize to your wife for me…

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • Woah. Jack, that was good. Almost made it make sense to even little ole confused me…

    Well done. Impressed even.

  • Great comment. A lot to think about here.

  • 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!!

  • I think it’s all real; Hitler, Bigfoot. I believe it is offered as a kind of relativism to impress upon the audience that even a man who has literally saved humanity can live most of his life in regret and await absolution. Calvin’s has honor, integrity, a very clear moral compass and sense of duty that do not allow him to use the gun he has stored in that box ever since the war to take his own life; and so he lives every day waiting to see if it is the one he is finally able to act upon this – only to postpone it again to tomorrow. But at the end, the pebble falls out of his shoe, indicating that maybe, just maybe if you give it enough time, acceptance can bring self-forgiveness and peace, if not redemption.

    Somewhat unfocused and not entirely sure of the need for the fantastical when you have such great acting paired with such deep emotions, but I understand there must be a lure sometimes.

  • The Man Who Killed Hitler … and then Bigfoot

    I think this is a story by the younger brother Ed as told from the older brother Calvin’s point of view. Calvin has died and Ed is giving Calvin’s eulogy. A few points:

    * Ed is a barber … where stories are told and feelings exposed. When Calvin comes in for a hair cut he asks where he’s been and says “we haven’t talked in a while”
    * Before Calvin goes to war he is portrayed as a humble gentle man yet when he is in Europe he’s a hero.
    * When Calvin and Maxine are on a date and guys run into his table … Calvin is very meek.
    * The night before Calvin leaves for duty Maxine tells a story one of her students has written, where the boys are playing army – good guys and bad guys – the student was a good guy that fell out of a tree and cut his forehead. When the good guys were all helping, the bad guy came out and shot the good guys. Calvin says he would be the boy who fell out of the tree.

    I think Calvin has died and Ed misses their talks. Ed knows why Calvin has struggled all these years – his justification for enlisting, his discouragement on missing out on a life with Maxine. Ed is telling the story of his – larger than life – big brother.

    Killing Hitler could be what Calvin had told Ed while he was away – “saving the world” … or it could be what Clavin was telling himself – justifying going off to war.

    The whole Bigfoot thing is a way for Calvin to save himself and come to grips with where he’s at in life. Bigfoot represents his true self-reflection. When he talks to the FBI guys Calvin says “his feet really aren’t that big”. He kills Bigfoot alone with his demons. Whether Calvin kills himself or not, I don’t know.

    As for the box – at first I thought it might be Maxine’s ashes … then I thought that it’s more likely a gun. When in reality it doesn’t matter what’s in the box. The box represents Ed’s memories of Calvin that live on.

  • Hitler was representative of all the German soldiers he killed. That’s why there were multiple. He killed one soldier.
    The BigFoot thing was a fantasy of redemption. He went into the woods and got injured – purposely stayed away – subsequently thought to be dead.
    The box either had a gun to shoot himself or the engagement ring that he never gave – or both.
    Either way, the final scene is him bending down to take care of his shoe (just as his girlfriend had said). Simultaneously the pebble that’s been troubling him falls out and he releases…. finally.

  • All the comments are amazing, and really appreciate the insight. I also cannot add any further thoughts, however I’m curious why he took down the painting of the woods at the end. It makes me think the Bigfoot portion is definitely a fantasy he made up while sitting at home, staring at the painting….he removed it because he was moving on. They also showed him throwing away his pills at one point right?

  • I have my own theorie about this film, which I’d like to share with you. I’m not really sure, so let my know what you think:

    I also think this film is an allegory about regret and coming to terms with this regret. I think Calvin did to things in his life which he regrets: he didn’t propose to his girlfriend and he killed a soldier in WW2.

    In his brother’s barber shop, Calvin notices a clock which is “mirrored in real life and the proper way round in the mirror”. I think that is the way we have to look at his Hitler-Story: the story shows him killing Hitler, only to later find out, that he “just killed a man. The idea lived on.” In reality, he shot a soldier (or more than one) in the war and tried to justify his actions by telling himself “i didn’t just kill a man. I killed the Nazi Ideologie.” In his story, Nazi Ideologie was symbolised by (what else?) Hitler himself. But by the year 1987, he has to admit what he knew all along: in reality, he just killed a man with wife and kids.

    He never wrote to his girlfriend and while it is said that he couldn’t because of the secrecy of his mission, I think he actually was to scared or whatever. He could have written to her, but he didn’t and it was his fault she left . He never got to marry her before she died, which is his second regret.
    The box probably contained stuff from his girlfriend, maybe her ashes or the ring he wanted to give her or the letters he didn’t really throw away. whateve it is, it’s about his memories of his girlfriend.

    Bigfoot symbolises his inner demon, his trauma, his regret. The FBI guys tell Calvin that Bigfoot is endangering the entire world. This is what regret does, when you don’t take care of it: it destroyes every living thing in your life, just like bigfoot’s plague kills everything in that wild life park.

    After watching some thugs burn up an old picture of his girlfriend and then talking about old dollar bills, which should have been pulled out and burned years ago, because they are past their prime, Calvin realises that it is time to come to terms with his old demons.

    He enters his own subconsciousness or inner hell. A place surrounded by fire. Here he sees his inner demon (Bigfoot) and thinks it doesn’t look to bad (“it’s feet aren’t that big…doesn’t live up to it name”). The fight between bigfoot and Calvin takes place on a mountain, a place which symbolises a place where you are alone with yourself and can work out your problems undisturbed. In this allegory, it looks like the trauma is going to die on it’s own, without Calvin having to do anything. It seems to be dying of it’s own sickness. However, it’s not that easy, it comes back to life and attacks Calvin, who now has to actually kill it himself, whilst it is attacking and puking all over him; trauma doesn’t die easily, you have to go through a lot of pain (attack) and disgust (puke). Bigfoot then wounds Calvin near his ear, where the russian cut him, when he said: “your mission will be successful, but you will be cursed.” i haven’t really figured out that part yet. Finally, Calvin shots the wounded bigfoot, thus coming to terms with his trauma/regret.

    The burial they have is actually about burying his past. They bury his uniform and his medals from the war. However, they also bury his memories of his girlfriend, which was a mistake. So Calvin unburries the memories and is at peace at last. The stone in his shoe is finally gone.
    Perhaps this even explains the (rather stupid) title: “the man who killed Hitler and then the bigfoot” is “the man who did something terribly and then came to terms with it”

    Hope this makes sense and was worth the long read ^^ there’s still a lot i have’t figured out yet and i’m not to sure about what if just written either…
    Probably there are no right and wrong interpretations…

  • I watched the movie tonight. Now I wish I’d watched it more analytically. I went online to see if there were an explanation of what was in the box, perhaps from clues I had missed. I found this page and read all the interpretations with interest. I don’t think we’ll know how to interpret the film unless the writer tells us what he meant. My feeling is that the movie was intentionally ambiguous so that it would mean different things to different people, like a poem or a painting. I’ve only mulled over the movie for an hour or so, so tomorrow I may have a different interpretation than now, but here’s my present interpretation.

    I accept the events as real. If he didn’t kill Hitler or Bigfoot, then is all of it fantasy… the robbers, the government men watching him, the conversation with them in his house, his talk with his brother before he left for Canada, the funeral? If all of those events are fantasy, then the whole movie may as well have been a dream and not worth trying to figure out. I prefer to believe the events happened.

    The incident with the thugs shows what kind of a man he is now, that even old and drunk he can take out three robbers. I think he greatly regretted his timidity with his girlfriend, that he didn’t propose to her, and that he didn’t give her the ring. After leaving for the war he grew up, overcame his timidity, and became so capable that he was sent to kill Hitler. I think his failure with his girlfriend made him overachieve as a soldier. His treatment of the robbers is a testament to his capabilities. The agents saw him take out the robbers. The US agent had heard about Barr’s exploits during the war from his grandfather. Barr is so solemn, so humble, and so serious in his explanation to the government agents that it seems like he should be believed. Plus, we know he’s honest.

    Ed tells Calvin he knows he is telling the truth about Bigfoot because he knows Calvin is honest. Calvin’s honesty is also shown by the way he handles the winning $100 lottery ticket, which he gives to the store clerk to keep in case someone comes back for it.

    When Calvin kills Bigfoot he decides to cast off his regrets — killing Hitler, killing Bigfoot, not marrying his girlfriend — and live again. He flees from Canada and the government agents can’t find him so the agents tell his brother he is dead. The brother puts out the story that Calvin never returned from vacation, so as not to reveal the secret nature of what he was doing when he died. (That’s the only explanation I see that makes sense, if everything really happened.)

    Calvin shows up with his arm in a cast and a bandage on his ear, indicating that not much time has passed (which is why his belongings are still in the house). He has decided to live again. He throws away his pills, takes down the painting that reminds him of killing Bigfoot, and throws away all the letters from his girlfriend. Right after he puts the letters in the trashcan outside, we hear a vehicle pull up, brake, and then leave. Calvin looks out the window and sees the trashcan on its side. I took that to mean that people were still watching him and going through his stuff… or maybe the trash was simply picked up, finalizing the closure of Calvin’s regrets over his girlfriend.

    He wants to leave his current life and all the baggage that goes with it behind. Somewhere in there he finally removes the rock from his shoe that has bothered him since he left the bar at the beginning. That rock represents the things that have been bothering him and that will not bother him anymore. I think the wooden box represents something related to embracing life again, an adventure he has never had the guts to pursue. I don’t think the pile of letters and the box would both represent the same regret. He gets rid of the girlfriend regret when he throws away her letters, so the box represents something else.

    There’s a recurring theme of things used up. During Calvin’s talk with the bartender at the very beginning Calvin says the bartender has suggested he go off to the keys to die. Then at the convenience store Calvin talks about worn out dollar bills that should have been taken out of circulation and burned. Calvin feels all used up. For most of the movie he feels like his life is over. I see the ending as upbeat, as a rejection of being used up. Calvin is going to live again, open the box that he hasn’t had the guts to open before, and pursue a new adventure. It doesn’t matter exactly what is in the box. It represents living again, caring again, the future.

  • I like to think he actually did these things as well and I agree with everything you’re saying here.

  • I just watched the movie two days ago. I have been trying to wrap around the meaning of it, and after reading your “review” and the following comments for all the other reviewers, I am in agreement with all of youm for the most part.

    Though if I may be so bold to say, I think many of you did not look into the rage that is brought on by the regret (the beating of the thugs after the one burns the picture he tried to save, the killing of bigfoot at close quarters with the knife) after trying to amend or comply with a situation he did not like or wanted to be part of.

    Also, I believe ( and I’m totally on a limb here) that the meaning of the box is where the gun that killed Hitler is stored, and so he says daily, “not today”. As in giving each new day a new opportunity to amend or renew his faith to go on. Why would the box be so important that he had to exhume it? I can’t come with any other reason.

    That is my little take.

  • Loved these comments. Came here confused, but fleshed out my ideas around the premise that Hitler and Bigfoot were 100% fantasy. That makes so much sense I felt the need to comment from an old and regretful personal perspective:

    This movie is about aging and living with regret successfully, perhaps a moral that we can all achieve this. Simple, like saying Pulp Fiction is just a film about redemption. I believe MKHTB is more confusing than desired; too much detail washes out viewer confidence creating the wrong effect.

    Assume killing Hitler and the Bigfoot are Calvin fantasies.

    Calvin flashbacks start from position of reality every time and trigger realistically, simple triggers like handling cutlery recalling a previous dinner, glossy shoes a previous shine, or a drink evoking a fancy flask, notably recalling fantasy and reality as equivalencies.
    The box looks like a pistol presentation case because it is, I suspect not overly strange for WWII vets that carried pistols (Captains?) or received awards, and its importance to Calvin as a daily reminder he chooses to live wth his regrets. To peek and toy with the pistol would imply he’s unsure but he never gets past the latch, duty bound and such.
    Discrete fantasy details are fantastical on purpose:
    – far too easy to access Hitler
    – purposely horrific German accent (and inappropriate class)
    – purposely horrific French-Canadian accent (like Hollywood Parisien)
    – comic book FBI stereotype with comic book mention (flag pin and all)
    – conspiracy basis of bigfoot plot (dovetails headlines, giant PPE set, back fires)
    – over-the-top 007 spy gun (left behind to avoid future plot holes)
    – German dog (childhood fantasy to never be chickless or dogless)
    – rubber bigfoot suit (who knows what bigfoot really looks like?)
    – hunting with specific antique German bolt rifle (infantry familiarity? A modern full-auto HK or whatever assault rifle was front and center for Calvin to ignore)
    – Calvin always eloquent in fantasies but mumbly Sam in real life (we tend to see ourselves well-spoken)
    – same age as the cryptkeeper but climbing rock face with bare hands (seriously?)
    – calling on walkie-talkie after hearing a shot, after explaining they were retreating an additional 50 miles (hearing a rifle fire at 75 miles)
    – bigfoot turns into WWE grappler after wild ape thumping (rationalize sprained/broken arm)

    I thought it was hit-over-the-head significant that Calvin met agents after falling asleep in the chair, maybe directly in front of the lake painting, directly entering Bigfoot fantasy.

    Discrete reality details are actually possible:
    – three meathead thugs expecting no trouble fooled by a real veteran (arguable
    but notable that other-fantasy agents respect Calvin for it)
    – real eulogy because brother doesn’t speaks haltingly, and explained Calvin just walked away
    – real injuries from real retiree expedition
    – no parties questioned post-funeral Calvin reappearance (expected dementia)

    Calvin didn’t collect medals or uniform at the end because he moved on from that regret, as well as moved on from lost love with the abandonment of his shoe rock.

    Lots still not making sense:
    – did arm have time to heal before digging up grave? Alternatively, not actually hurt?
    – not sure why dig up box if over everything, no matter what’s in there, a hole big enough to drive a truck through my theories
    – should we suspect drugs were psychoactive, or just regular old people stuff?
    – Captain’s bars on collar and Legion of Merit medal are a mismatch
    – Romanian partisan shaving thing left me cold–was Calvin’s psyche struggling to rationalize the early plot?
    – if bigfoot hunting fantasy, why incorporate the toy dinosaur so well? Just another regret oer individual?
    – read another review about defeating symbolic and literal fascism, and I think that’s too literal

  • This was the comment I was hoping to read when I began reading through the comments section. The fantastical elements were so rationally laid out I never felt the need to question the story I was watching unfold. It felt like a great hypothetical question: what if you do everything right (even kill Hitler and prevent the spread of a pandemic) and life still shits on you. What makes life worth while really?

  • Ok, firstly. I don’t think Calvin was a coward in any sense. He did actually get down on 1 knee via a lace tying ruse, but Maxine pretended to be unaware and so cowardly “turned down” his proposal. Fate seemed to be against them: in the restaurant, in the way that the war interrupted theirs (and everyone’s) lives & dreams, in the futility of his successful assassination mission, in the unexpected & premature death of Maxine. Nothing in life turns out as expected. But what was the stone in his shoe at the end symbolic of? Finally succeeding (with the Bigfoot threat) and banishing the annoyance of failure which was gnawing away at him? And what was in the box that he dug up? Do we ever see/know, or the contents some kind of mysterious and subjective holy grail?

  • The true meaning lies in the scratch on the forehead.

  • I think it’s far simpler then that. It doesn’t really matter if the events in his life were real or imagined. I think this movie is a criticism of the American dream of success. We are all conditioned to believe that if we accomplish monumental tasks, become pillars of the community or acquire enormous wealth, our lives will be forever rosy and complete. From birth we are conditioned to squander the best years of our lives in the pursuit of something nobler. The trade off being that we will somehow be rewarded with a sense of fulfillment at the end of the day. Here is a man who saved the world twice, yet he has nothing to show for it but his own melancholy and regret for life squandered. In his own heart, he knew what would make him happy. He was either to stupid to realize it or blinded by everyone else’s vision of the purpose of life. Life isn’t about sacrifice, not always. Sometimes its just about finding your way to what makes you happy and complete. The American dream of success is a lie. The true measure of a happy life is different for each of us. If you spend your life climbing a mountain to impress your peers, you may find yourself alone at the summit with a grand view of a life that could have been.

  • What about the pills he stopped taking? From that moment I assumed everything was in his mind.

  • After reading all of these comments (ended up here almost immediately after watching) I had some ideas.

    The story from the school boy (he was a bad guy by the way not a good guy) and while everyone was attending him a good guy rushed in and ‘won’ the game for the good guys. Was this a dream and not a memory and a comment of his feelings of war that winning doesn’t always mean you are right or losing that you are wrong that it is a matter of making distasteful choices (bombing Japan) and those decisions are far beyond the common soldier killing and being killed. He said he’d be the one that fell perhaps trying to take himself out of the combat altogether. Also, Maxine not stopping when he did to tie his shoe (which we see was a ruse) is not a normal reaction of someone who cares about you. So, was it her ignoring the proposal she knew was coming as someone suggested or could it be that this was all a dream and when she says catch up with me it is symbolic of her dying young and he feeling that he will in fact catch up with her when he dies? I will leave it at that as I haven’t formed opinions on all the other parts, but this just popped into my head.

  • I am a military man of 26 years and this movie really resonated with how I feel the over arching military feels as a whole.
    It starts out with him old, tired, sitting in a bar and only he knows the things he has seen. The bar tender is the supportive loyal public that cares for him but he still goes home alone eventually. When he leaves the bar and is attacked by the three younger men they represent a generation that doesn’t know nor respect him for what he has done, but he still puts them in their place eventually.
    The box that he protects is freedom, pure freedom that is not entirely for him yet, he knows what’s in it, there is nothing more important to him than that, but he doesn’t get it while he protects it. He has to live by different rules.
    His relationship with the teacher is the love that many military have to leave behind, he never gets the chance to ask her to marry him because he knows he can’t commit to her completely. She wants him to stop and tie his shoe while she keeps walking because she doesn’t want to know that part of his life. She knows he has to go, but doesn’t want to know that part of him.
    The Russian represents the relationship between the US military and the Russian military. They both respect each other but do not trust each other. They worked together at one time to defeat a major enemy, but the curse was the cold war. That’s what the rock in his shoe represented. It was a war that he fought that wasn’t always easy to see but it was always felt.
    His mission to kill Hitler was really more of a plot line that led to his speech he gives to the FBI agent and the Canadian. He is very humble and ashamed if what he had to do. Everyone thinks he is a hero for doing it but he thinks he just did his job. He hates that he has killed and it haunts him for life even though it was just. He feels it was pointless because evil just continues even though he killed the head. He sacrificed everything only got nothing to change, another Hitler just took his place.
    The FBI Agent and the Canadian represent the career government, they know everything about the old soldier, they even own his blood. They heard of the stories but they are so young that they think they didn’t happen. Some of that history is to unrealistic for them to believe. They ask the old soldier to do one more mission. They told him a story about an enemy that only he could fight, it had a virus (weapon) so deadly it killed everything. Everything they had tried didn’t work.
    Two important parts of his fight with The Bigfoot was when he used the sat phone to contact the FBI agent and again his respect for his enemy. After his first attempt to kill the bigfoot, he failed. He contacted the govt and was frustrated with them not understanding him when he said he broke his pinky and then had to say his fifth digit. He didn’t want them interfering with his mission anymore and that’s why he thru the phone into the river.
    He didn’t want to kill again. He felt guilty when he first thought he killed again and that was why he broke down. He was still respectful and his distrust of his leaders was why he didn’t want to let then have the body and why he was going to burn it. But, he let his guard down and evil surprises him. He was blind sided by the attack and it was very costly to him. So much so that the public wanted to bury him and move on.
    But he comes back. He tries to fit in with the public, goes fishing. Goes to his great niece’s dance recital. But he doesn’t fit in, he is awkward. The comment about butterflies being dead, he doesn’t know how to act and all’s he can think about is the box. Protecting the box (freedom) is all he knows. That’s why he has to dig it up. The old soldier can only carry on. Even when he finds the rock in his shoe finally, the end of the curse (cold war), he still has to protect the box.

    Sorry if this jumps around, I had to type it up on my phone. But I wanted to share my thoughts on this movie. It was honestly pretty moving for me. I will definitely watch it again and I am sure there will be more.

  • The comment above really blew me away. This has got to be one of the most commented on posts on this site. The thing about this film that makes it so memorable is the fantastic acting. It’s got a crazy title so you’d expect it to be goofy and instead you get a well crafted and meditative drama that sticks with you.

  • (Lisa, this post isn’t even in the top 100 of most comments on this site. But you have a valid point all the same. I think there are 33 comments (33 more than I thought I’d get granted!) just for the record. Actually with this comment there are 34! hahah. Anyway, just for comparison’s sake, the number 1 most commented post on the site is The Prestige with 441 comments, the 2nd is Memento with 225, Then The Lobster with 220, The One I Love comes in at 218, and finally in the fifth slot is Personal Shopper with 208.)

  • I may have missed it, and for that I apologize in advance, was the rock in his shoe a mechanism or symbol? In my experience it’s that one thing always on your mind until you can excise it for relief. Does that symbolize regret or guilt? I did enjoy the film, and at the end he seemed to somehow find a peace of sorts, even if it was from the absence of the stone in his shoe.

  • The thing in the box is the same thing that Tarantino put in his Pulp Fiction briefcase. I avoided this movie for quite a while thinking it would be a bit of low budget, low quality movies you see cluttering the streaming sites. I like Sam Elliot but thought he would just be renting out his mustache for beer money. I was proved wrong in the first 10 minutes of the movie, this is Elliot at his best.

  • “Renting out his mustache for beer money”

    Now that’s the best line I’ve read all week!

    But it’s true. By the name alone you think the movie will be stupid but it’s the furthest thing from!

  • I really enjoyed this movie. It is full of allegories and I actually think that it is the opposite of melancholy. The whole premise is to show how old age forces us to re-evaluate and come to terms with the memories we have of our life experiences. Hitler and Bigfoot are both used to personify the secret fears that Calvin has as he sets out on life’s long winding road. As he grows older and begins to face his fears, he finds himself equipped to tackle and ultimately overcome (KILL) them, although it is a struggle at first.
    The struggle is represented in the way that he fails to kill Hitler and Bigfoot at the first attempt, but eventually he manages to do so. However, overcoming his fears doesn’t come without a cost. I think that the biggest cost to Calvin is that he finds out that his fears were far from unsurmountable and that is why he takes little satisfaction when he finally perceives that he has defeated them. In fact, he even feels deflated and dissatisfied afterwards.
    The remainder of the story is about the regrets in his life. The loss of the woman he loved and constantly reliving the lost opportunities to ask her to marry him.
    The regret he felt in not being able to speak candidly to his brother.
    The ending was a happy one for me. The way I interpreted it when he retrieved the box from his grave, was that he had finally come to terms with losing the love of his life, or at the very least was now willing to cherish the happy memories which were contained in the box.
    The stone in his shoe represents the painful nagging regrets that he had spent years enduring, and extracting it meant that he had finally reached a satisfactory state of contentment.

  • Okay, I googled ‘wtf was the meaning of the man who killed hitler’s and this post came up. I have read all the comments, many of which made me think a lot deeper about this movie than I am used to. I can see the whole dual regrets from the war both the personal and the professional. Bigfoot though. It just seems to me, that for most of the guesses above, if they were actually what the movie was going for, then it was done poorly. But that doesn’t make sense either, because nothing else about the movie was poorly done.

    Not saying this is right, but the end of the bar scene keeps nagging at my brain where he tells the bartender that he is going to stop drinking tomorrow, and repeats it. Could it be that all of the bigfoot portion is him experiencing the hallucinations and illness that comes from suffering through alcohol detox and dt’s?

  • Watched this film for the second time today, I watched it originally last year if I remember right. Following the first viewing the film left more questions than answers and today is no different. The vibes I got from it are of war and the futility of it but also the absolute respect of the soldiers who took part and what they sacrificed.
    I think leaving the viewer in a confused state is intentional as this must be what it was like for millions of people during and following World War 2 leaving their happy lives for years at a time and their family and loved ones who’s lives were destroyed when their loved ones did not return home and trying to fix the soldiers that did return.
    Barr’s brother plays a big part for me as it shows how the war affected people on the home front, his brother was too young to fight in the war but it still destroyed his life nonetheless.
    The inclusion of Big Foot and killing Hitler for me is just clever story telling, rather than this being another film about the returning soldier who can’t cope, this film got the message across as well as making an entertaining film that was completely believable.
    As for the box, your guess is as good as mine. My take on it is that it signifies the inside of Barr’s mind and the secrets he wants to talk about with his brother such as what he did during his time in the army, these secrets are buried deep inside him and no matter how hard he tries to ignore them they will not go away. Barr wants to tell his brother what happened but like most soldiers he doesn’t think anyone will understand, this is backed up when he rings his brother in the night and then hangs up the phone, his brother and Barr both say they don’t see each other as much as they should, this is because Barr knows what he has to do but doesn’t have the courage to do it, just like he didn’t have the courage to propose to his girlfriend before the war.
    For me this film, rather than trying to get across a specific point, is trying to make the viewer feel the way a soldier would feel following combat, the solider is told he is fighting Fascism and defending freedom when what he really feels is shame and guilt as the Fascists he is killing are people and the freedom he is fighting for isn’t worth the sacrifice he gave, he is sold the propaganda but when it is broken down it is not glorious as all.
    I could literally go on about the film and the message I interpret from it but I can tell I’m waffling on a bit. Thanks for reading.

  • I think he saved her letters in the wooden box. The tear was because he couldn’t throw them away.

  • Basically I think what the movie means is to some extent irrelevant. This movie forms a part of a genre. I’d take two examples from literature. “Dandelion Wine” by Ray Bradbury and “Trout Fishing in America” by Richard Brautigan. Both these works were pieces of nostalgia recording regret and happiness in equal measure. The reader is lost in this reverie. What ever regret the hero has is to some extent overshadowed by his achievements. Therefore the film becomes a recollection of things past.

  • Yes, the movie is about regret and finally moving beyond that regret. The rock he could never find in his shoe was the past he couldn’t let go of, so it always caused him pain and it went everywhere with him. (It is in his shoe after all.)

    His getting the rock out of his shoe was the symbol of him finally moving beyond his past and the regrets he always lived with.

    The box is just bad directing. The director said he never reviews what was in the box because he wanted the audience to put what they thought should be there in the box.

    So I guess the box comes from the director watching Pulp Fiction too many times, but instead of a briefcase full of dreams, he has a box of depression and dispair. It would be embarrassing for a man like that to be seen as anything other than stoic and strong.

    Did he kill Hitler and bigfoot? Probably.

    One of the never delivered letters says how she keeps being told he was alive, but couldn’t receive or write letters for what apparently is a very long time. Killing Hitler ultimately meant nothing since they just put in look-alike figureheads. That is not so far-fetched of an idea. He killed Hitler after Hitler had lived out his usefulness. So what was the point? Hence, regret.

    Bigfoot had no idea what it was doing, but it was smart since it used a poultice, and it wasn’t a killer because it was a vegetarian. An innocent creature that was being hurt and hunted for no fault of its own.

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