Saying Something Important: The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot
A movie that every thoughtful person should watch right now is The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot.
Now, you may hear the title and think this movie is slapstick comedy, or possibly an action film, and the trailer unfortunately doesn’t do anything to disabuse you of that notion:
Perhaps unsurprisingly in an age where nuance is nonexistent, many of the reviews of this movie completely miss the point, so if you’ve read a negative review and skipped TMWKH on that basis, mine is the review to heed. Watch it. Watch it immediately, but don’t go in expecting humor or explosions. Go in expecting something better, something deeper. Go in expecting a story that will subvert your expectations in order to communicate something critically important about the human experience.
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot is a parable about fascism.
In order to explain why this is, I’m going to have to tell you the entire plot of the movie. If that bothers you, stop reading now and go watch the movie first. But I don’t think that spoilers will ruin the movie; in fact quite the opposite. I think knowing what to look for in advance will help you enjoy the movie on the level it’s meant to be enjoyed rather than (as many people did, apparently) missing the point and walking away scratching your head and wondering what it was all about.
The movie centers around the exploits of a man called Calvin Barr, played as an old man during the 1980s by Sam Elliot, and as a young man by Aidan Turner, aka the ridiculously good-looking dwarf from The Hobbit movies. Both men fill their roles extremely well, although I found a bit of a disconnect between the actors themselves in terms of them seeming like the same person. Other reviewers didn’t find this to be an issue for them. Either way don’t sweat it, it’s forgivable.
During WWII, young Calvin is sent on a secret mission to kill Hitler. He succeeds, although killing – even someone as evil as Hitler – does not come easily to him. But much to his dismay he finds that his success is meaningless. Because Hitler was just a guy. He wasn’t magic, he didn’t have superpowers, nor was he created by dark forces for an evil destiny. (I read that somewhere.)
It only took two bullets for Calvin Barr to kill Hitler, the man, but what Hitler stood for lived on. The German people simply carry on doing exactly what they were doing, using a lookalike costumed Hitler as a stand in. As Calvin puts it, “That day I just killed a man. What he stood for was unstoppable.” Calvin explains that was why they made Hitler so oddly distinctive in appearance, so they could simply pick it up with another, similarly clad performer in the role without the outside world even noticing. (Lest one get too sidetracked by matters of appearance, the “costume” doesn’t actually mean a real costume here. It’s a euphemism for another willing participant preaching the same venom, stepping in to fill fascism’s niche, interchangeable, a performer simply meeting the needs of a lot of people for a figurehead for their ugly movement.)
“The man died,” Calvin continues, “but the monster lived.”
We then skip ahead to the 1980s, in which Calvin Barr is a much older man. He’s approached by government agents from the US and Canada and briefed about the appearance of Bigfoot in the wilderness of Canada, close to the US border. But it’s not simply that Bigfoot is a brainless monster intent on attacking people. Bigfoot is carrying a plague with the potential to kill everything it comes across – all life on Planet Earth is threatened by the existence of this creature and the disease it carries. As one of the few people on Earth immune to the disease, Calvin is once again needed.
Since we just talked about costumes, let’s pause here to talk about exactly that. Some reviewers have criticized the cheesiness of the Bigfoot costume as a negative. But I believe that the reason the costume is so obviously a costume (as well shot as the movie is, it is obvious the filmmakers could have had a far more realistic Bigfoot had they so chosen) is to impart, yet again, the message of the interchangeability of the costume that evil wears. The outside is not what matters. The fascist threat may look different on the outside, or it may appear exactly as we expect. Regardless, the costume fascism wears is simply a trick to distract people from understanding what we are really seeing. Be it two different people in a Hitler costume, or two existential threats in wildly different garb, we are being urged to look beyond the trappings to what lies beneath the surface.
While Calvin stalks Bigfoot, he thinks back on his life before he killed Hitler, and we come to realize how much his fight against fascism actually cost him, but at the same time, why he did it. He did it for his kid brother and the girl he loved, yet he ended up losing the girl. He couldn’t protect her. He couldn’t save her, he couldn’t even have her for longer than a heartachingly brief perfect moment in time. Calvin Barr may have killed Hitler, but he paid a high price for the privilege. Yet if he doesn’t kill this new monster, the disease it carries will spread past the point of containment. The price must be paid again.
You clever people probably understand that the Bigfoot is meant to represent totalitarianism in another form. It’s a monster, like Calvin called Hitler a monster, but monsters don’t always look the same. The way we should judge monsters is by the harm they cause, regardless of whether they come to us looking exactly like Hitler or like some other thing entirely. Like Bigfoot, fascist monsters carry a disease, and that disease can spread until it wipes out everything in its path unless it is stopped.
Interestingly, Calvin Barr has some sympathy, even pity, for the Bigfoot. Just as killing Hitler wasn’t easy for him, neither was killing the Bigfoot. He’s reluctant to turn the Bigfoot’s body over to the government, instinctively knowing that governments will use it for evil purposes. He decides to burn the body instead, but as is so often the case with fascist tendencies, what seems dead actually isn’t, and Calvin ends up having to fight for his life once again. Because in the end, that’s what it requires of those few of us who are immune to the disease — you gotta fight the monster of fascism again and again. Even when you have some sympathy for the creature’s suffering, for its pain, for its right to exist on its own terms it still has to be fought; even when it destroys your entire life it has to be fought. Because fascism always comes back if good people don’t fight it, and when it comes back it spreads like the contagion it is.
Even when you think fascism is dead, it comes back – whether it’s in a disguise to make it look like something you’ve already killed, or in a different form altogether.
Fascism always comes back.
I don’t know if writer/director Robert D. Kryzkowski deliberately set out to make The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot an anti-fascism parable (the filmmaker acknowledges the movie was meant as a parable of some kind, but wasn’t clear on the specific meaning, at least not in anything I saw), or if I see things in the film that have appeared there through serendipity. Like I’ve said before, my husband’s theory is that sometimes artists are just touched by God for a moment and it allows them to communicate ideas that transcend even their own vision. Either way, I urge you all to set aside a couple hours in the screaming and the chaos that is surrounding us now and watch The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot. It’s saying something important that we all should heed.