DirectorRobert D. Krzykowski
Release Date(s)2018 (June 14, 2019)
Studio(s)Epic Pictures/Title Media/RLJE Films (Capelight Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B+
[Editor’s Note: This is a German release. While the Ultra HD is Region Free, the Blu-ray is Region B locked and the DVD is Region 2.]
Some titles are allusive, others are ambiguous, and then there are titles like The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot. That’s the whole story in nine simple words. Yet even this wildly colorful title doesn’t truly convey the experience of watching the film. In reality, Hitler and Bigfoot aren’t so much the subject of the film as is the Man himself, Calvin Barr, brought to vivid life by the legendary Sam Elliott. The film certainly does have its share of pulp fantasy, but it’s really a meditation on aging and on living a life filled with regrets. The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot is entirely unlike anything else, and no title or plot summary can get to heart of what it actually is.
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot was a real passion project for writer/director Robert D. Krzykowski. His script started out as a simple pulp adventure with Barr killing Hitler after the first few pages. He wasn’t sure where to take the story from there, so he started thinking about how much of a monster that Hitler was, and one monster naturally led to another. More importantly, Krzykowski restructured the script to show Barr’s assassination of Hitler in flashbacks. Having the two main timelines for the story run in parallel with each other ended up tying everything together to show the ways in which a person's past choices affect his present emotional state.
The young Barr (Aiden Turner) gave up the love of his life in order to go on his mission to kill Hitler. He succeeded, but since both the Nazis and the American government covered up the assassination, killing Hitler didn’t kill the ideology. Decades later, when the government asks Barr to go on yet another mission on behalf of the United States, he explains to them that the words that Hitler spoke were a plague that could never be stopped. So, it’s ironic that the reason why they’re asking him to kill Bigfoot is to stop a literal plague that threatens all life on earth. Barr lost a sizeable piece of his own humanity when he killed Hitler, but he’s finally given the chance to try to regain it by saving the rest of humanity from the threat of an unstoppable virus. Yet the path to complete this mission won’t be quite so simple, since Barr and Bigfoot are both aging and lonely individuals who are the last of their kinds, and their confrontation will end up taking some unexpectedly affecting turns.
Back when The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot was originally released in 2018, Sam Elliott said that he felt the script was relevant due to the recent reawakening of white supremacy in America. At that time, he never could have imagined that just two years later the idea of a plague would become relevant as well. For a film with such a pulpy central narrative, it’s amazingly relevant to a variety of different contexts.
Krzykowski's script attracted support from some surprising legends, with both John Sayles and Douglas Trumbull serving as executive producers. Richard Yuricich supervised the effects work, with Rocco Gioffre crating some impressive matte paintings (as well as having an amusing cameo.) Gioffre noted that it was the first time that he had worked with Trumbull since Blade Runner in 1982. Trumbull even personally directed one effects shot using toy Messerschmitts in a cloud tank, composited into a shot of Hitler’s hideout. He did it primarily to prove that practical effects could still be done cheaply and convincingly using the simplest of techniques, fully expecting that the shot would be replaced, but it turned out so well that it ended up staying in the final cut. All of the effects in the film are amazing considering the shoestring budget, and there are some clever practical cheats as well. (Watch for the scene with the young Barr sitting in the door of a train car—there was no train at all, but rather just a mockup of the door mounted on a truck driving down the road.)
If it’s true that you can recognize a man by the friends that he keeps, then consider the astonishing group of talents who chose to work with Krzykowski for very little money—some of them even coming out of semi-retirement to do so. That speaks volumes about the talent that they recognized in him. The whole project was truly a labor of love for everyone involved.
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot was captured digitally at 3.2K by cinematographer Alex Vendler (using Arri Alexa Mini and Amira cameras with Panavision Primo lenses) and was finished as a full 4K Digital Intermediate at a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The image on Capelight’s Ultra HD release definitely has more fine detail than the 1080p domestic Blu-ray from RLJ Entertainment, though the slightly lower capture resolution means that it is perhaps a touch less detailed than it could have been. The HDR10 grade is not drastic but it does expand the contrast range a bit with deeper blacks and very bright highlights such as backlit windows. It also allows for more shadow detail during darker scenes, especially during Barr’s nighttime meeting with Russian resistance fighters. The color timing is a bit warmer than the Blu-ray, but it never looks unnatural and seems appropriate for the style of the film.
The audio on this disc naturally defaults to 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio in German, which may not be immediately obvious since the opening flashback already has German dialogue. For this release, you will need to switch to the English track which is also in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and then turn off the German subtitles (the audio select button on my Oppo UDP-205 reported the English track as 2.0, but that must be an erroneous flag as it is indeed 5.1). This is the same track as the RLJE Blu-ray, which is not a bad thing. The mix is very active and immersive with surprisingly deep bass for both the music and the effects—the rumble when the opening flashback begins may take you by surprise. The dialogue is always clear, and Joe Kraemer’s score sounds superb. This is a well-mixed and balanced 5.1 track, which is much more favorable than any of the compromised Atmos tracks from other UHD releases.
This release is also a combo pack containing UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD discs in striking Digibook packaging with a leatherette textured surface (note that while the UHD is Region-Free, the Blu-ray and DVD are not, and the DVD is also in PAL format). The German liner notes appear to include an interview with Krzykowski. The video-based extras are all in HD and identical to the RLJE Blu-ray with one omission and one addition, which is unrelated to the film:
- Audio Commentary with Robert D. Krzykowski
- The Making of The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (39:14)
- Deleted Scenes (8:52)
- Interview with Joe Kraemer (6:23)
- Elsie Hooper Short Film (5:46)
- Four German Trailers for Other Capelight Releases
This package of bonus content is very good. Krzykowski’s commentary track is solid and contains really interesting details, though it may be a bit low-key for some. The excellent making of gives a great overview of the lengthy history of the production as well as the challenges of shooting a large-scale film on a small-scale budget—including the ingenious ways it made something out of virtually nothing. It is recommended that you wait to watch Elsie Hooper until after the documentary and the commentary, as they explain how and why Krzykowski made it. Missing is the conceptual art gallery, so if you have the RLJE Blu-ray, you may want to hold on to it since the added German language trailers are not a particularly useful replacement.
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot is a unique experience. It’s a film that delivers on the outrageous premise given by the title, and yet it’s about so much more than that. At its heart, it’s a genuinely touching look at how we feel a loss of relevance as we age, and Sam Elliott's patented world-weary performance couldn’t possibly be more perfect. Calvin Barr is an indelible character who has earned his place not just in the annals of cryptid cinema, but in the history of the film medium itself. It’s a story about an unknown historical legend, personified by one of the modern-day legends of the acting world. Hopefully, someday The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot will be also be recognized for the legend that it really is.
- Stephen Bjork