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’s The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot—that is the whole story in nine words. Yet even that colorful title does not truly convey the experience of watching the film. In reality, Hitler and Bigfoot are not so much the subject as is the Man himself, Calvin Barr, brought to vivid life by the legendary Sam Elliott. While it does have its share of pulp fantasy, the film is really a meditation on aging and living a life filled with regrets. It is a film unlike any other.
The young Barr (Aiden Turner) gave up the love of his life in order to go on a mission to kill Hitler. He succeeded, but doing so did not kill the ideology. Decades later, when the government asks him to go on yet another mission for them, Barr explains that the words Hitler spoke were a plague which could never be stopped. So it is no coincidence that he is now being given the opportunity to stop a very literal plague by hunting Bigfoot. Barr also lost a sizeable piece of his own humanity when he killed Hitler, but he finally has the chance to try and regain it later in life. He and Bigfoot are both aging and lonely individuals who are the last of their kinds, and their confrontation takes some unexpectedly affecting turns.
The film was a genuine passion project for writer/director Robert D. Krzykowski. His script (which attracted support from both John Sayles and Douglas Trumbull, who served as executive producers) started out as a simple pulp adventure with Barr killing Hitler after the first few pages. He was not sure where to take the story from there, so he started thinking about what kind 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 run parallel to each other tied everything together to show the way that a person's past choices can affect his present emotional state.
Richard Yuricich supervised the effects work while Rocco Gioffre (who also has an amusing cameo) created some impressive matte paintings for the film. All of the effects are amazing considering the shoestring budget, and there are clever practical cheats as well. Douglas Trumbull (whom Gioffre worked with on 1982’s Blade Runner) even personally directed one effects shot using toy Messerschmitts in a cloud tank. He did it primarily to prove that practical effects could still be done cheaply and convincingly using the simplest of techniques. Though he expected the shot to be replaced, it turned out so well that it ended up in the final cut. Considering that this astonishing group of talents chose to work with Krzykowski for very little money, some of them coming out of semi-retirement to do so, speaks volumes about the talent they recognized in him. The film 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 truly unique experience. It is a film that delivers on the outrageous premise given in its title, and yet it is about so much more. It is also a genuinely touching look at how we feel a loss of relevance as we age, and Sam Elliott's patented world-weary performance could not possibly be more perfect. Calvin Barr is a character that you will not soon forget.
- Stephen Bjork