THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT (October 23rd)


YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...

Now there’s a title to fire up the imagination of the average genre fan. “The Man Who” (we’ll keep it shortened to keep our carbon footprint small) is one of those films that scored plenty of attention and acclaim at film festivals but is little known beyond that. That’s even with that fantastic title and the fact that it stars the great Sam Elliott and the Brit star of the BBC “Poldark” revival as the eponymous hero.

It was written/directed/produced by Robert D. Krzykowski, who also worked with Lucky McKee on the crew of “The Woman” (2011). It’s worth noting that McKee, John Sayles, and SFX maestro Doug Trumbull were involved in the production of this heartfelt little epic, which gives an idea of the quirky tone you can expect. “The Man Who” played at Sitges, Fantasia, and Frightfest during 2018, so that should give you another idea about the pedigree. To be perfectly blunt, the horror angle is pretty slim and boils down to a skeletal-looking Bigfoot. But it’s still a film that we missed on the festival circuit, and we put on our to-do list for the 31 days. So here is da’ Man…

It’s the 1980’s, and an old man sits in an empty bar, drinking some booze and contemplating his reflection in a mirror. This is Calvin Barr (Elliott, at his crusty best) and there’s more to him than meets the eye. Despite his advanced years he still manages to kick the collective asses of three young muggers in the street and makes it home safely. He lives alone with only his trusty doggo (Ralph) to keep him company, and an occasional visit to his Brother (Ed played by Larry Miller) and his Barber Shop. But his frequent flashbacks to his younger self (played by Aidan Turner), and a mysterious mission in WWII, points to some hidden skills. So when he is contacted by some mysterious government agents about a dangerous new mission, it gives him a chance for redemption and resolution.

Out of all the films we’re covering during the 31 days, this is probably the most laidback and gore-free example. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore it, and older genre fans especially will get a kick out of this surprisingly sincere movie. It’s a quirky blend of Spielbergian wonderment and Tarantino-esque grittiness. The success of the whole thing mostly boils down to Sam Elliott owning that title role, like he was born to play it. His world-weary air of toughness and old-fashioned sensibilities is the foundation on which the narrative is built. Here’s a man that is basically “Captain America”, but without the bullshit super-serum and schmancy costume. He has a Forrest Gump-like simple attitude in that all he wanted in life was to do the right thing and help others. And he’s haunted by the fact that his major accomplishment killed a man but didn’t kill the ideology (you can probably guess who by the title). This is a man with such an ingrained sense of morality that he won’t even cash a $100 lottery ticket that blows to him in the wind as litter. If it’s not already apparent, Elliott absolutely nails the role. The scene where he tells the truth about the death of Hitler genuinely sends a chill up the spine, as he focuses on another character and drawls out the story.

Although it’s Elliott that holds the attention and tells the story, he’s ably supported by Turner as his taciturn and idealistic younger self, and by a hypnotic Caitlin FitzGerald (“Masters of Sex”) as his prospective soul-mate. Fun-fact: FitzGerald and Turner became a couple after filming completed, so the chemistry is certainly there. Mostly though, and the story can be read in various different ways dependant on your perspective, this is homage to those quiet heroes of the last few decades. Men and women who did extraordinary things, but then lived out their lives in anonymity. Perhaps they were ignored or disrespected by society, even though it owed a debt to them. A bartender assumes Calvin is a lonely drunk, the street-thugs think he’s easy-pickings, and even his brother doesn’t know the extent of his heroism (despite him talking about Bigfoot in a lovely understated moment). It’s a sobering and thought-provoking character study. Bigfoot actually enters the story in an untypical way, as is the reason for Calvin to hunt him down. Even at this point, don’t expect an “adventure drama” (as described in IMDB), or a genre-inspired rampage by the (frankly anorexic) Sasquatch. It’s another test of character for Calvin and provides a wonderful sense of fulfilment and conclusion for him. This is embodied by a neat running-gag about a non-existent stone in his shoe. That’ll make sense if you see the film…

In essence Calvin inhabits the decent virtues of the US (and humanity in general), which is backed up by him being called “Mr America” by a Russian ally, and sign as “Uncle Sam” in a register. The wry and lyrical screenplay brings the character to life, with several neat one-liners (“… and he doesn’t have big feet.”), and the occasional bit of impactful imagery (Calvin silhouetted against a wall of flames). As far as genre content goes, it’s admittedly light. But if you want to see a heart-warming Halloween movie about a “real” American hero who kills nazis and cryptids, rather than taking part in a sappy reunion or an odd-couple tale, than this is great. It’s a bitter-sweet and slow-paced experience, but the cast and Elliott make it so mesmerising. Even Roger the Dog is cool dammit! Ideal for a quirky treat with some heart.

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