Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure

No new episodes of television shows = more time for movies. Therefore, there’ll be two reviews per day for a bit until it becomes tiresome. It only takes a half hour to write/edit/post them so for now it’s ok. Sorry to flood your inbox, subscribers. The rest of you, why haven’t you subscribed?! Anyway…

Know your limits. There’s nothing worse than someone who takes forever to tell a two-minute story, drinks too much or overstays their welcome. So when a film takes a simple concept and throws it in your face thirty minutes longer than it should, it gets a little annoying. Where The Parking Lot Movie succeeds, Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure fails.


Mitchell D and Eddie Lee Sausage moved to San Francisco in 1987 as a chance to escape the cheese, beer and Green Bay Packers of Wisconsin. What they found when they moved into the affectionately named Pepto Bismol building was that their neighbors, Peter Haskett and Raymond Huffman, enjoyed fighting…a lot. As a result, almost fourteen hours of cassette recordings of fights between a vitriolic homophobe and an ardent homosexual became underground classics.

There are many moral quandaries raised by the SULM foundation. First, the tapes are essentially an invasion of privacy since Mitchell D and Eddie tied a microphone to a pole and stuck it outside their window. They see it as public domain since the fights were loud enough the street block could hear them, but as we hear the story, you begin to wonder if the entire premise is founded on a deceitful act (spoiler: it kind of is).

Next we have the copyright issues. Initially Mitch and Eddie released the tapes with an open offering of use to anyone who controlled a copy of the tape, but later decided to copyright the material when they realized how lucrative the fights could be. Later on, the guys are contacted about movie and play pitches that bring in the issue of creative rights (DLH, a little help with the appropriate legalese in the comments?) to the scripts written while the material was not copyrighted.

As you can see, there is a lot going on and it just gets more and more philosophical as we are introduced to the “audio verite” concept – surreptitiously recorded sounds. Yet, I have described almost the entire film in a matter of paragraphs. The filmmakers do it in almost ninety minutes. This, apart from hearing Peter scream, “Shut up, little man!” about nine thousand times, is the most infuriating part of the film.

In many ways, SULM is the same as Winnebago Man. We have ornery older individuals who are so perturbed by modern times they have completely separated themselves and are oblivious to their growing fame. In SULM, Raymond and Peter had passed away by the time the film was made, but this only adds to the helplessness of their situation and ever-decreasing morality. They can’t defend themselves or explain anything, while Mitch and Eddie continue to reap the benefits.

The use of other film clips to act out tussles is interesting, but after even twenty minutes, the film bores. The only saving grace from finishing it is hearing Tony (the semi-roommate of Peter and Raymond) describe Peter as “fruitier than a goddamn pineapple.”

So, Shut Up Little Man falls by the wayside for trying to accomplish too much from too little. It’s fun for a bit, but begins to act like a neighbor battle – just background noise.

    • DLH
    • May 24th, 2012

    As to ownership of “scripts” — First, there are no scripts as they are recordings of spoken words that have been transcribed. Second, the pepole most likely to challenge the use are dead — and any estates procededing against the recorders is questionable. Finally, they already made the material public — and thus “published” it and may have no ownership claim anyway. There may be something actionable if they recorded converstaions without permission, even if the discussion could be heard outside, as the audio equipmentwas clearly designed to “easedrop” and enhance the detection of the conversations.

    • haha, I meant the actual scripts that were written for the movie pitches and plays. Isn’t there something like “creative rights”? Regardless, they got the copyright later on despite the initial open release of the material.

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