‘Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure’ a fascinating and eye-opening journey

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Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure

Written and Directed by Matthew Bate

USA, 2011

Anybody who was a fan of tape trading is no doubt aware of Peter Haskett and Raymond Huffman. Unfortunately, people my age were still in diapers around the time those two men were becoming cult icons.

Thankfully, we’ve got one hell of a doc to give us an introduction.

Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure tells the story of  Mitch Deprey (AKA “Mitchell D.”) and Edward Guerriero (AKA “Eddie Lee Sausage”), two young men living in a rundown San Francisco apartment who decide to start recording their neighbors’ violent arguments. At first they do so out of necessity, fearing for their lives. But soon after they begin sharing their recordings with their friends, who begin sharing the recordings with their friends, and before they know it they’ve helped birth a cult sensation.

One of the best things about the film is that the subjects are treated with an amazing amount of respect and admiration. For so long, Haskett and Huffman had been known as drunken buffoons who were constantly at each other’s throats, but Shut Up Little Man! looks beyond that. People knew next-to-nothing about Haskett and Huffman’s lives, and most probably never wanted to know anything outside of how they could think up such colorful insults. But there’s a real effort here to unlock a bit more about the two men. Though we can’t find out as much as we may want to (both men have passed away), we learn a bit more about the overall nature of their relationship. It’s a fascinating and eye-opening journey to undergo.

But there’s also an inherent sadness about it all, because neither man ever had a grasp on just how iconic they were (Huffman passed away before he could be made aware, Haskett never quite got a grasp on it), nor did they ever truly get a say in it.  As the film progresses, “D.” and “Sausage” gain notoriety and even profits off of their recordings. There are comics, cartoons, stage plays, and even talk of a film! But for much of this, they’re completely ignorant to all of it. And this raises a question of ethics and makes you wonder if what they’re doing is right.

Though there is a feeling of guilt on Mitchell and Eddie’s part that looms over the documentary, it’s an issue that could and should have been explored a bit further. There are statements from those who feel they were in the right, those who feel they were in the wrong, and those who, quite frankly, prefer not to think about it. In the end, nothing is ever truly resolved, but rather left to our own interpretation, which may ultimately best serve the subjects.

Shut Up Little Man! is a tale that could have been turned into a total fluff-piece, putting all of the focus on two guys who created an underground phenomenon. But it isn’t content with that, and aa result, it becomes a fascinating, funny, heartbreaking, and even inspiring story of success. Sure, it’s got its stories about bright lights and Hollywood dreams, but at the end of the day it’s merely a tale of two old men who liked to drink. And that’s all it should be.

Shut Up Little Man! opens at the Facets Cinematheque in Chicago on October 14th. If you’re in the area, and you know what’s good for you, you’ll go see it.

William Bitterman

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