In the late 1980s, two alcoholic and endlessly battling flatmates in San Francisco’s Lower Haight district drove their neighbors crazy. When one disgruntled tenant decided to start taping the screaming fights, resulting tapes fostered a bizarre underground cult that lend to CD sales, NPR play, rock-musician sampling and a stage play. Latter has now been adapted for the screen, and if vid-shot, mostly single-interior “Shut Yer Dirty Little Mouth!” plays very much like a filmed theater piece, it nonetheless does further immortalize the unique discord of two individuals — both now deceased — who never fully grasped the notoriety their overheard rants earned among chortling hipsters. Highly specialized item is most likely to reach the same aud via cassette rental and sales markets.
Their backstories unknown and precise relationship a semi-mystery, Raymond (played by Gill Gayle) and Peter (Glenn Shadix) were thrown together as roommies by apparent need to stretch mutual public-assistance dollars. Cohabitation in the pink-hued “Pepto Bismol Palace” apartment, however, was anything but harmonious. Both prone to swilling vodka at all hours, the mature duo fought tooth and nail at the slightest instigation, with queenly Peter’s sexual preferences and Ray’s offended masculinity the most frequent spurs to loud, incoherent, object-throwing debate.
“Swine!,” “Filthy queer” and “You’re not a human being” are among the few printable remarks in a conversational oeuvre as repetitive as dialogue in a Beckett play, with much the same surrounding hapless absurdism and purgatorial bleakness.
Rather than waiting for Godot, these sad cases mostly waited for occasional visits from younger drifter Tony (Robert Musgrave), whose own role in the domestic sideshow added yet more dysfunctional intrigue. Police were oft called by each as well as their neighbors. Latter, moving from exhaustion and exasperation to amusement, began placing prank calls to further stir blowsy dissent.
With dialogue taken verbatim from the original Peter and Raymond taped “canon,” pic amounts to a series of blackout sketches separated by introductory intertitles (e.g. “You’re nothin’, you’re nobody”).
Not much “happens,” beyond a suspicious one-story fall taken by already-feeble Ray, and Peter’s serial dragging-off to nights behind bars.
Even at 74 slim minutes, progress will sap patience of many casual viewers. Still, there’s a certain bottom-rung-of-life’s-ladder pathos and violence (the marginally more fit Peter can be scary at times) that emerges from all over-the-top, blotto haranguing.
Production designer Nikki Nichols has outfitted the apartment set in ghastly greenish hues that suggest circa-1965 Holiday Inn decor pickled in brine. Otherwise, package is just serviceable.
Director Robert Taicher (who’s produced several Alejandro Jodorowsky titles, oddly enough) aptly keeps attention focused on the very theatrical lead perfs. Shadix’s ginger-haired, corpulent Peter resembles nothing so much as Divine doing Totie Fields doing Blanche Du Bois. The heavily made-up Gayle (playing a figure three decades’ his senior) rings variations on Ray’s A-to-B mood range of surly cackling and surlier bellowing.