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Simon Read [Film Festival 06.16.11] movie review comedy documentary

Year: 2011
Directors: Matthew Bate
Writers: Matthew Bate
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

In the mid-eighties two friends named Eddie Lee and Mitch Deprey moved into a rotting San Fransisco apartment block which they nicknamed the Pepto Bismol Palace, due to it's revolting pink exterior. During their first night Eddie was woken by shouting from next door, two men arguing bitterly, and loudly and having obviously had too much to drink. This became a nightly occurrence and out of desperation, and possibly boredom, they used a microphone tied to a ski-pole to record these drunks screaming at one another and made tapes for their friends; the result became underground sensation without either of the men recorded even finding out.

Matthew Bate's highly entertaining documentary tells the story of one of the first 'viral' hits in America, and how it effected Lee, Deprey and their friends, and captured the imagination of writers, artists, musicians and a hoard of self-confessed 'fans'.

The drunks in question were Peter Haskett and Raymond Huffman, two alcoholics whose bitter feuds were more often than not over the raging homophobia Ray expressed towards Peter, who was the boozy, screaming queen to Ray's hard drinking redneck, and yet the bizarre truth is that they chose to live together because, in their hearts, they probably needed each other just to keep going. It might sound crazy, but often alcoholics will indeed hang around with people who in sobriety they might cross the street to avoid, and in this case the extremely strange pairing makes for surprisingly good comedy when the tapes are played. The title of the film refers to Peter's scathing put down to most of Ray's comments, a typical exchange would be:

Raymond: "You cocksucker, I hate queers like you. I love women!"
Peter: "Oh, would you just shut up, little man?"
Raymond: "No I will not! I am humanity!"
Peter: "Shut up little man! Time for you to go to bed."

And so it goes on. My words of course can't do it justice, but since you're on a computer why not check out the clips on youtube or visit for a better flavour of what it's all about and why it caused such a sensation. Personally I'd never heard of Raymond and Peter, (my generation had those Arnie prank calls instead I think) but plenty of influential people did, including Ghost World author Dan Clowes who is interviewed by the filmmaker, along with another comic book artist Peter Brunetti. When Clowes and Brunetti heard the clips they immediately wanted to create their own comic versions of them, resulting in some hilarious artwork shown in the film. Devo used samples for their song 'Wipeouters', playwright Gregg Gibbs penned an extremely confrontational and gory play in L.A. about Ray and Peter, which culminated in a bloody murder on stage, Hollywood began to get interested and the entire phenomenon began to spin out of control as three separate production companies began pre-production on film adaptations, with Brando and Nicholson suggested for starring roles. For Eddie and Mitch it must have seemed a long time since that first night.

This is an example of a 'good documentary', one which can confront you with a story you know nothing about, people you've never heard of, and tell the tale in full over the course of ninety minutes, without ever becoming dull, repetitive or desperate for material. I'm reminded of last years 'Superhero Me' about an English guy who tries to become a hero in his local community; that film was so flimsy the guy actually edited in his own wedding video to pad it out to feature length. No such measures here. There are visual recreations, puppet show versions of the tapes and interviews with interesting people, including film director Mike Mitchell, and some of the die hard fans who devote their basements to the Raymond and Peter recordings. The best part is that the story isn't even over, as Eddie and Mitch manage to track down one of Raymond's old friends, Tony, who used to visit the pair and witness their hateful shouting matches and now lives in a one room apartment and is still a man of the sauce. He sheds light on the true nature of their relationship (after being paid and getting a free six-pack, of course) and it's not what one might expect. There's also footage of the actual Peter Haskett, who they eventually met I think in the nineties, and his reaction to the news that he's an underground star is quite priceless.

It's all very bittersweet though, as Eddie and Mitch recount battles with lawyers and Hollywood executives, falling out with old friends over money and copyright issues, and of course the fact that the entire thing spawned from the sad truth that the two old men drank themselves to death and lived lives of profound unhappiness. That's the power of schadenfreude I guess.

Eddie and Mitch at least seem happy, and get more sleep these days.

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Formerformer (10 years ago) Reply

Is The Pepto Bismol Palace what the locals there called The Pink Palace just a few blocks off of Geary Blvd?

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