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Didn't You Hear
(1970/1983)
 

Director: Skip Sherwood                  
Cast:
Dennis Christopher, Gary Busey, Cheryl Waters


* BONUS! *

SOUND CLIPS 
 


For the 100th Unknown Movie review, I decided to pick one of my personal favorites, a movie called Didn't You Hear. I first came across this movie broadcast one night from the CBS station in my area, which at that time was showing an incredible number of movies that I'd never heard of before, and have never seen since. Skateboard Madness was one of these movies, and the others I remember include Memories In My Mind, A Billion For Boris, Stuckey's Last Stand, 2 Catch 2, Half A House, and Hooch. (Anyone seen any of these? If so, drop me a line.) All of those movies were entertaining in one way or another, but Didn't You Hear made a big impact on me. Yet to this day, despite a number of viewings, after tracking down and purchasing the movie on video just before the distributor became bankrupt, I have no definite idea why I'm fond of this movie. When watching this movie, I'm constantly struck with the thought, "What the hell were they thinking of???" Yet a lot of other times, I think, "Hey, that's interesting/original/true." After watching Didn't You Hear, you'll never forget it, whether you like it or hate it. I can't think of another movie that even begins to resemble it. Maybe that's why I like it so much, plus for the fact that's it's as unknown as it is, despite the presence of Christopher and Busey. Of all the movies I've seen, only Hey! There's Naked Bodies On My TV! outdoes this movie in obscurity.

I've decided to more or less write a full plot synopsis of this movie for several reasons: First, only a full plot description will begin to properly describe this movie to readers not familiar with the movie. Second, I believe that almost all readers will never find this obscurity at their video store. Third, it's the 100th movie, so let's celebrate with a big review! Fourth, it's my web page, so I can do whatever the hell I want. First, though, brief descriptions of the five trailers on the video before the movie - and all of these are for unknown movies! The Invincible Barbarian, an Italian barbarian movie which I've seen, and I have to say that it actually makes the Ator movies look good! Smoke In The Wind, a boring looking post Civil War western starring Oscar-winner Walter Brennan; Medusa, a Mediterranean-set tale of revenge and intrigue with George Hamilton, Luciana Paluzzi, and Cameron Mitchell; Didn't You Hear; and - hey look! - Hooch, starring future Buck Rogers Gil Gerard in a "moonshiners vs. the mob" tale that the narrator promises us, "It's illegal...it's immoral...but it's so damn good!" (Actually, it isn't that good - and besides, The Road Hustlers did it a lot better.)

The movie then starts. (If you wish to stop reading at any time to go to the actual review, to prevent the movie from being fully spoiled for you, return to this paragraph and click here to jump to the review section.)
 


We see a lengthy shot of a student named Kevin walking towards the camera on some unidentifiable college campus, with gentle electronic music playing. As he comes close to the camera, we see he's played by Dennis Christopher. But is he the real Dennis Christopher, who played Italian-mad Dave Stohler in Breaking Away? It sorta looks like him, but it's hard to tell, with his shaggy Hans Brinker haircut and his youth. And if you go by Christopher's supposed biography, he would have been 14 or 15 years old when this movie was made! But I'll assume it's the real McCoy.

Kevin walks into a classroom, where everybody in the class is puffing away at cigarettes, save for the nose picker seated beside him. The camera focuses in on the smokers for several seconds. One of them closes the windows, resulting in the room quickly filling out with smoke. Then the editing starts to speed up, focusing in on the smokers, Kevin's discomfort, and the nose-picker who is still mining away while the electronic music turns scary and also speeds up. When the editing speeds up to about four shots a second, Kevin leaps up and rushes out of the classroom, closing his eyes and drifting into a daydream about the ocean.

Later, Kevin walks across campus with his friend James (Busey). Busey is pretty funny as the sex obsessed friend, discussing the fact that you can supposedly tell how virile a man is by his fingers. He doesn't pay much attention to Kevin, though Kevin is also not paying much attention to his friend, stating his individualism by saying, "Rocks - imagine someone majoring in geology. People actually major in geology! That class could have been so interesting if they'd only make you feel it...But I can't memorize! I will not bore myself with the memorization of rocks!"

They get to class, and during the boring lecture, Kevin falls asleep and drifts into a dream world, with solarization in effect during the transition. At the start of the dream, Kevin is running in the dark down a hill with James and five others, all of them dressed in light blue button shirts and dark jeans (prison uniforms?) They get to a beach, and walk up to their necks into the water, fully clothed. A hush falls over the scene, and an echoy voice utters in the darkness: "Is this the way the world ends, with a whisper and a whimper????...." Kevin then whispers, "Death...It's a very special thing..."

We then see a pretty nice looking shot of a 60-foot sailing vessel, bathed in the moonlight, within swimming distance. All seven climb aboard, discovering cannons on the deck. When James makes the deduction that the vessel is abandoned (and giving an eerie stare at Kevin...well, they are sailors. Go to the front of the video box image for an artist's impression of the scene.), Kevin declares himself captain, his friend as first mate, and names the vessel "The Queen of Sheba"

One crew member named Ian asks, "Who'd name a ship 'The Queen of Sheba'?" Another answers, "Who'd name a son Ian?"

Discussion then turns to what they should do now. Peter, an aspiring writer, as well as a pirate, urges for a plan to be made, but one pirate named Mike barks, "Hey, we're pirates! Completely spontaneous - now we can't ruin ourselves with organization!"

During this discussion, James has gone down below to inspect the boat, and calls everyone on deck to come below to share his discovery of a chart of the area, pinpointing locations with names like "Fat City", "Bamboo City", and "Deadtree". For some unexplained reason, at this moment Kevin then decides to call his friend Sparrow, which remains his name until it is changed again later in the movie. A vote is taken, and they all agree to sail, bobbing their heads slowly up and down again and again while the solarization effect returns and Kevin wakes up.

"Well," the professor says, "now that we've covered it, that's what will be on the test." Kevin whispers to a student beside him (who happens to be Mike), "Hey, what's on the test?" Mike answers, "Didn't You Hear?"

After class, Kevin is in his dorm when he's surprised by a topless woman (Waters, who was in Macon County Line) entering his room as part of a sorority initiation. Trying to get her to leave (temporarily hiding her in the closet when a survey man calls by to try to get Kevin to answer questions about sex), the girl refuses to leave until Kevin drops his pants so she can pin her sorority's badge on his underpants. After she successfully pins the badge on, suddenly a photographer among a group of people several feet away outside takes a picture (using a flash for some reason.) While the group laughs and cheers, the girl runs away and leaves behind a humiliated Kevin. Kevin decides to deal with his rage and embarrassment by...going to his bed and falling asleep, leading him back to his dream world, where he and his buddies set sail.

Near sunset, they (including the survey guy who has suddenly joined the group) drop anchor near a beach with an abandoned shack, and row a longboat to shore. They then build a fire, using their I.D.s and Social Security cards as kindling. In case anyone hasn't got the point, a character then says, "Kind of symbolic - It's like...it's like we're destroying ourselves..."

That deep statement makes everyone silent for two seconds, except for Kevin, who mysteriously has disappeared for this segment. (Did Christopher have to go to school on that shooting day?) James - I mean, Sparrow - leads all his fellow pirates into a sing-along which goes as follows:

Vincent Van Gogh without an ear,
Paul Gaugin with a Tahitian girl,
Arthur Rimbald, drunk with rage,
Allen Ginsburg, the bearded sage!
Ohh, a new religion with Martin Luther!
Fidel Castro's gone to Cu-ber!

The song is such a big hit, they sing it again. During the singing, there are several cuts to one second shots of a man standing over the sitting sorority woman in darkness, staring into the camera. Symbolism? Foreshadowing? Never explained.

Later that night, two of the pirates have a conversation at the campfire. Do they talk about sex? Women? Beer? The Rams? No - they talk philosophy:

PETER: What's that noise - crickets? That sound - what is it?

MIKE: ....Crickets....

PETER: Strange...they never sounded like that before. Never! You know....there's so many things you never do.

MIKE: I never wrote a book - now will you go to sleep?

PETER: But you see....you could have! But you never wanted to. No....I mean things. Things like....well....you know. You can't drive a car without encountering a stop sign. First there's a throughway, then it's a caution sign. Then it's a yield-right-of-way. Finally, it's a stop sign - a progressively restrictive law!...You can't grow up without going to school - rules again! We can never really be free.... 'cause we are always conscious of the multitude of other people who live within the confines of everyone else. Rules...parent rules, people rules, state rules, federal rules! (Pause) I wonder who the parent was who took firecrackers away from all the generation of kids who haven't been born yet, by insisting firecrackers are dangerous! But...in the next breath, they send their kids off to war....(Pause, smiles) I sound like an off-repression freak....I guess I am!

MIKE: Hey, look, I don't go for you philosophical goon creeps!....(Sees he's embarrassed Peter)....Look, uh...did ya ever play hooky? You know, skip school 'cause you had something important to do like....like playing doctor in the hayloft with your sister. Ever explode a firecracker? Scared ya, right?

PETER: (nods) Yeah!

MIKE: That's what I mean! That's what I mean! You don't have to follow every law there is, man. We sure as hell didn't. Hell, if there weren't any laws....it wouldn't be any fun if there weren't any laws to break! Sure, there's laws - but there's some kind of law in your head, too! You have to do what your head tells you to, right? You take your chances with the other law....the creeps' law.

PIRATE OFF-CAMERA: Hey Peter, you get all that down?
 

(Well, I did - and I'm still trying to figure all of it out.)

After a period after what seems to be several days , the crew is on the boat, when the woman (still topless) swims to the boat and climbs aboard. She tells Kevin and the ogling crew, "I want to sail with you...because of my father. He's so militant! That's why I'm here - Didn't You Hear?" Kevin gives her clothes, despite already being successful covering her breasts with her arms in every previous scene. Yeah, I know, but the movie still worth seeing.

Later, with their new crew member, they sail to a cliff side and climb it, while a cheesy and haunting song plays, with these lyrics:

Deep blue...spaces
Have dreamed...places
My wind ship and me.

Where....might....we be sailing
My pilgrim....friends, today?
Like players in a game
We cannot play....too well                     (You can say that again!)

Didn't You Hear?

Ashes fall....on a dream
And they grow....pale
And fill....the one....
who has dreamed....

After climbing the cliff and making camp, Kevin orders some of the pirates to stand guard after being warned by Paige that her father and the islanders are hostile. (Now that her name is finally spoken at this point, I guess we can't call her "The Topless Girl" anymore.) Mike is amused by the whole idea, proclaiming, "You think these peasants are going to bother us? Pirates Accosted By Quiet Townspeople - I can see it now, headlines for the Fat City Times!"

As well in this segment, Sparrow's name mysteriously changes back to James. Kevin and Paige walk off to spend some time alone, and during a segment where there are many longshots of the couple to make the long conversation easy to make via post production dubbing, the two of them have the following conversation:

PAIGE: Ice cream....ice cream clouds! They look so much like ice cream.

KEVIN: Yeah. Ice cream in summertime. It's beautiful.

PAIGE: (Confused) It's beautiful? (Realizes what he was meaning) - Summertime. It should be beautiful. But for me, it's just a battle.

KEVIN: You mean "a challenge".

PAIGE: No, a battle....Sometimes I hate my life, Kevin. And my father. I dunno....ever since he retired from the service, all I can do is bug people. My brother, my mother, me....It's a struggle with no reason. What am I ever going to get out of it? What am I supposed to get out of it?

KEVIN: Hey, like I said before, it's a challenge. It's sorta....it's to see if you can live, and live without hating it. It's daring to do the things you enjoy. Like you know when a kid finds a new toy. He might tear it up, but if he really enjoys it, what difference does it make? At least he's not saving it for a rainy day. Start doing that soon enough. And that's the trouble - people forget how great things can be....like living....making love....zest, life, it's a hard thing to find anymore. You know, there are more stop signs, and young people just slide through them. Give the same people time to get older, and they won't slide through anymore. And something stops, and begins to die. It really freaks me out.

PAIGE: My dad was an army officer. We lived in so many different places, with so many different rules. Stop signs. It got harder and harder to remember any of them. My life finally became one big overlapping, confusing rule.

KEVIN: Then jump!

PAIGE: Jump?

KEVIN: Okay, look; there's a road, it's on a hill, and it's night. The road is traversing the hill, and there are these steep houses that rise on the upward side of the road. On the other side, there's a sharp steep embankment going 5 to 10 feet to some grass and bushes, but it's mostly grass. Okay, you're standing there, and if a car looks like it's going to hit you, you'd dive face-forward down the bank. You'd come down hard, but it would feel good from tumbling though that cool wet grass. But no one jumps over that bank, unless the car is coming straight down at them. People just don't jump off....But if they would, once in a while they'd have it. They have that zest, that happiness. They'd have everything.

PAIGE: I remember one time when I was small. My father left us with my aunt and uncle for the summer. We'd go to a lake in the hills and go swimming. They never understood why we'd want to swim at night. We'd run down this gangway to a painted wood dock, and jump off! That water was freezing cold....We'd make it to shore and go up that rocky beach. That light in the cabin seems strangely older....Oh, but our feet would hurt, because there were sharp rocks, and we'd be clammy cold. But when we got inside, we wouldn't want to put a blanket over us, for that would make it worse. We'd sit in front of a wood stove for a while, and pretty soon we'd run back down and jump into the water again!

KEVIN: Exactly! When people get older, they don't want to go swimming in the lake anymore. It's the rule....little by little, they lose that zest. There's no more adventure, there's no more playing. Well, that's not for me. I just can't understand why people can't play forever. Why can't they do the same things when they're older that they did when they were younger? Only do it more elaborately. Playing with sophistication - it's like jumping off that bank.

PAIGE: Kevin....my father....he's not going to let you play. Not here - not anywhere near here. That's what I was trying to tell you earlier on the Queen. You see, you're not island people. You're not any kind of people as far as the island people are concerned. But you - all of you - are life as I see it. But he's not fooling. He means to do you harm....
 

Meanwhile, at the camp, everyone is getting to sleep. One pirate thinks in his half-sleep: "From now on....life's going to be....just....one big bowl of fish eyes." We then get a close-up of the eye of a dead fish, and then a close-up of Paige's angry father seething in the dark.

(Brilliant! Just brilliant cinema! Bunuel would seeth in envy if he were still alive!)

Next day, the pirates and Paige continue on their journey. Along the way, Paige and Kevin become lovers, in perhaps the first solarization love scene in cinematic history. The team soon plans to hit "Bamboo City", for fresh food and supplies, then go to "Prince Chicken" to have a celebration feast. But before that, the rest of the song plays:

A long....wind....brings me answers
To....questions....never asked
This diamond highway slips between
Our wings....so fast

Didn't You Hear?

We have....no place to be
Any road....that....
We take....will land....
In the sea

Someone....comes up behind me
Someone....too dark to see
And when I turn to look,
It's only me....you see

Didn't You Hear?

All these lies....pass away
When you see....them....
They go....but you....
Have to stay

That night, the pirates attack. The initial attack is shown with a wooden match being shot out and lit via a clothespin. Yes, you read that right - a match being shot towards the city with a clothespin. The match then hits a group of crude buildings made of wicker and bamboo. Fireworks inside the buildings light, and as thousands of sparks fly into the air, the pirates run around those buildings, which happen to be only 2 feet high. (I'm not making this up.) The building eventually catch fire, and we're treated to many close-ups of them shriveling in the flames while the pirates continue to run around.

The pirates arrive at "Prince Chicken", which is just consisted of a picnic table. As they eat up, they discuss more philosophy while they are not staring wide-eyed into their cue cards. Mike proclaims, "This is it - a king's - no, a child's life! Nothing really needs to be done. You know, we played like children today!

His fellow pirates toast him and his proclamations. Another pirate then theorizes, "Yeah, but a kid always does what he wants. Takes the risks if he chooses. He's not entirely aware of the consequences. And the adults don't expect him to be fully responsible. See, he's allowed to get away with anything. The islanders aren't going to allow us to get away with being here much longer."

Kevin (off-camera once again, though we hear his voice) is firm: "Hey, we can't allow these islanders to bother us. Our play today had a purpose. Maybe it was only an escape to necessity, but that's purpose enough. I think maybe we've gone beyond this child stage. (Yelling) HEY! YOU OUT THERE - THINK WE'RE CHILDREN?"

Mike is amused. He rises, raises his goblet to a toast, and yells, "We're invaders! WE'VE COME... TO CONQUER YOU! AND ACQUIRE THE EARTH! To use it...as a playground!"

The other pirates start laughing. Even soft-spoken Peter starts getting in the spirit. He says, "They are here, you know. It really doesn't matter. I mean, we can leave any time we want! We aren't obliged to follow their rules. They can't punish us for what they think is foreign!"

Mike continues his outburst. "YOU HEAR THAT? YOU CAN'T PUNISH US, SO GIVE UP, GO AWAY, GO PUT UP A NEW STOP SIGN! So next year, you can widen the road, and then you can have a hundred new tourists come and you can make some new rules - you think we're weird!" His pirate comrades laugh again

Then Mike starts flapping his arms and shrieking, "CLUCK! CLUCKCLUCKCLUCK!"

The pirates find this funny as well. The pirate who theorized about children earlier starts to get nervous about the islanders, saying about them, "They may not be able to punish us, but they can attempt to break up our games. And run us away from here. And there will be nowhere. It's their island - even the island knows that. We really haven't got our own place...."

The pirates grow silent, and the scene dissolves to later, when the pirates have left and several chickens are pecking away at the leftovers, and cutting once to another shot of Paige's pissed-off father's face.

Sailing off, they head to the next destination on the chart, an unidentified house on an island. Landing on a beach (where their number has jumped from eight to nine for no reason), they run into the hills and locate the house, owned by a blind man named Virgil who is having lunch with four girls he met earlier that day.

"Yes, yes," Virgil tells the giggling girls. "Now you take drugs, for example," (I bet the filmmakers took that sentence to heart before making this movie.) "Now, I've wondered about that a great deal. But I'm still not sure I'll get around to using them. I think one should know what one wants before he does something like that. Don't you think?" (Could Don't You Think have been a planned sequel to Didn't You Hear?)

Suddenly, Mike pops up outside at the window, with a knife clenched in his teeth and a matchbook cover attached to his bandana, acting as an eyepatch. "Oh my God. Pirates," one of the young lady says in an exasperated tone when she sees Mike at the window.

Barging into the house, Kevin states the demands of his crew, for food and possibly companionship for his men. The women don't seem disturbed by this at all; neither is Virgil, ("Pirates? Some sort of music group?") who welcomes them in and invites them to a potluck dinner over at the Grange Hall that night.

Later that afternoon, everybody walks over to the Grange Hall, stopping along the way to swing on a rope and walk along the tops of logs on the beach. When they arrive at the hall, Paige's father (named Higby) spots the group and walks over to Virgil. "You can't imagine how delightful it is to walk with them, to listen to their playfulness, to feel their vitality!" exclaims Virgil to Higby. As Higby glowers again, Virgil joins Peter in a conversation that I found obvious, yet oddly touching:

VIRGIL: You know, when I was young, I never did the things I said I'd do anyway.

PETER: Well, we never really know what we really want until we're older and the things we want are kind of difficult to do. But everyone's experienced that.

VIRGIL: Yes....but no no no - that's not sort of the thing I mean. You see, when I was young, I didn't do things with people. I was always terribly alone. My choice, of course, but I was still alone. But now I know....I know it was a waste, for I know your generation of young people reach out....you communicate. It's always been a very difficult thing for me to reach out.

PETER: But Virgil, your life is you. How you live it determines whether if it's been wasted or not. The waste depends on no one but yourself.....And you're not wasted. (Smiling) You're all right, you're a real nice guy.

VIRGIL: (smiling, but near tears)
 

Meanwhile, the other pirates are chowing down and whooping it up with the girls. Higby angrily growls, "Out of the mouths of bases comes baby talk," with the camera in a close-up at his mouth, and moving slowly to his eyes. "Playful. Yes, my friends....these childish friends are playful. Perhaps a communal playpen would do for them rather than a ship."

James is angry, replying, "Sir, our games are more than -"

But Higby interrupts him, and proceeds to continue to insult the pirates. "Awww....your games! And while you play your games, who raises your sails? Your babysitter?" While he's saying this, director Sherwood pays an homage to Ed Wood by continuing to show only Higby's eyes as he speaks his insults.

Kevin calmly replies, "Sir....may I complement you on the raising of your daughter. She's lovely. It's hard to believe you come from the same family....See, she plays a lovely game. Not such a childish game as you might think. A lovely game!...."

Kevin and his crew start to leave and Higby tries to stop his daughter, but the men surround him in a circle and shove him around while an instrumental of "London Bridge Is Falling Down" plays, though it soon changes to "Frere Jacques".

As they leave, Higby yells out his determination to stop them. "You can't do this to me! You can't do this to me! You can't - oooh! I'll show you! I'll show all of you! No matter where you go, I'll be there! (Starts crying) I'll be there!....I'll be there...." It's a credit to actor Jack Kosslyn that he somehow manages to do a good job with this scene and the rest of his brief appearances.

Concerned about Paige's father, Kevin gets Mike and another pirate to travel to the other side of the island to meet them at Aunt Mary's Pier And Plume, and do some spying along the way. That night, the two spies observe Higby talking to some other islanders - and holding a rifle.

The pirates and the girls (who have joined the crew) on the ship sight Mike and the other pirate on the other side of the island the next day. In a tight close-up of his face and one of the girls, Kevin, looking at the two figures on shore, says, "When they say it's clear, we'll play tonight by setting up huge candles on the side of the cliff."

"Why candles?" asks the girl.

"IT'S HAPPY BIRTHDAY WORLD DAY!" screams a voice during a shot of Kevin and two others standing behind a foot-tall candle on the cliff.

Cutting to another tight close-up of Kevin, but with another girl, Kevin says, "When they say it's clear, we'll play tonight by setting up huge candles on the side of the cliff."

"Why candles?" asks the girl.

"IT'S HAPPY BIRTHDAY WORLD DAY!" screams a voice during a shot of Kevin and two others standing behind a foot-tall candle on the cliff.

Then there's a third close-up with Kevin and another girl. Kevin says, "When they say it's clear, we'll play tonight by setting up huge candles on the side of the cliff."

"Why candles?" asks the girl.

"IT'S HAPPY BIRTHDAY WORLD DAY!" screams a voice during a shot of Kevin and two others standing behind a foot-tall candle on the cliff.

(It gets even better!) Once more, a shot with Kevin and a fourth girl. Kevin says, "When they say it's clear, we'll play tonight by setting up huge candles on the side of the cliff."

"Why candles?" asks the girl.

"IT'S HAPPY BIRTHDAY WORLD DAY!" screams a voice during a shot of Kevin and two others standing behind a foot-tall candle on the cliff. The last few notes of "Happy Birthday To You" plink out on the soundtrack...

In the morning, they set off again on a four-day journey. During the voyage, Sparrow - I mean James - has a cryptic conversation with another pirate:

PIRATE: These islanders are messing around with our individualism. Our oneness. Our completely unique right to exist or not exist, as we want it.

JAMES: You certainly enjoy death - is there a reason?

PIRATE: Who knows. Maybe it's just a good thing to talk about. Earth....birth....death....see, one can't exist without the other.

JAMES: Yeah, but you know when you're on the earth, don't you?

PIRATE: How? Someone give you a road map? Earth....now that, um, seventeen eons down the road.

JAMES: Aw dammit, I know where I was born!!

PIRATE: No you don't. That's only something you read on a piece of paper or something.

JAMES: I suppose the next thing you'll tell me is that I'm not really here and that I'm already dead!!

PIRATE: No - death....is a very special thing. Who knows - death could be Higby himself.....
 

Next, the pirates discuss their next destinations, Tree Fortress and Fat City. "What do you think this is - Deadtree," asks that theorizing pirate. No one knows or seems interested in learning more about it now, saving it for later. "Well, it's dead..." that pirate insists.

"We'll give it a funeral," Mike answers.

Landing again, the pirates go into the woods to a crude tree house, where they fly rubber band-powered toy airplanes, and Mike using them as target practice with his rifle. Paige is moved almost to tears when she picks up one of the toys, with a bullet hole in the wing. But Peter comforts her, by showing her that the plane can still fly. See, something might be gone, but life continues.

James comes rushing back from patrol to report that he's found a jeep. Kevin feels they can use it to check out Fat City. Mike insists, "We could...but why not take the Queen? Pillage... rape.... Steal our supplies and hostages - get these guys off our backs for good!"

Our friend, the theorizing pirate, states his views. "They might fight back. Could be dangerous, but could prove what kind of pirates we really are. I'm for that." He smiles. "I could die!"

"Oh Jesus..." exclaims Mike.

Kevin and Paige take along Mike, Peter, and another pirate to accompany them in a drive to check out Fat City. During the long drive, the camera at one point zooms into a YIELD sign. What - couldn't the movie afford a STOP sign, after all those discussions about stop signs in society?

They drive up to a corner store, and Paige, Peter, and Kevin enter the store to find some mosquito repellent. Paige picks up an issue of The Fat City Times, somehow missing the gigantic headline that states Pirates Accosted By Quiet Townspeople.

Suddenly, they hear a shot. They race outside to join their companions, but all five quickly find themselves surrounded by Higby and a group of armed townspeople. Getting in the jeep to try to drive off, two shots are fired - and four people in the jeep collapse. Kevin, the lone survivor, watches in horror.

There's a cut to another location. We see Kevin's crew members dressed in black shirts and in whiteface, making them look like a troop of mimes. They carry a coffin and lay it to rest under a dead tree - Deadtree, get it? Standing around the coffin, they hold lit black candles. Inside the coffin is a dead Kevin. Yes, I know he wasn't dead in the previous scene, but I think you long stopped expecting logic from this movie.

At that point, Kevin wakes up back in his dorm. He calls the sorority, asking to speak to Paige.

"Oh," says the woman on the other end. "Didn't You Hear?"

Kevin's face turns both sad and horrified. The scene turns back to The Queen Of Sheba bathed in moonlight. Kevin and the crew jump off the ship and swim back to shore as a fog bank starts moving in. A familiar eerie voice whispers in the darkness, "Earth....birth....death....see, one can't exist without the other...." Fade to black.

"Death...is a very special thing."
 

The End

Click here to zip past the "spoiler shield" and get to the rest of the review



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

You like doing things the hard way? I admire you.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

("Spoiler Shield" above, to prevent the end of the movie being spoiled for those who skipped down here.)

Despite the above description being much longer than usual for this web page, it still doesn't begin to describe the movie properly. You have to actually see it to fully understand why, even after watching this movie several times, my reaction to the movie is first of several seconds of silence. Then exclaiming to myself: What the hell were these guys thinking of??????

Since I first saw Didn't You Hear, I've made a few attempts to find more information about this movie. Almost all of my efforts ended in complete failure, and the success I did have was limited. I was unable to track down Skip Sherwood or find any information about him. I did write to Gary Busey on a whim, and he was actually kind enough to send a short note informing me that the movie was made in 1970 (despite the copyright date on the print stating 1983.) Another whim, writing to Dennis Christopher, didn't get me any information, but he was nice enough to send me a personally autographed picture of him several months later, so it wasn't a total loss.

Recently, I heard that Shock Cinema magazine covered this movie and gave it a positive review; I tracked down this review, but it was very short and gave no information about the production history. But I did manage to track the author of the review, who informed me that when the movie was issued on video, a soundtrack album (!) was released as publicity material. I still have no idea how this movie got made, or even if it got a theatrical release.

One theory I have is that this could have been a student production; in the 70s, many college campuses would show movies made by students that were frequently made with an experimental air to them. This movie would have easily fit in. Or maybe the movie might have been a tax shelter. Who knows? But I sure the story of the making of this movie is a fascinating one.

Why do I have such a fascination with this movie? As I said before, I'm not entirely sure why. After all, there are quite a few things in the movie that even I find terrible. Speaking of terrible, so is some of the acting; though Christopher actually gets by with his acting a lot more times that you think, some of his emoting - particularly the scene in the dorm where he has to show shock, nervousness, and humiliation - is pretty embarrassing to watch, even for a fan of his like me. (His talents did eventually grow with his age. Check out Breaking Away and Don't Cry, It's Only Thunder to see just how good he can be.)

The movie was written by four screenwriters, and it shows. Didn't You Hear is a crazy mix of wildly different ideas and philosophies. It can't decide if it's a symbolic journey or life and death, or if it's a statement on individualism. Whatever it chooses to be at any time, it is frequently poorly written or realized. What does the opening scene with the smokers supposed to accomplish? What actually did happen to Paige at the end? What is the purpose of having a "Happy Birthday World Day"? If the movie is supposed to be a plea for individualism, why do the pirates all dress alike? Even the stronger scenes in the movie are weakened by the character of Kevin. Before he enters the dream world, there is almost no attempt to flesh him as a character. We are not sure if he's a loner or not, not much else about his personal life, or what makes him tick. As a result, what could be an interesting look at a character coming out of his shell in his fantasies, making bold proclamations and "fighting the system", never comes to fruition. It's not helped that he and his co-stars are saddled with some really bizarre and laughable dialogue, as you've read above.

Director Sherwood takes some very blatant short-cuts and cost-saving direction techniques along the way. There are several obvious scenes with the characters shot at a distance and the dialogue post-dubbed. Unfortunately, in some of these shots we can see the characters' faces clearly - and they aren't moving their lips. The post-dubbed dialogue also provides some unintentional humor; in the "Prince Chicken" feast scene, it's obvious that Christopher wasn't there for the scene, and Sherwood tries to add him in by having his character Kevin speak some lines, ahem, "off-camera". The movie looks murky and somewhat out of focus, and seems to have been filmed on 16 mm. In fairness to Sherwood, he does make the night sequences look very good, and he chose some very scenic locations to shoot at.

And that's not all there is to like about it. Even though the movie has silly and incomprehensible streaks in it, in the middle of the production there is heart. As bad as this movie might get, it is executed with such passion and conviction that you can't help but get hooked along the way. Didn't You Hear is a courageous movie - it has ideas and philosophies that it doesn't just allude to, but actually says them out loud. With many "message" movies trying to deliver their messages in subtle ways, lest these movies turn controversial and/or turning people off, Didn't You Hear's courage is very refreshing. The message telling people to try and be individuals and dreamers is something we can all relate to, and the movie actually admits that it can be hard to impossible to be these things in society. Several other observations the movie makes, including people losing zest as they get older, and finding a place for yourself means giving up a part of your individualism are undeniably true. Sure, the movie is extremely goofy, but though these observations may be delivered in a silly fashion, one can still see them during the course of the movie.

Speaking of individualism, Didn't You Hear is a one-of-a-kind movie. Can you think of another movie that even begins to share Didn't You Hear's basic plot, or even individual scenes? I can't. It's a true original, the kind that only gets made once in a blue moon. It's alternately hilarious, fascinating, ludicrous, eerie, and thought-provoking. Some people will watch it, and just laugh. Some people might brush it aside as mere stupidity. But I think there's a chance that there are people out there who'll look at it with the same intrigue, feeling that somehow the mess of the movie comes together to make a unique "one". Or maybe it's just me - for some reason, every time I watch this movie, I get this odd thought in my head: "This movie was made just for me." Whether it was, or if there are others that will enjoy it, I don't care one way or the other; it's a personal favorite.

By the way...do you happen to know anyone in the cast or crew? If so, give me a shout.

Anthony Victor - Knight
John Kauffman - Steve
Terence O'Brien - Peter
Jack Kosslyn - Higby
Mike Mickler - Virgil
John Rice - Crosley
James Farren - Ian
Scott McBreen - Jeff
Judy Nagie - Judy
Pam Sherwood - Pam
Katy Coyle - Katy
Cindy Bledsoe - Cindy

Screenplay: Mike Mickler, Skip Sherwood, Karl Krogstad, Joanne Filton
Script Supervisor - Judy Redlin

Music score: Mort Garson
Title song lyrics: Tom Muncrief
Title song singer: Tom Muncrief
Title song music: Mort Garson

Director of Photography - Karl Korgstad
Assistant Producer - William Redlin
Camera Operators - John Koester, Mike Jones
Assistant Camera - Terry Clairmont

Lightning Direction - Mike Jones
Best Boy: Donald Wolak
Best Boy: Ken Elam
Key Grip: Mike Watkins
Assistants: Roger McCarty, Rich Broocker, Bob Wahlborg

Set Dressing: Roger Nebergall

Hair Styling - Gordon Westlund

Sound Recording - Tom Koester
Film Editing - Donald W. Ernst
Post Production Supervisor - Fred J. Brown
 

Or these locations?

Props: The Prop Guys
Showcase of Men's Hair Styling
Post Production: Edit International
Location by Cinemobile Systems, Inc.
 

Now that I'm finished this 100th review, I think I need a vacation....

WAIT - THAT'S NOT ALL! CLICK HERE TO READ A NUMBER OF LETTERS I'VE RECEIVED REGARDING DIDN'T YOU HEAR!
 

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)

See also: Pushing Up Daisies, The Star Wars Holiday Special, Incubus

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