Didn't You Hear



UPDATE 1: Reader John Stanton sent me this interesting letter:

"I decided to do a little searching for info on the film Didn't You Hear and came across your excellent site.  Looks like a labor of love and though I am not as much as a film fan as I once was (I'm afraid the music bug is my consuming passion), I'm sure I'll find lots more that will be interesting.

"Anyway, more to the point, you mentioned that if anyone had any information relevant to the film then let you know.  This is rather peripheral and you may be aware of this already but the person who composed the score for the music Mort Garson, was a fairly well known musician in the late 60's/early 70's, primarily for his use of the then novel Moog and other synthesizers.  He recorded an LP under the moniker Lucifer, entitled Black Mass; it is dark brooding electronics. Also he did an LP called Cosmic Sounds which is based on signs of the Zodiac which is similar but in a more psychedelic 60's mode.  I am sure he did other recordings as well and may still be active in music today, who knows.

"I have only seen maybe 1 hr. of this film but am going to try to get a copy on video if I can.  I fell asleep on the couch one evening and woke up about 3:00 in the morning and couldn't get back to sleep.  I turned on the TV and did a little channel surfing and this film was on.  It was at the sequence where the "mermaid" swims onto the boat and joins the crew.  I was fascinated by what I saw though the flaws you pointed out were blatant and the film seemed as ridiculous as it was ambitious.  Nonetheless I was very much held rapt by the movie. I was extremely tired however and fell back asleep after perhaps 45 min -1 hr. Always tried to find out more about this film and well, here I am. I seemed to recall that it looked like Judd Hirsch was also in this film or am I mistaken? Anyway, thanks for the info and again, great site!"

Thanks for this information, John. To answer your question: Judd Hirsch did not appear in this movie. Aside from Christopher, Busey, and Waters, it seems the rest of the cast was made up of unknowns. Good luck trying to find it on video, though; it's long been out of print.

UPDATE 2: Reader Timothy L. Fox was kind enough to share this information with me:

"I'm surprised no one has said this, or perhaps they have already and I don't know, but Jack Kosslyn, who played Higby in Didn't You Hear, had a somewhat productive film career and was a frequent favorite of Director / Producer / Writer / Special Effects Artist Bert I. Gordon. Some of the films he appeared in, besides Gordon's, include Play Misty for Me and High Plains Drifter. Great film site, I'll be sure to bookmark it!"

UPDATE 3: Bruce Kitts sent me this very interesting letter:

"Here's what I can tell you about Didn't You Hear:

"Karl Krogstad and I were seniors at the University of Washington when he approached me about his movie project. He had been making short films in his spare time, but somehow he connected with someone willing to let him make a feature film.

"He had a script written by some woman about a fantasy daydream but he needed something to set up the daydream. He described the characters and asked me to write something. I typed out about six pages, with the 
conversation walking along the campus and the sorority initiation. (When they showed it on television they drowned out Gary Busey's lines with a jet overhead.)"
(Note: This also happens in the video version.)

"Krogstad said I would be paid for my writing and he set up a meeting with Skip Sherwood, who turned out to be an ad salesman whose family owned newspapers and who had talked someone in his family into letting him make a movie. Krogstad told me later that Sherwood had some connection to a production company and that many in the crew had worked in major features, although in lesser jobs.

"Make no mistake about it, this was Krogstad's movie even though Sherwood is listed as the director. Krogstad was listed as the director of photography, and the quality of his work stands out. Krogstad's family had property in the San Juan Islands and he picked out the locations. Krogstad and I met with Skip Sherwood, who looked over my stuff and said it was great and told me he can't pay me much. I said "I don't care, I'll just feel good about having my name in the credits." The room goes silent and I learn a lesson about film credits. Sorry, but the rights to the credits were negotiated when they bought the stupid daydream story. Sherwood says he'll give me $250, which I never saw.

"The movie was filmed at the University of Washington during the summer. I had graduated and moved to Alaska where I was a newspaper reporter and was unable to see the movie when it came out later that year. I read the Seattle papers, though, and read the reviews, one of which said that the only good things about the movie were the funny scenes at the beginning of the movie and the scenic photography during the stupid daydream story. My family saw the movie and occasionally I ran into people who saw it. 

"Evidently they rented out four or five theaters around Seattle for a week in hopes of getting strong attendance. It snowed, and the next time I saw 
Krogstad (when he had another writing project for me), he told me that the IRS owned the movie. It wasn't until 1983 when it showed up in video that I finally was able to see Didn't You Hear. I got out my carbon copies of my script and followed  Gary Busey and Dennis Christopher speaking my lines. They spoke them the way I wrote them. Then I had to sit through the stupid daydream part.

"Krogstad has made many short films over the past 30 years or so. He 
utilized Barbie and Ken dolls almost 20 years before they showed up in 
Toyota's ad campaign. His Black-And-Decker Hedge Trimmer Murders is 
wonderful. He took a serious turn with "Surrealism." Information about 
Krogstad is available at his website at:

"Krogstad has good stories about the production including how he had to stop Gary Busey from punching Dennis Christopher because he thought Dennis was stealing Gary's scenes." 

UPDATE 4: Lynn Templeton provided this information:

"I just read your essay and review of Didn't You Hear. I too had an interest in this movie. One of the cast members, John Rice, was in my high school class (Glacier High School, since closed, near Seattle). I have no idea how he got in a movie a year after we graduated (1969). To my knowledge, he was never in another film. I've run into him a few times over the years and he had problems with employment and alcohol and gambling. He was an overweight kid in high school, but a very good golfer. He was on a state ranked golf team, and I think his parents were country club types. 

"I actually saw this movie at a drive in theatre and about fainted when I 
recognized John. I asked him about it at our 20th reunion and he laughed it off as a fun experience."

UPDATE 5: Chas Mannell sent this along:

"I have been looking for some info. on the movie soundtrack of the
above and was pleased to find an item on your site. I picked up the LP soundtrack in a local junk shop last year and was intrigued by the cover blurb and music within. As there is no mention of this LP in any of the well-known record guides I have had a problem with getting some background on it. Thanks to your great site, I now know a great deal about it. You've probably seen the LP sleeve-it's all grainy black and white with a sailing boat and several heads in the water. The titles don't credit Gary Busey-just Christopher, Waters and Kauffman. Anyway, in case you need to know, it's on the Custom Fidelity label out of Hollywood (release number CFS2379)."

UPDATE 6: From Tom Koester:

"I was really surprised to find that Didn’t You Hear had such a cult
following.  I was the sound mixer on this film, which, except for the
University scenes, was all shot in 1970 on Lopez Island.

"As one respondent correctly reported, the film’s creativity is all Karl
Krogstad.  Karl was (and still is) an experimental film/video maker in the
Seattle area.  Skip Sherwood was some sort of marketing person.  The
connection was made when Skip made some advertising spots (which may have been Veg-a-Matic). 

Karl had the film script and the idea, Skip had the dream of going Hollywood. The film was shot in 35mm Techniscope (half frame) and the Cinemascope compositions are a real plus since it seems  to have been shot without the concept of TV safe and “throw away”.

"The actors were a mix of Hollywood (Gary Busey, Cheryl Walters, Dennis Christopher) and local folks. One local, Scott McBreen was a very talented mimic.  He was a golfer who did a stand-up act at tournaments and golf clubs, doing imitations of famous golfers (and their golf swings!)  He was very funny.  He kept the cast and crew in stitches in the evenings doing imitations of literally everyone in the cast and crew.  I had  never seen anyone who did such a good imitation of  ... me!  His talent is not evident on the screen.

"Bill Redlin was a Production Manager hired to make sure the film was
completed.  He had a reputation for making sure of completion, and I believe was a key element in getting completion bonds.  Most of the crew members came from Bill and had already worked on one or more projects with him.  A remarkable man, he passed away some time ago (maybe 10 or more years).  My brother (John Koester) was brought along as
operator “to keep things straight” since Karl had never shot 35mm (or a feature film) before.  My brother had a long career in TV and movies.  His last credits were as Camera Operator on “Roswell” and the first episodes of “NYPD Blue.  He died in a traffic accident in 1996.

"Karl Korgstad is still functioning as an experimental film maker.  In the 70 & 80’s, he made very ambitious live action and puppet animation films:  “Egg Nog”, “The Black and Deker Hedge Trimmer Murders”, “Party Line”, “Jack in the Fox”, “Catharsis - or Life in the Fast Lane”, shot with a very used spring wound Bolex and scads of  young Seattle volunteers.  These films, like Didn’t You Hear, burst with creativity and imaginative moments, but often lack cohesiveness, drive or comprehension.  In the 80’s he started Krogstad Studios to make music videos, which seemed like a natural for him, since non-sequitir creative images were the staple of early music videos.  He also made a feature film Strings, which is nearly unwatchable and I don’t think ever saw any release.   Janice Findley, who worked with Karl on many of these films (and stars in “Catharsis”) is a film maker in her own rite.  Her film: “The Art Form of the Twentieth Century” features Karl and very impressive clips from his films.   Currently, Karl seems to work exclusively in video.  I haven’t seen him in a couple of years.  The last video of his that I’ve seen: “Fork on a Filling” shows his imagination still working
full tilt." 

UPDATE 7: Ashley Sherwood contacted me with this:

"Just wanted to drop you a quick niece came across your review of this movie. Skip Sherwood is my father, he currently lives in Massachusetts - but good luck tracking him down. He also produced another movie you might want to check out - Americana with David Carradine. Just wanted to note that Skip's family did not own the newspaper that he worked at, it was the White Center News and the paper was owned by Jerry Robison and my father was in charge of advertising. Didn't You Hear was his first venture in to filmmaking - which he followed with Americana... My mother did have a copy of the movie, but doesn't know if it was still around. She does have several copies of the record soundtrack. As she put "The movie was good, but people got bored...the music is really beautiful though." Like you every once in awhile (if she couldn't sleep) she would come across it on VERY late night TV."

(Reader "Janet" wrote in to add, "Another movie named Country Mile starring Bobbie Carradine produced and directed by Skip Sherwood and David Carradine, was filmed at the same time of the movie Americana.")

UPDATE 8: Scott McBreen ("Jeff") wrote in with this:

"Yes, I was in this rotten tomatoe (Quayle) Didn't You Hear.  I have mostly rotten memories of the whole experience, thanks to Gary Busey.  Buesy, was an up and coming, yet undiscovered, Hollywood actor who jumped at a chance to star in a C-- movie.  He had an ego that could fill the old Kingdome.  He would come to dominate everything; the rehearsals, evening rehearsals, filming, night life, ladies on the set (damn few), pot smoking time, up time, down time everything.  This guy could dominate it all. 

"Most of us up her in the Pacific Northwest had never seen nor met anyone quite like this. We filmed this gem on one of the most beautiful islands in the world; Lopez Island in the Washington San Juans. Paul Allen owns a mansion there. Most of us viewed the whole experience as one grand vacation.  The San Juans are hidden in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mts, and south Lopez gets less yearly rain than Los Angeles.  It was so boring up there ( I had a date with a cow one night) that we did our rehearsals for the next day's shooting in the evening.  Like all rehearsals, Busey dominated this one.  The asst director who was supposed to run these things, got shut down immediately by the steamrolling Busey. He actually was quite intimidated, and sat by while Busey enforced his ideas on all. In his eyes, the movie was all about him.

"One night I couldn't take it anymore, and stupidly I said to Busey, "Why don't you let the asst director run these meeting."  I realized my mistake when I saw steam rising out of Busey's shirt collar.  I was a paltry 150 lbs at the time, and Busey was just out of Oklahoma football program, about 6 foot 3 and 225 lbs. And in shape too. I noticed it got silent in the room.  After the meeting, when we all cleared outside I noticed a hand coming across my chest and the next thing I knew I was on the ground. This beet red face was  quivering above me, and this is all I remember hearing "If you ever humiliate me again in front of all those people, they're going to have to tear me off you.'  I was the one quivering , and for days.  Trapped on Lopez Island with a mad man.  And there was no way off. This happened the first week of 5 long weeks on this island. 

"Believe me, I did my best to keep on the farthest point of the Island from Busey after that.  Oh, you still couldn't avoid him; one night he came running into the barracks with this odd Oklahoma twang "We got a bullet, we got a bullet."  What did that mean?  A bullet was was his new hit single, which for one day, 'raced' up the charts. He had a musical group on the side. Multi talented, I guess.  I heard it once on the radio 1970, then never heard it again.  The bullet was a 'blank.' 

"Busey tried to make up to me later when we got back to Seattle.  He asked me if I could get him some good 'grass.'  "Sure," I said, hoping to relieve myself of the junk I had gotten a few weeks ago.  I smoked in those days then quit in ''74.  I unloaded the stuff on Busey for quadruple the price I had paid for it, then went into fearing for my life again.  When I saw Busey again  I was terrified, thinking this was when They were going to have to tear him off me.  "Great stuff Scott," said Gary, "Could you get us some more?"  Wow, was I ever relieved.  He told me "Let's go hit some golf balls one of these days."  Sure, I told him, knowing full well I wouldn't be caught alive on God's green grass with him.  Dead maybe. He also slept with the female star of the movie.  The reason I remember this is that the heroine was married.

"Poor guy. I put a curse on his career, and for the most part it worked.  I now read he is a born again Christian, (as I am) although on his TV documentary, even his pastor said he had trouble with Gary. Shocking.  I don't believe Gary and I would  have much fellowship, even knowing that. The sound man Tom Koester, was a real character.  He should have been in the picture.  All in all, the film could have been a real estate classic, as the San Juans Islands are some of the world's most valuable island real estate... I even saved a guys life in that movie.  Dennis Christopher couldn't swim, (nice time to find out), and during evening shooting (in the water too) about 39 degrees even in summer.  Christopher was sinking, so I walked underneath him and put his feet on my shoulders and walked him in. I may have saved the movie for rotten tomatoe status."

UPDATE 9: John Bilancieri sent this along:

"The last I knew, Skip was living in Sudbury, Mass.. His wife owns and operates "Sumiko Fashion" in Framingham, Mass.. At one point in the mid-80's, he was going to promote a band that I was in. He said that he had just retired as V.P. of A&R at Warner Bros.. He talked a good game, but I never saw any results. He spoke a lot of the times he spent hanging out with David Carradine, and his work on the 70's T.V. show Kung Fu."

UPDATE 10: Scotty Holman wrote in with this:

"On a whim, I decided to do a Google search on 'didn't you hear?' I was thrilled when I found a site pertaining to the film Didn't You Hear? My excitement only increased as I perused the site, being reminded of a film which had a deep impact on me during my high school years, but which I have not seen since. I nearly drove my mother crazy, begging to go back and see this strange film again and again. Four times she drove the six miles or so downtown, dropped me off, drove home, and then came and picked me up when I called. I even talked her into giving me the money to buy the soundtrack album, which was on sale at the theater.

"Everything about Didn't You Hear? was cutting edge, from the the weird plot twists to the soundtrack, which claimed to be the first entirely electronic movie score. I am inclined to believe it, as the synthesizers that were used were some of the earliest built. The film also was meticulous in the cinematography, and the editing foretold the frenzied splicing which was to become the norm in 7 or 8 years. I was living in a small, back water town in Washington state at the time, and movies were one of my favorite forms of escape. But I had never seen anything like this!

"I was told by some of the staff of the theater that the film was a doctoral thesis in cinematography, made by a wealthy grad student at the University of Washington, which is where all the campus footage was filmed. The rest of the film was shot in the San Juan Islands, off the northwestern coast of Washington state. Because the cinematography was the reason for the film, the storyline was not given a lot of attention, and was mostly created by the doctoral candidate's fellow students. This created a somewhat confusing state of affairs, as you are seeing rather inane drama being portrayed with lavish attention to detail. It seems like it ought to be important, but it really isn't. But there was more to the film than exercises in filming. Out of the morass of plot twists, fantasy interludes, and unresolved conflicts, a gestalt of the times seemed to emerge, one which was kind of like seeing the world through the eyes of a group of people, instead of a single character, and experiencing the upheavals and reconsiderations that the times were forcing on people.

"Of course, I was a lonely, aloof teenager, so this kind of avant garde filmmaking would strike a chord with me. I often wonder if I would feel anywhere near as strongly about the film if I were to see it today. I'll probably never have the chance to find out. But, thank you for bringing back some memories of another era!"

UPDATE 11: Richard Wiley sent this in:

"I have a strange memory as the son of a theatre owner in Port Townsend, Wa. In 1970 I was 13 years old. In those days independent film makers marketed their movies as part of what was then called "four walls" (if I remember correctly) One of those Film makers and or "distributor" for Didn't You Hear, asked my dad, Dick Wiley, owner of the Uptown Theatre in Port Townsend, for a play date. He agreed and played it to a curious audience for I think only 3 or 4 days. I remember how strange it was and to my Dad, who couldn't have been any farther away from the "Hippies", this film and the people involved with it could have been from another planet. We had a small reception after screening get together at the house one evening and even that was strange. It was such an odd experience it really stuck in my memory. Just thought I'd add a little 1970 exhibitor perspective on Didn't You Hear."

UPDATE 12: I got this from Doyle Bell:

"A bit more grist for your mill about this movie.

"There was an ad placed in the Univ of Washington Husky newspaper about an open casting call and need for extras for this movie they were making. I was a poor student, so I showed up in order to make few $$.

"The main scene for "extras" was an auditorium scene where some of us were told to look bored, others studious. I chose "bored" and gave them what they wanted. Reality is always better than forced. Later they called back some of us for another shoot in the "Quad". I guess they liked my "bored" look.

"They told us the name of the movie and when it was released, so like most people who were in the film, I went and watched the movie. I suppose that after almost 40 years, it might be fun to go watch it again an reflect on my 15 seconds of lost youth.

"Was the movie "memorable"? Beats me."

UPDATE 13: "Michael" sent this in:

"Just wanted to give my take on the movie as well as a bit more “family history” first off a shout out to my cousin Ashley you will not remember me last time I recall you were in diapers and I was like 5 years old. I am in contact 04/2010 with Skip. Your history did provide additional information and as off beat these movies are that Skip worked on including the cast, crews, backers, writer’s at that time this was very innovative and creative at the time. There were few what we call them Inde films being made because of cost but as a total sum this one movie did open up and start the independent film makers in Seattle and through the use of the mog also create a creative music scene in Seattle that now include some very well known acts. So the impact of the film its self may not hold much but what it created was the start of independent producers of music writers and the strangle hold Hollywood and large producers had on what we see, hear or watch. The people involved in this up to and including David Carradine and later movies were the true innovators in their day and I will say that Skip in many ways was ahead of his time as others of his period that started true Independent or Inde stuff. So the film has it place few B rated movies up to this one were ever produced outside Hollywood so it did start a movement if only because if he did it why can’t I?"

UPDATE 14: I received this information from John Black:

"I don't have the exact date, but Didn't You Hear (DYH) opened at a small Seattle suburban hardtop theater in very late February, 1971.  I believe that the filmmakers themselves four-walled the theater.  It reportedly played other territories as well, but I think that the Seattle screening was its world premiere engagement.

"Unfortunately, there was a freak Seattle snowstorm that fell the night before.  I braved the snow to attend opening night, but there were only two other people in the entire theater.  The film began upside down, but was quickly corrected by the projectionist.  However, the first ten minutes unspooled without sound.  Given the film's title, I initially thought that the silence might be stylistic.  However, after ten minutes, I smelled a rat and found somebody who alerted the projectionist, who apparently then flipped the sound switch on.

"I enjoyed it well enough, but I don't know if the film even played a full week or not.  More on that later.

"The soundtrack album was released in early 1971, but was mainly intended as a promotional device for the film.  The album did not appear in Seattle record stores.  It had kind of a plain black or silver cover.  I assume it was privately pressed in very limited quantities.  Many years later, I actually found a copy of the LP in a Seattle used record shop, and bough it.  Nobody who worked at the shop had any idea of what it was.  I haven't had a turntable in many years, but the DYH soundtrack LP is one of ten albums that I have kept in storage.  The rest of my records were sold to used stores, but I kept ten of my favorites.

"DYH didn't play much at all after its ill-fated Seattle debut.  I doubt that it extended beyond four-wall engagements.

"Now, let's fast-forward to 1986.  By then, I had opened my own video/record/book store, which I owned and operated in Seattle for 12 years.  I was reading a VHS catalog one day, and darn if there wasn't an ad for the upcoming release of DYH on commercial VHS (I think the label was either A.N.E. or Prism).  I hadn't seen the film since early 1971, so of course I pre-ordered it for my store.  I would finally get to hear the sound of those opening ten minutes that was missing from the premier performance at Seattle's Rainier Cinema.

"When I finally  had the VHS of DYH in hand, I went to the Seattle phone book, and found a phone number for Karl Krogstad.  I had met him twice before, once in 1970 and briefly in 1976 at a community college course.   Of course he didn't remember me, but when I told him I was holding a commercial VHS copy of DYH in my hand, he exclaimed loudly!  He then asked if I could hold the film for him so that he could come to my store and rent it.  Of course I said yes.  He appeared at my store in about half an hour, so he must have "dropped whatever he was doing" when I phoned him.

"I believe that Krogstad hadn't seen the film in many a moon, by 1986.  When he came to the store, he was very excited to see it again.  He did comment that the video release came as a surprise to him, and theorized that Skip Sherwood must have cut a deal with the video label.   The obvious implication there is that Sherwood sold the rights to the film without telling the other original filmmakers about it.  I bet that Sherwood didn't share any profits with them either, but that is my own speculation.  Krogstad, for his part, didn't seem pissed at Sherwood, but was mainly just happy to have an easily viewable copy of the film.

"I guess that ends my story, pretty much.   I see that the IMDB lists the film as being in the 2:35-1 aspect ratio.  I don't recall thinking it was widescreen when I attended that premiere screening at the Rainer Cinema, and of course the VHS is either in full-frame or pan-and-scan.  The theater was pretty small, and so was it's screen."

UPDATE 15: I got more information from John Black:

"Although produced and filmed in the Pacific Northwest, the film was actually cast in Hollywood.  The only local leading actor in the cast was John Kauffman, who was a member of the Seattle Repertory Theater company.  In the movie, he is seen carrying a copy of INDIANS.  It's an inside joke, because Kauffman had appeared in the Rep's Seattle production of the play INDIANS the year before.

"Dennis Christopher plays the only "real" character in the film.  Everybody else are part of his fantasies.

"There was a conscious decision made to NOT depict psychedelic drugs.  Christopher's fantasies are simply his flights of fancy.

"The film was photographed in Techniscope, a lower-budgeted widescreen (2:35-1) process.   It was shot entirely on Lopez Island in the San Juans, and at the University of Washington campus.

"When the film opened on Wednesday, February 24, it was actually screened in 8 theaters, all in Seattle and its suburbs.  One of those theaters was the Rainier Cinema in south Seattle, where I saw it.  The freak snowstorm hurt its box office receipts throughout the general Seattle area.  The theaters were four-walled by the film's producers."

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