Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Wilhelm Scream

OK, here's something cool about Hollywood. Did you know that many of your favorite movies feature the same scream, first 'uttered' in 1951? It's the Wilhelm Scream. And if you're unsure whether you've ever heard it, watch this:

Wikipedia has a cool summary:

The Wilhelm scream is a stock sound effect first used in 1951 for the movie Distant Drums. The scream was most likely vocalized by actor-singer Sheb Wooley, who later had a number one pop hit with the novelty song "Purple People Eater." [1] It has been featured in dozens of movies since. Alongside a certain recording of the cry of the Red-tailed Hawk, the "Universal telephone ring"[2], the "Charlie Brown fall," the Goofy holler and "Castle thunder," it is probably one of the most well-known cinematic sound clich├ęs.


The Wilhelm's revival came from Star Wars series sound designer Ben Burtt, who tracked down the original recording (which he found as a studio reel labelled "Man being eaten by alligator"). The recording was actually from a film from 1951 titled Distant Drums. Although Distant Drums was the first known use of the sound, Burtt named it after "Pvt. Wilhelm", a minor character who emitted the same scream in the 1953 movie The Charge at Feather River. Its use in the Star Wars films was the beginning of something of an in-joke amongst some sound designers of the film industry, especially at Skywalker Sound, and Weddington Productions (now a division of Technicolor Sound Services). They continue to try to incorporate it into movies wherever feasible; action movies are naturals, but film sound cognoscenti are particularly impressed when it is used naturally in films such as A Star Is Born (with Judy Garland), The Wild Bunch and A Goofy Movie. In a tribute to its origins, the clip was used in the film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when the villain Mola Ram was eaten by crocodiles. It was also used in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy is driving the truck full of Nazis, and in Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven when the Muslims first attack the fortress of Kerak. It was also used in the lesser known comedy Van Wilder, and in several scenes of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Sheb Wooley is considered by many to be the most likely voice actor for the scream, having appeared on a memo as a voice extra for Distant Drums.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled political commentary.


Dan B (no, not Bennett, think harder) said...

Speaking of Judy Garland, there is an exciting and popular new group on Yahoo called THE JUDY GARLAND EXPERIENCE. They have ever changing and always ultra rare audio files, great photo's, lively discussions, and the most eclectic bunch of Judy fans you will ever come across. The only thing missing is you.
You should check it out.

Joe said...

Methinks you're being spammed.

Anonymous said...

This one's been getting a lot of diggs recently ...