72. The Wilhelm Scream

02 Apr

Pictured: Not Wilhelm

FACT: Stop me if you have heard this before…

The ‘Wilhelm Scream’ is one of the best known movie sound effects of all time (narrowly beaten by creepy creaking door #17 I assume). The scream was first recorded in the post production for the 1951 film “Distant Drums.” The Wilhelm scream was actually a satisfactorily distinct set of four separate screams, used in distant drums for the screams of three indians and one man being eaten by an alligator.  After their initial recording they passed into storage, being brought up regularly for  Warner Bros films and was kept in their stock sound library.

It was used in the following Warner Bros productions : The Charge at Feather River, Them!, Land of the Pharaohs and The Sea Chase. This repeated usage was noted by sound effects fan Benjamin Burrt and two of his friends. He and two other friends proceeded to make a swashbuckler parody film and include the sound by pulling it off of the film’s audio tape. Then Benjamin got a job.

He became a Foley artist, tasked with designing sound effects, in this case for Star Wars. This job gave him the opportunity to search through the official sound archives of various movie studios, wherein he found the sound, labelled “Man being eaten by alligator.” He included it in the film and gave it a name, the Wilhelm scream after Private Wilhelm, a soldier in ‘The Charge at Feather River’ who produces the scream after being shot in the leg with an arrow. The sound effect then really took off.

As well as being included in near every film Benjamin Burrt worked on it has also been used deliberately by many directors as a kind of in-joke. To this day it has been used in over 216 films, television shows and video-games. It has been used in every single Indiana Jones movie, The Pirates of the Caribbean, Up,  Kung Fu Panda, Ben 10, Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith, The Lord of the Rings : Return of the King,  Toy Story, The Fifth Element and many many more.

The Wilhelm scream is mainly used for people being hurled away from explosions or falling from great heights. If you watch a George Lucas film, good ol’ Wilhelm is probably in there somewhere.

So now you know about the most famous scream of all time. Well four screams, although oddly enough sound effect specialists only ever seem to use one in particular.

If you want to hear it then prepare yourself for The Wilhelm Scream

For a more in depth article click here

For the full list of films and television shows that use the sound effect click here

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Posted by on April 2, 2011 in Articles, Trivia


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