Friday, March 09, 2007

The Wilhelm Scream

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; 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 several scenes of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

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