April 25, 2009

What do all your favorite action movies have in common?

Well, perhaps not all of them, but so very many of them have a certain sound effect in common which is so common that it has become an in joke among fans and sound designers who try to sneak it out of the sound compilation library and into the film of an unsuspecting director.

It is... the WILHELM SCREAM! Even if you don't know its name, you've heard it.

First recorded for the 1951 film Distant Drums, the scream has taken on a life of its own. Check out this compilation of Wilhelm Scream uses and the next time you hear it in a new movie, you'll be in on the joke.

(If that wasn't enough for you, there's more here, including the movie 1954 movie Them! and the scream being used in The Charge at Feather River on a character named Wilhelm, giving the scream its name... Thanks to Bull for reminding me of Them! which in turn made me think of poor Wilhelm.)

Posted by James at April 25, 2009 8:43 AM
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absolutely awesome...i'll never watch an action flick the same way again

Posted by: ryan at April 25, 2009 10:11 AM

I don't recall where I first heard the Wilhelm Scream, but I know that I first learned what it was called here: http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/22064

Posted by: Karen at April 25, 2009 10:28 AM

The "Wilhelm Scream" was labelled "Male Fall" on a sound effects record (heh heh: record) at a studio where I worked.

But my favorite overused audio "augmentation" is the red-tailed hawk cry that's used whenever they show buzzards in the desert scenes.
Buzzards can't make those sounds; they grunt.

"A Wilhelm Scream" is a better band name than "Buzzard Grunt" IMHO.

Posted by: PJ at April 25, 2009 10:39 AM

If I'm not mistaken, that's the sound they use on The Colbert Report for the eagle during the title sequence.

Then there's this overused scream:

Posted by: James at April 25, 2009 10:50 AM

Nice to see Brock Samson again.

I do not recognize the scene at 2:16 (Han Solo and the stormtrooper). Which movie was that??

I haven't seen Colbert Report in a long time, but I'm pretty sure the eagle sound is completely different (unless they changed it recently).

Posted by: Julie at April 25, 2009 11:48 AM

Oh... I bet you were referring to the red-tailed hawk thing PJ mentioned. Duh! Yes, I think that's the same.

Posted by: Julie at April 25, 2009 11:49 AM

I didn't recognize that scene either, Julie, I'll bet it's on the cutting room floor -- I think we watched all of the enhanced versions.

It's funny, as soon as I heard the scream, I thought it was the sound of Boba Fett going into the sarlak, tarnac, tarlac, whatever it is, but apparently it was that other guy.

Posted by: maggie at April 25, 2009 6:09 PM

(I guess I still think Boba Fett made the same noise, b/c I remember thinking the sound was just too undignified for a relatively major character like Boba Fett. It's really a pathetic red-shirt kind of sound.)

Posted by: Maggie at April 25, 2009 6:10 PM

OMG. THAT is cool.

Posted by: Kitten Herder at April 25, 2009 7:11 PM

That was awesome...a communications major somewhere should do a thesis based on determining the average number of Wilhelm Screams occurring on one standard cable package over a 24 hour period.

Posted by: Bull at April 26, 2009 12:04 AM

I liked the closing credit: "Please don't sue us. Jeff, Rob and Chris."

While I never noticed the Wilhelm Scream before, I'm sure I'll notice it in future movies!

I'm always amused by the red-tailed hawk call when it appears outside the bird's range, it's used for another type of bird entirely, or at night.

All this reminds me of the overused frightened cat scream.

Posted by: Patti M. at April 26, 2009 6:56 PM

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