Commentary
8:00 am
Tue June 19, 2012

Into It: The Scream

Part three of a four-part series on iconic stock sound effects.

The scream might be the glue that holds together horror films, but its reach goes well beyond the genre. And since the early sound libraries, certain screams have risen to the top, being used over and over again.

Perhaps the most famous scream of all time is called the Wilhelm scream. It was first used in 1951 when a character in Distant Drums was dragged underwater by and eaten by an alligator.

The Wilhelm scream has been used in just about every project put together by George Lucas or Steven Spielberg. It wasn’t until thirty years later that it was succeeded by the Howie Scream, which became a particular favorite of sci-fi directors.

But some distinctive cries come from more specific fictional characters. The 1932 Tarzan Yell, for example. For such a distinctive sound, its origin is rather mysterious, with speculators over the years attributing the call to everything from opera singers to a hog caller in Arkansas to the Tarzan actor himself: Johnny Wissmuller.

The Goofey Holler is directly related to the Disney character. The yodeling sound was recorded by Hannes Schroll for the now famous short animation The Art of Skiing in 1941. Strangely, the sample turned up in other non-goofy animations like Cinderella and Pete’s Dragon.

The scream has not left cinema, but with our growing archives, its unclear how long we’ll continue to hear repeats.