The Wilhelm Scream appeared in over 200 movies after sound guy Ben Burtt discovered it on a sound reel described as a man being eaten by an alligator. The scream is featured in over 200 films, which is soooo bananas. I had to share. There are 4 separate Wilhelm screams, but people usually hear #4. Ben Burtt is credited for crafting, among other classic movie sounds, the hum of light sabers in Star Wars, the voice of R2D2 and Darth Vader’s breathing.
Sheb Wooley is usually credited with the actual scream. I actually became interested in this topic while descending into a Quentin Tarantino cinematic labyrinth of homages and tributes. The Wilhelm Scream is just the tip of the iceberg, only one of a crazy bunch of threads through movie history woven through his flicks. QT movies are endlessly fascinating to me. Knowing the references makes the movies so crazy deep and much more entertaining. It takes so long to put all the pieces together for a movie like Reservoir Dogs that I end up watching it a dozen times and each time I get slightly more enriched perspective. Quentin Tarantino movies are like an after image of a vaporized figure upon a wall facing a nuclear blast, but in QT’s case, the blast is coming from shit tons of movies. couched in the seedy, violent sensationalism of his flicks are deep layers of film history.
The cool thing about QT is that he’s not trying to be all snooty and turn high couture filming into something crass as if to say, I cast these classics to you as pearls before swine and all that jazz, because most of his films are even more sexy and dangerous as the films he grew up loving and paying tribute to. If, as Joyce says in Ulysses that God is a “shout in the street”, then Quentin Tarantino movies are a Wilhelm Scream in my dark and cozy living room. Unforgettable and full of verve. Don’t even get me started on the soundtracks. The dude is fucking Herodotus with ears on.
Sheb Wooley was a rodeo rider who also worked in film and wrote the song The Purple People Eater and Rawhide, and appearing under the sobriquet of Ben Colder, a drunken country singer, wrote novelty country songs such as Fifteen Beers Ago Colder often appeared on Hee Haw and The Muppet Show. Wooley’s song That’s My Pa reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard country & western chart. My dad loved it.
EDIT: I cleaned up some sentences. I started studying references to films found in Quentin Tarantino’s movie Reservoir Dogs and ended up here.