Sunday, January 13, 2008

Wilhelm Screaming

(Note: sung to the the tune of "California Dreamin'") Sheb Wooley played Pvt. Wilhelm in DISTANT DRUMS (see the marquee from Chicago's Victory Theater circa 1954), and the Wilhelm Scream has been used dozens of times in film, and in my real life. well, because its a girly-man scream. Last time I used it was when I opened the plant at 6:45, my footprints the only one in the snow, then letting a wail out when I heard Dee from bindery saying hi, after entering through another door. Surprisingly, the Wilhelm Scream is used in DEATH PROOF, now one of my favorite Kurt Russell films (and I know I'm gonna get shit from some of you). But, hey, I've got a man-crush on Kurt, and if he and Ernest Borgnine were the actual stars in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, well, I'd be watching it every snowy night. But this blog entry has a path you see, one that leads back to the ubiquitous scream. After hearing Jack Nitzche's "The Last Race" and The Coasters' "Down In Mexico" on the soundtrack, I spent the morning going through my stack of cassettes. Honest-to-God & Elvis cassettes. I slip in the mix I call "Dance, Clown, Dance!"--120 minutes of pure bliss, the songs mentioned above some guys singing the Spanish version of Elvis's song (Marie's The Name Of) His Latest Flame." Aiiee, chihuahua. "Wrestlin' Women," "Tornado," "Private Eye." Don't ask me the singers names, its a mix from other mix cassettes, what they call a polak hillbilly mix. Hell, it even had "King Tut" on it. Well, I clacked it in my player, it went squeeeeee and snapped. My first Wilhelm Scream of the new year. I'm sure I can find someone to fix it, just as Steve Austin was fixed and became that Million Dollar Baby, or whatever. First the computer is my nemesis, is it now reaching out to all mechanical objects to destroy me? Will the metal shards in my arm make me fight myself like Bruce Campbell in EVIL DEAD 2? Questions abound...


HemlockMan said...

DEATHPROOF a "favorite"??!!

Say it ain't so, Joe! Say it ain't so!

Lana Gramlich said...

Sorry to hear of your loss. I know how to repair/splice broken cassette tapes...If I were closer I'd be glad to help you out. Sucks when a music source breaks like that.

Michael Fountain: Blood for Ink said...

NPR had a story on the "Wilhelm Scream" a while back. They claim it goes even farther back, to a stuntman in old westerns, and for some reason was a perennial in sound artists' toolbox. Knowing Tarentino, it's probably hip now to use the scream rather than cliched.
Big Trouble in Little China has to be my favorite Russell (though I haven't seen Deathtrap yet), not just because of the kung-fu saluting goodness, but because there are 30-odd lines from John Wayne movies buried in the script. May the wings of Liberty never lose a feather, and if I'm not back by dawn... Call the President.

Larry Santoro said...

ACTUALLY... the redoubtable Sheb played "Private Jessup," uncredited, in "Distant Drums. While the now-ubiquitous Wilhelm scream did come out of this film, Mr. Wooly's turn as the screamer of record is only a guess. He did provide some of the voice-over work for the film.

Charles Gramlich said...

I will admit to favoring Kurt Russell films. I haven't seen this one yet, but will eventually. Enjoyed him in 3000 miles to graceland.

Steve Malley said...

kah.... sett...?!

Isn't that, like, some sort of Bronze Age data storage or something?

Anonymous said...

You always bring up such cool stuff! The Wilhelm Scream is a mighty mighty scream --

(to the tune of "Rock Island Line")

The Wilhelm Scream is a mighty fine scream
The Wilhelm Scream is the scream to dream
The Wilhelm Scream is a mighty fine scream

But if you've gotta scream it
Gotta scream it like you dream it
Gotta dream it like you scream it
for the Wilhelm scream!

Haven't seen "Death Proof" but I like Kurt Russell. Now that he's an Elder Statesman of the form, he exudes personality and presence, and knows how to carry it.

I wonder if Victory Auto Wreckers evolved from the Victory Drive in after a really really bad night. A promotional scheme, let's say, involving Godzilla or an Invasion of Saucer men, or both, destroys every vehicle in the place.

Sorry about your casette going "Screeeeee!" Cassettes do that, alas. They have a somewhat limited lifespan, I've found to my consternation several times.

Add to the mix: I've been listening to Gene Vincent earlier today.

Glenn Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra: Now THAT'S class! Really. Good stuff when you're in the mood, though I'm usually more in the mood for Count Basie, Fletcher Henderson, Ellington or Buddy Johnson. I may be mistaken, but I think Glenn Gray played the Willowbrook with some frequency. Maybe he was there the night Resurrection Mary became a legend.

Brad Pyta forever! Brad Pitt never!

Kate S said...

"But, hey, I've got a man-crush on Kurt, and if he and Ernest Borgnine were the actual stars in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, well, I'd be watching it every snowy night."


G. W. Ferguson said...

Well, if you're going to have a man-crush on someone you could do a lot worse than Kurt Russell. Tango & Cash? Escape From New York/LA (and there's Ernest Borgnine in the cab looking for adventure)? And, yes, Deathproof are all worthy elements of the Kurt Canon. Just remember: I SAW HIM FIRST!

Oh, yeah...many, many Wilhelm Scream compilations over at YouTube.