In 1977's "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope," Luke Skywalker blasts a Stormtrooper, who falls to his death. As the henchman plummets, he unleashes a bloodcurdling scream — a scream that would eventually become famous, featured in hundreds of Hollywood films.
It even has its own name: the Wilhelm Scream. But what is this odd scream, and why would a death yell find its way into so many different movies?
"The Wilhelm Scream is 1950s ADR (automated dialogue replacement) recording for a B-movie about a jungle safari," says Mike Miller, a film editor based in Ventura, California. "The recording was for a man getting eaten by an alligator."
The movie Miller's referring to is 1951's "Distant Drums," starring Gary Cooper as a U.S. Army captain who fights Seminoles and gun smugglers in Florida's Everglades. The subpar reviews make it clear that this wasn't one of Cooper's best onscreen efforts, but it did serve as the genesis of the now-iconic scream, which happens as an unfortunate soldier is dragged underwater by a hungry gator.
To capture the scream, the film's producers asked various cast members to offer up their most terrifying shrieks. They reportedly recorded six screams, but it was the fourth that apparently most accurately captured the horror of being eaten alive by a ferocious reptile.