A ‘Star Wars’ Tradition Dating Back To The Original Movie Has Been Retired

Senior Pop Culture Editor
02.21.18 12 Comments

LUCASFILM

“I have a bad feeling about this” (or thereabouts).

Lucky number 1138.

“May the Force be with you.”

These are the phrases and easter eggs that have been in every Star Wars movie, catnip for the hardcore fans. That was the case for the infamous Wilhelm scream, too, until the two most recent films. And now it’s been officially retired.

The “Wilhelm scream” sound effect dates back to the otherwise forgotten 1951 film Distant Drums, when a solider is dragged underwater by an alligator in the Everglades. The painful noise he makes was re-used two years later in The Charge at Feather River, which is where the connection to Star Wars begins. While watching the movie, sound designer Ben Burtt took note of the distinctive yell, tracked down the studio reel (which was labeled “man being eaten by alligator”), and added the “Wilhelm scream” (named after a character in Feather River) in the scene from Star Wars where a clumsy stormtrooper gets shot by Luke Skywalker and falls off a Death Star ledge. You know it by sound.

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