My Favorite Scream

Have you ever heard of the Wilhelm Scream?  It’s been in over 200 movies, and it’s so recognizable that if you didn’t notice it before reading this post, I’m sure you’ll start to notice it everywhere.

It was introduced to modern cinema by all-around amazing sound guy Ben Burtt when he was designing the sound for Star Wars in 1977- he used it for a sequence where Luke shoots a Stormtrooper across a chasm while trying to escape the Death Star.  When the trooper falls, you hear the Wilhelm Scream.

Ben Burtt didn’t create the sound, though-  he just found it in the studio sound archives, on a reel labeled “Man being eaten by alligator.”  The scene described there is from the 1951 movie, Distant DrumsIn that movie, a cowboy in the Everglades was indeed eaten by an alligator, yelling out the scream as he is dragged underwater.

The scream was used again in the 1953 movie, The Charge at Feather River, and it’s heard by several different people as they die.  One of them is a guy named in movie dialogue as Private Wilhelm, and he makes the scream when he is shot in the left leg with an arrow.

When Ben Burtt found the sound on the “Man being eaten by alligator” reel, he also found the Private Wilhelm footage, and it was Ben Burtt who named it the Wilhelm Scream.  He went on to re-use the Wilhelm in all the remaining Star Wars movies as well as the Indiana Jones movies.  It wasn’t long before other sound designers started to use the Wilhelm in other movies, and now it’s all over the television and movie landscape, including Toy Story, Batman Returns, Aladdin, Howard The Duck, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Hobbit, Lethal Weapon 4, and many many more.

Everything up until this point is material that I knew as I began to write this post.  There’s one interesting fact that I didn’t know until I started researching to write this up:  It is now widely believed that the voice of the Wilhelm Scream is none other than Sheb Wooley, known to most for his novelty song, “The Purple People Eater.”  Ben Burtt found notes at Warner Brothers which indicated that Wooley was on a short list of people who recorded dialogue for Distant Drums, and he recorded material for several types of screams.

Here’s two short compilations of a bunch of Wilhelm Screams:

What’s the last movie you saw containing a Wilhelm Scream?

Editor’s Note:  I’m attempting to blog every day in November with CheerPeppers.  I don’t expect to succeed because life be crazy, but any blogging in excess of my previous post-free month is a win, right?

A Carefree Life.

On Dixie Highway, less than a mile and a half from downtown West Palm Beach, Florida, there is an abandoned movie theater.  It’s called the Carefree Theatre, and it was a major part of my life during the 1990s.

The Carefree  started in 1936 as the Carefree Center and Bowlaway.   The building housed a soda fountain and a ten lane bowling alley with “pin boys” who would set the  pins and roll balls back to the bowlers.  Automatic pin setters were installed later at great expense.

Carefree-Theatre-in-the-50s

The movie theater portion began construction in 1946, and opened in 1947.  The two front rows of seats were removed to allow the addition of a curved stage in front of the screen, reducing the number of seats from 800 to 772.  There were offices and dressing rooms upstairs, and retail space along the northern wall.  An outdoor rollerskating rink was tried on the roof, but the idea was dismissed after one season.  One of the smaller shop fronts was a barber shop for years.  It had been converted to a tiny art gallery when I worked there in the 1990s.  I’m still getting to that.

Owner of the Carefree Theatre Jon Stoll. Staff photo by Allen Eyestone

In 1984, a man named Jon Stoll bought the center.  He already had a functioning concert promotion business, a company called Fantasma Productions.   He set up Fantasma in the offices on the south side of the building.   The old derelict bowling alley became the Comedy Corner, one of South Florida’s premiere comedy clubs.  People like Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher played there.  Dan Whitney (known to most people as Larry the Cable Guy) did opening act work there in his early days in comedy.  A restaurant opened in the northwest corner of the building, with a bar that was made from the old bowling lane wood.

1984 photo of Carefree Theater in WPB photo by Loren Hosack

In 1984, the Carefree was the largest single-screen movie theater in the state of Florida.  The theater started to run art and foreign films in 1990, and concerts routinely graced the stage.    A regular Saturday night showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show started up, and ran continuously for fifteen years.

I was in college when I first visited the Carefree Theater.  The year was 1991, and I went with a group of people to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show.   I was friends with people who were friends with other people who were in the shadow cast of Rocky Horror, and it wasn’t long before I wound up in the cast myself.  I mostly played Brad, but I spent time in many of the other parts.  There may or may not be photos of me playing Dr. Frank N. Further out in the wild.

In 1993, my job as a cashier for a county pool ran past my limited cap of hours.  It was October, so I needed a job to get me through until January came to reset the cap.  I got a job at the Carefree as a projectionist and assistant manager, and I worked that job alongside my county job.

I stopped playing in Rocky Horror in 1997, just before I went back to school at the University of Central Florida to complete my degree, but I still worked at the Carefree sometimes when I was back in town for the weekend.   Here’s a few of the things I most remember about my time at the Carefree:

  • Running many, many well known movies, including Amelie, Shakespeare In Love, and the Engish Patient.  We also did a run of Anime films on Friday nights that included Princess Mononoke and The Lensman.   The Jewish Film Festival would rent our space for their movies on a yearly basis.  So would the local Bollywood community,  which marks the first time I’d ever projected a movie so long that it had an intermission.

  • Accidentally starting a very, very large LARP (live action role-playing for those that aren’t familiar) of Vampire: The Masquerade.   The idea started as a lark, and quickly grew to an enormous crowd of people.  We got permission from the powers that be to actually open the theater for the game, as long as the concession stand had someone on standby to sell popcorn and drinks to the LARPers.

  • Wearing many, many fun Halloween costumes.  My best-ever costume was during Halloween 1997, when I dressed as Jareth, David Bowie’s character from the movie Labyrinth.
    Me as Jareth

  • Meeting Weird Al Yankovic, BB King, Howard Jones, Lisa Loeb, and so many more before or after their shows.  I bumped into Ben Folds in the bathroom, and had an entire conversation with him without knowing that he was the lead singer in that new band that was playing that night.   There were so many amazing concerts at this place that I couldn’t even list them all.  Tori Amos played the Carefree when her latest release was Little Earthquakes.

  • Seeing comedy live from people like Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Hicks, Richard Jeni, Carrot Top, Tommy Chong, and Patton Oswalt.  Patton Oswalt and Dana Gould played the Comedy Corner on the same night, and when their show was done they came over to see the last half of Rocky Horror.  Dana Gould writes for the Simpsons now, and Patton Oswalt is in absolutely everything else.  I sat in Patton Oswalt’s lap during the floor show part of the movie, and he was a really good sport about it.  Michael Winslow, the sound effects guy from the Police Academy movies did a few shows there, and I got to meet him offstage in the afternoon.  It turns out he makes those sounds all the time.

  • One night while closing up, I went around the back of the building to trip a power breaker, and I fell into an open manhole.  There had been construction recently, and someone left the cover open.   It was also dark, and I wasn’t expecting to lose six feet of height in half a second.   I got six or seven stitches in my shin from that little adventure.   My injuries are frequently cartoonish in nature, and this is a perfect example of that.

  • Joy, one of my then-coworkers, told me that at one point, some of the staff from the comedy club next door were playing with a Ouija board in the wait-station behind the bar. There was a history of odd events and vaguely supernatural spookiness in the building, and they discovered from their Ouija dabbling that there was an entity named “Steven” who was stuck in the building and couldn’t leave.  Joy’s deadpan response still makes me laugh: “Yeah, but he’s still alive.”

I finally turned in my keys in 2001.  In 2004, South Florida had a whole bunch of bad hurricanes hit us in a row, causing roof damage.  In December of 2005, during the Jewish Film Festival, part of the roof collapsed.  There were 600 people in the Carefree Theatre, but the collapse was over an empty storefront.  The building was evacuated, but nobody was injured.  In March of 2006, the damaged part of the building was demolished.

030306 MET Carefree Staff Photo by Lannis Waters/ The Palm Beach Post 0019825A [ WITH STORY BY TBA??] ---WEST PALM BEACH--- Workers with Southeast Contracting Services tear down and haul off debris from the damaged portion of the Carefree Theatre building Friday. The Carefree Theatre was deemed unsafe by city inspectors after a roof collapsed on the south side of the building in December. 3/3/06. ..... NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION OUTSIDE COX PAPERS OUT PALM BEACH, BROWARD, MARTIN, ST. LUCIE, INDIAN RIVER AND OKEECHOBEE COUNTIES IN FLORIDA. ORLANDO OUT. NO SALES. TV OUT. TABLOIDS OUT. MAGAZINES OUT. WIDE WORLD OUT. INTERNET USE OUT. ORG XMIT: MER0603031518146801 ORG XMIT: MER0703191752118553

In 2008, Jon Stoll died of a stroke.  The theater has been empty ever since.  Here’s what it looks like now, on any night that has epic stormclouds:

The Carefree Theater on South Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach Friday morning, October 30, 2015. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

So many relationships formed while I was working there.  Several marriages still hold from those days.  Several funerals, too.    And many, many friendships.  A hefty chunk of my Facebook friend-list is people who I met during my years working there.   One good friend, John Rundell, has been saying for years that he wants us to buy the abandoned theater to reopen it in some way.

It turns out we missed our window of opportunity, though.  Lori Stoll,  Jon’s widow, sold the entire complex to a developer and film producer named Charles Cohen.  He’s planning on razing the building to the ground and rebuilding it with a six-screen stadium-style movie theater, with apartments above the theater.

He still plans on showing art house and foreign films, though.  Maybe it will still seem like the place I remember.

South Florida friends, do you have any fond memories of the Carefree Theatre?

Just after the Summer solstice, a post!

I’m borrowing this post idea from Bevchen.  I don’t usually do a lot of meme-inspired posts, but lately I haven’t been posting much at all.  So here’s the “What’s New With You” format…  here’s what I’ve been up to just lately.

Reading.  I haven’t had much time for the Kindle lately, but I did start Jen Bradley‘s novel “Virago,” along with  the fascinating “Cleaning Up The Kingdom, which is written by people who are former members of the Disneyland custodial staff.  Really interesting stuff here!

Watching.  Summer is upon us, which means there’s not as much new television to be seen.  I’ve nearly completed a re-watch of Star Trek: Enterprise, which I absolutely despised on the first run.  I find it considerably less revolting now, and I’m not sure what changed.     I’ve also nearly completed a re-watch of Leverage, which was a delightful and fun show that could easily have run another season without losing steam.

I also watched the first episode of the new Dangermouse, and it’s definitely got flavor of the original ones, even though some of the new voices completely take me out of the show.  The new Silas Greenback voice is particularly terrible.  I’m rather surprised they didn’t try to get Sir David Jason back… after all, he was the original voice of Dangermouse. (And Count Duckula!)  Maybe he wants to retire from acting, since he’s 76 now.

It’s also the summer movie season.  I haven’t had time to watch everything I want to see, but I can say that “Finding Dory” was exceptionally adorable, and the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was super entertaining.  It was basically a two-hour live-action movie version of an episode of the 90s cartoon.

Fascinated by.  This news that the Earth has picked up a second moon.   Basically, an asteroid got caught in our gravity about a hundred years ago and it never managed to break free.   It’s tiny, about 150 feet by 300 feet, and it has a weird orbit.  It’s still technically a moon, though.    We have two moons!  Next up, Jedi Knights!

Cooking.  I’m not much of a cook, but I’ve been using the slow cooker for the occasional moist fall-apart-y chicken breast. (Amelie’s Salsa Chicken recipe:  Put a chicken breast in the slow cooker with mild salsa for a bunch of hours, then shred and eat with rice or something.  It’s super delicious!)

I’ve also been taking advantage of the meats that they sell which have already been prepped/seasoned/marinated-  Target sells a garlic and herb roast that is absolutely amazing after about six hours in the slow cooker.    I’ve also been making more easy-prep foods like spaghetti at home.  I want to eat out at restaurants less frequently, because I enjoy having money.

Exercising.  I’m still probably going to talk about exercise in more detail in another post down the line, but I’ve been trying to go to the gym several times a week.  When I lived in Germany, I walked most everywhere, lived upstairs, took the bus to work, and walked all over creation whenever I traveled.  My life in Florida is so much more sedentary, and I needed to get up and move.  So, the gym.  I just use the little gym at my apartment complex,  because paying for one that I would never drive to is just a waste of money.  I do some of the weight machines, some Couch-to-5K stuff on the treadmill, some time on the bike, and as little time  as possible on the Devil’s Elliptical.  I hate every second of it, but so far I keep going.

Buying.  Since I’ve been doing the gym stuff, I got myself a new Fitbit.   The Fitbit Charge HR is a wrist-worn step counter that also checks my heart-rate and tracks my sleep.  It’s great for being reassured that I am, in fact, terribly unhealthy and in need of drastic lifestyle change.

I also recently bought an install-it-yourself basic alarm system for my apartment, and the little SD card that activates the maps in my car.  The Mazda 3 model that I drive had the GPS built in already, and just needed the maps to activate the navigation.  There’s an SD card slot in the console.

Traveling. Not so much lately.  I did the Germany/Switzerland trip a little while back, but there’s nothing else on the near horizon, except a planned Disney trip in late August.  Orlando is only about a three hour drive from me, so I tend not to think of it as travel.

Thinking about: Speaking of Orlando, I won’t get into the Pulse nightclub shooting very much, except to say:   Orlando is my second home city (Regensburg is my third,) and some of the victims were friends of my friends.   I love Orlando, and I want to live there again some time in the future.  The attack was brutal and insane and it saddens me greatly.  It also makes me very angry.    I won’t say more about this, because the logical thread here gets into religion and politics, both of which are not topics I can be calm or cheerful about right now.

Listening to.  Mostly Pandora at work, but I’ve been working on an upbeat playlist called Jim Rhatt for the iPod while I’m on the aforementioned treadmill or Devil’s Elliptical.

Recent concerts with Amelie have included Florence + The Machine, Panic at the Disco, and Weezer.   The Cure is playing Miami early next week, but that’s the last show we’ve got tickets for until October (Sia) and November (the Pet Shop Boys.)

Regretting.  That my car has a manual transmission.    Almost all of the cars I’ve ever driven have had a stick shift, but this might be the last one before I go automatic.  I’ve always enjoyed driving manual because I feel like I have more control.   I’ve always preferred cars that were small and quick and maneuverable, like a White Star or the Millennium Falcon.  In fact, whenever I downshift in a turn, I feel kind of like Han pulling this lever, which is obviously the Falcon’s shifter:

falcon-flight-smaller

The problem with driving manual is that I live in South Florida again, and I spend most of my drive time on the highway, especially I-95.  This means there’s a lot of stop-and-go driving, and I spend a large percentage of my drive with my foot pushing the clutch all the way down while I coast along at eight or ten miles an hour.  It’s very annoying, and I often get out of the car with an ache in my clutch foot.

What’s your preference, automatic or stick?

Go to the wood!

As we enter into the holiday season, the movie studios begin to ramp up their pitches to have the most popular movie of the holiday season.    There are endless commercials already for the newest Hunger Games movie, and we’re about five minutes from the next blast of Hobbit-related advertising.  Neither of these are what I’m most looking forward to, though.  The movie I’m most looking forward to over the holidays?   Into The Woods.

Here’s the trailer, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the story.

Most of my friends know that I’m a musical theater geek.   I’ve seen a ton of them live.  I went out of my way to see both the Little Shop Of Horrors and Starlight Express auf Deutsch.  I’ve seen Wicked six times now (in four different cities), and I’m two weeks away from seeing Book Of Mormon again when the tour hits Miami.

I love musicals, and I love movie adaptations of them… usually.  When they come out well, you get movies like Mamma Mia, West Side Story, Bells Are Ringing, Little Shop of Horrors- all excellent translations of the source material onto the silver screen.    The single best movie adaptation of a musical that I have ever seen is Sweeney Todd.  But then I’m predisposed to like that one; it’s long been one of my favorite musicals.

On the flip side, you have movies that come out a little flat-  Rent, for example-  it was good, but it felt like an MTV video version of the stage show, rather than a movie.  And some movies that are all style with no substance, like the movie version of Phantom Of The Opera-  that was gorgeous to look at, but every time Gerard Butler opened his mouth to sing, I wanted to shove icepicks into my ears.

With every new adaptation from stage to screen, I approach the theater with cautious optimism.    Into The Woods has a lot of potential, and a great cast. If they don’t let Meryl Streep get away with too much talking through her songs instead of singing, there’s a lot of potential here.

On Christmas Day, I’ll be in line to see this one.

What movie are you most looking forward to this holiday season?

Movie Ratings In Germany

Last week, I went to see the remake of RoboCop.   The movie itself wasn’t bad, as remakes go, and I think it was a pretty fun flick.  That’s not what this post is about.

After the movie, I had a discussion with a bunch of people about the movie, and one of them asked about the rating-  apparently some of my friends hold the viewpoint that RoboCop with a PG-13 rating instead of 1987’s R rating just isn’t acceptable.  Never mind that the things you can do with a PG-13 in 2014 would make an R from 1987 toss its cookies.  That’s not what this post is about either.

The exact question posed was, “Was the rating over there the same as here?”  This, I immediately realized, would be an excellent topic for a blog post.

In the US, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has been giving films those familiar ratings since 1968: G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17.   In Germany, there’s a similar organization, the Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle der Filmwirtschaft, or FSK.  The FSK classifies films under the following categories for both movie theaters and television broadcast:

FSK_ab_0FSK_ab_6FSK_ab_12FSK_ab_16FSK_ab_18

  • Ohne Altersbeschränkung (FSK 0): This means no age restriction.  This is pretty much the same as a G rating in the US.
  • Freigegeben ab 6 Jahren (FSK 6): No children younger than 6 years admitted.   This is similar to the PG rating in the US.
  • Freigegeben ab 12 Jahren (FSK 12): Children 12 or older admitted, and children between 6 and 11 only when accompanied by parent or a legal guardian.   Films in this category can generally be broadcast on TV all day. This is similar to our PG-13 rating.
  • Freigegeben ab 16 Jahren (FSK 16): Children 16 or older admitted, and nobody under this age is admitted.  This rating can be broadcast on TV only after 10 PM unless approved by special permit or re-edited to secure an FSK12 rating.  This is similar to our R rating.
  • Keine Jugendfreigabe (FSK 18): “No youth admitted”, only adults.  This is the local equivalent of the NC-17 rating in the US.   Movies with this rating can be broadcast on TV after 11 PM. However, nudity isn’t all that unusual on broadcast television here, especially later at night.

All the above ratings also contain the phrase “gemäß §14 JuSchG” (in accordance with §14 of the Youth Protection Law), which means that they are legally binding.  This differs wildly from the MPAA’s ratings, which are merely recommendations and are not actually legally binding.

Oh, and RoboCop has an FSK12 rating here, in case you were curious.

If you were a movie, what would your rating be?