Screaming on the Silver Screen
“The Scream”, Edvard Munch, 1893. The National Gallery in Oslo

Screaming on the Silver Screen

The Scream in Cinema
Jakub Mejer
time 15 minutes

December 1951 marked the American premiere of a film that is now long forgotten, but which changed the sound of cinema forever. It was there that audiences not only saw but also heard the famous cinematic scream for the first time.

The film Distant Drums premiered just over 70 years ago, in December 1951. The western, with its unusual setting of Florida swamps instead of the traditional Utah desert, had the potential to become a smash hit. It was directed by Raoul Walsh, freshly off the set of a series of popular gangster films starring James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, with Gary Cooper at the peak of his career playing the lead. Despite fairly positive reviews, Distant Drums did not win over the hearts of the audiences, and is impossible to find on today’s lists of the top 100 most popular productions.

It would most likely remain one of the hundreds of westerns made at the time and remembered only by the most zealous followers of the genre, if it weren’t for one scene. At one point, as Cooper’s team is wading through muddy waters, one of the cowboys is attacked by an alligator. As he dies, he lets out a scream which, if you have a good ear, may sound familiar. Perhaps you remember it from The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or the Indiana Jones series? Maybe from films by Quentin Tarantino or various Pixar movies?

“Even without the sixty-year reputation and cultlike following that has eventually attached itself to this sound clip, [it] is remarkable. It scrambles up the anonymous


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The Dream Factory on the Vltava
dpmike/iStock by Getty Images

The Dream Factory on the Vltava

The Story of Barrandov Film Studios
Mateusz Demski

The sound of the film clapper first rang out in the Barrandov studio in 1933. Founded by the Havel brothers (the father and uncle of the future president, Václav Havel), it played host not only to Czech, but also to American and Polish directors. Casino Royale was filmed there, and the studio has played the role of Narnia.

The hilltop studio is just under 10 kilometres from the city centre; the quickest way to get there is by tram No. 5 – a ride of 20-30 minutes. It’s relatively close, but in certain ways it’s not the same Prague. You get the impression that rather than the Czech capital, you’re in Hollywood. Construction of a film studio first began there in 1931: the biggest in central Europe, and one of the largest in the world. Spreading out over 120 hectares, it can’t be taken in in a single glance – just like its 90 years of history. “The dream factory on the Vltava”, “the hill of movie magic”, “an institution of memory” – these are some of the names by which Barrandov has been known.

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