You know that terrifying, trumpeting bellow the T-Rex makes in Jurassic Park? Or the sickening crunch of Regan’s neck as her head spins 180 degrees in The Exorcist? While they might appear natural, all of these sounds were diligently sought out and crafted by imaginative filmmakers and sound technicians. While some sounds are generic — like the , which has been used in hundreds of films and TV shows — others have been lovingly crafted using some downright bizarre objects. Take a look at some of the most unusual noisemakers used in iconic films:
1. Lord Of The Rings – Plastic Cups & Peter Jackson’s Wife
The bone-chilling scream of the Ringwraiths in the Lord of the Rings trilogy is actually comprised of a bizarre mix of plastic cups scraping together and Peter Jackson’s wife, Fran Walsh, shrieking.
After viewing what was close to the final cut, Peter Jackson told the sound team they needed to redo the Nazgûl noises. Enlisting the help of Fran Walsh, they recorded what supervising sound co-designer Ethan Van der Ryn described as “the most spine-chilling screams I’ve ever heard in my life.” In a 2010 interview with Designing Sound, LOTR sound designer David Farmer talked about going to Target and grabbing some plastic cups in preparation. Adding the scraping sound to the Ringwraiths’ screams, he said “they added a really nice, dry, aggressive raspiness that really finished off the sound.”
2. E.T. – Canned Liver, Popcorn, And Jelly
You know that sloshing sound E.T. makes when he walks? That’s a clever combination of canned liver, popcorn, and jelly. Since director Stephen Spielberg wanted the little alien to sound “liquidy and friendly,” sound artist Joan Rowe went on the hunt, holding cans of liver to her ear in the local supermarket and shaking them like a mad woman.
They ended up using the sloshy sound of the liver and mixing it with recordings of jelly rolling around in a wet towel, along with popcorn jumping in a bag.
Popcorn in a bag + jelly in a wet towel + canned liver = E.T. Who knew?!
3. The Exorcist – Old Leather Walled, Credit Cards
That awful crunching sound Regan’s neck makes as her head spins 180 degrees was actually made by an old leather wallet filled with credit cards. In his autobiography, The Friedkin Connection, director William Friedkin wrote:
At one point, [sound effects man Gonzalo Gavira] borrowed an old cracked leather wallet which contained some credit cards, and he held it up to the microphone and twisted it. And that sound was used in the movie to create the sound of the little girl’s head turning around.
4. Psycho – Casaba Melon
Here’s my personal favorite:
Finding and replicating the exact sound of a knife stabbing a human body is no mean feat. Being the genius perfectionist that Alfred Hitchcock was, he wanted to have the sound be just right, so he sent the props manager out for resources. He came back with a variety of melons and hacked away at them while Hitchcock sat there with his eyes closed, listening. In the end, the casaba melon was the victim of choice. Think about that the next time you slice and dice one of these guys!
If you’re interested in learning more about Anthony Perkins, the actor behind Psycho‘s Norman Bates, .
5. Godzilla – Double Bass Strings, Leather Glove Coated In Pine Tar Resin
Sound designer Erik Aadahl — who worked with Ethan Van der Ryn to recreate the roar for the 2014 Godzilla film — told NPR that:
“It was actually a double bass, using a leather glove coated in pine-tar resin to create friction. They’d rub it against the string of the double bass to create that sound.”
The idea apparently came from Japanese composer Akira Ifukube, who also created the soundtrack for the movie. Although we now know how the original roar was made, Aadahl and Van der Ryn have sworn to take the secret of the 2014 roar to their graves, saying:
“…more so than any other sound effect we’ve designed, we have a certain protectiveness over that sound. It’s when you’re giving voice to something, you’re giving it its soul.”
6. Jurassic Park – A Horse Eating A Corncob
The T. Rex’s roar and movements in Jurassic Park are the combination of noises from lions, koalas ( ), alligators, tigers, whales, and elephants. But the specific sound made as the T. Rex chomps down on the lawyer on the toilet is actually a horse eating a corncob! Nom nom nom.
7. Terminator 2: Judgement Day
So, you know that sound made when T-1000 moves in and out of liquid metal? Yeah, basically that was made by sound designer Gary Rydstrom combining Dry-Off with flour and water, putting the solution into a condom, and sticking a microphone inside to record it all. Yes. Sound design truly does make you arrive at the most wild solutions you never thought you’d have to imagine in your life.
8. Star Wars
Creating an entirely different universe complete with new technology and new life forms obviously means the addition of new sounds to match. From swooshing lightsabers to Chewbacca’s groan (just see what happens when you try to change that in the clip above!), the Star Wars team created an extravaganza of sound effects that transport us to a galaxy far, far away with each viewing. Since there are far too many to list here, head over !
What’s the weirdest sound effect origin you’ve ever heard of?
(Sources: , , , , , , Sound for Picture: The Art of Sound Design in Film and Television, Pg. 30)
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