Great Expectations, Joyous Results…Dull Journey

(This was supposed to be a post about a sound effect and my history with it—a small scale version of the Cab Hailing effect I wrote about in prior posts—but my research into its history was so boring, I had to shift the focus to writing about my ever-growing parental fears.)

When I was 5, my brother and I got the Disney LP Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. A lot of my friends had it, too. (I bet most of you reading this remember it as well.) Ostensibly a “score” for Halloween parties, for me it was an evergreen, a year-‘round, all-purpose sonic thrill ride.

Side A began with a woman’s voice, very chilly and foreboding, provoking me to listen:

You are a bold and courageous person, afraid of nothing. High on a hilltop near your home there stands a dilapidated, old mansion…

From there, she helped me imagine such scenarios as walking through that haunted mansion, being attacked by my cat and even having a run-in with cannibalistic Martians. Side B was one graphic sound effect after another, such as thunder, creaks and screams, which is the brief track that inspired this post:

About ten years later, after I’d retired that LP in favor of scarier sounds (i.e. girls laughing at me), I watched David Lean’s 1946 Great Expectations. And when delusional Miss Havisham sets herself on fire, I was treated to an aural Proustian flashback…


For the sake of first-time listeners…

Is this a “discovery” that’s blog post-worthy? Not in and of itself. Sure, it’s interesting, but I expect anyone who knows the LP and has seen the film has already made the same connection, and everyone else would say, “Who cares?” But when I compared how I reacted in 1984 to what I did on the internet today, I thought, now that’s noteworthy.

1984
Moments after I heard the scream in Great Expectations, my mind screamed (just as loud) “THE DISNEY HALLOWEEN RECORD!” I was damn certain it was the same scream but it wasn’t easy to confirm. The only way would be to hear both side-by-side. With nothing better to do, I accepted the challenge.

My pursuit included: a used record store; a friend’s turntable and tapedeck; me combing patiently through subsequent TV Guides looking for another screening of Great Expectations; $$$; time; passion; hunger; luck; and a phonebook. (My research always included a phonebook, God love ‘em. Mine was dog-eared at “Books – Rare and Used.”) I’m talking hours of work spread over a month of Saturdays—just to confirm that I heard what I thought I heard.

And believe me, the confirmation was oh-so-sweet.

Today
On the other hand, to prepare for this post, I used these contemporary resources: Netflix; iTunes (yes, the Disney LP is on iTunes); some DVD-ripping and video-editing software; a few mouse clicks; and IMDB, which lead to this bonus: the discovery that the sound editor for Great Expectations ended up working for Disney by the mid-50s, which would explain how this scream became part of the Disney sound effects library. Minutes of minimal effort. (It took only a little longer than it took to write this paragraph.)

And believe me, the confirmation was oh-so-dull.

Clearly, I enjoy the Chase and miss it terribly. I wonder if it will be minimized into non-existence thanks to our information-filled, computer-based trend. I don’t fear that my son will lack the Hunger for knowledge (no matter how meaningless or trivial some of the info may seem), but I fear he’ll lack the resources to find what’s out there beyond the damned internet.

I know the ingenuity I have for research stems from lessons learned in my teen years, and in recent years I’ve seen many interns panic at the notion of leaving their web browser comfort zone. (A friend told me saw an apprentice editor use iChat to find someone to buy AA-batteries for her instead of running out to get them herself. W. T. F?!)

I don’t feel cynical fearing a nation/world full of squishy bodies and squishier minds, terrified of Microfiche. Hey, maybe that’ll be a future Halloween party “record”:

You are a bold and courageous person, afraid of nothing. High on a hilltop near your home there stands a dilapidated old library

__________________________________________________

I had originally littered this post with Shit I Miss, i.e. scoping chicks at the library (a teenage pastime) and letting my imagination wander while scouring Tower Records. Please feel free to let us know what simple pleasures you miss thanks to the internet and other recent technological advancements. (And I’m not bemoaning modern technology, just noticing that it’s definitely a trade-off.)

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4 Comments

Filed under Film, Gripes

4 responses to “Great Expectations, Joyous Results…Dull Journey

  1. iris cahn

    Stephen, thank you again for another great post. Word of advice: do not play that Disney record for Harry until he is in, at least, 4th grade (unless you do not mind getting up in the middle of the night, or his bed has those waterproof sheets – children raised right ARE afraid of things that go bump in the night.) But I think you are off labeling your deserted house “Public Library”. Up here where we have ‘the summer place,’ people (camp counselors from overseas, seniors on a budget, the people who believed in Bush’s tax policy) still use the library (free internet).

  2. Seth Anderson

    Gosh, some sound like effects from the Hanna Barbara SFX CDs. Especially the Martian one.

  3. roarvis

    I grew up with this record as well, and did not know “The Scream” was from Great Expectations. Excellent find!

  4. Brian Wetzel

    WOW!!! I was watching Lean’s Great Expectations with my girlfriend tonight. I had never seen it before. When Ms. Havisham is screaming after being set on fire, something suddenly struck me. I paused the DVD and said, wait a second!….. I couldn’t believe what I heard. I grew up in the 70’s and that Disney Haunted House record is hard-wired into my brain after listening to it so times when I was a kid. I immediately checked the internet to see if the connection was true. I just couldn’t believe it! too cool! (us entertainment buffs get excited about these things)

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