A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California

Alligators and Crocodiles In Movies

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Snakes in Movies
Lizards in Movies
Turtles in Movies
Amphibians in Movies
Alligators and Crocodiles
in Movies

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Distant Drums (1951)
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
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Distant Drums is a mix of western, action, and jungle adventure, with a love story thrown in so we can look at someone more attractive than a bunch of dirty soldiers in a swamp, all filmed in glorious Technicolor. Florida and the Everglades look great here. But the movie is a bit of a cliche - the kind of movie where the sound effects are cut out and somebody says "Something's wrong. It's too quiet. I don't like it." (We hear that a couple of times.)

The movie is probably only notable because it is the movie that first recorded and used the Wilhelm Scream, an over-the-top man screaming sound that became a stock sound effect and Hollywood sound designer in-joke. It has been used in hundreds of movies including the Star Wars movies, the Lord of the Rings movies, the Indiana Jones movies, and movies made by Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton among many others. In Distant Drums, a man pulled underwater by an alligator makes the scream, but in most uses it's a man who is shot and falling or flying through the air who makes it.

(Click here to see and hear the scream in Distant Drums, along with a woman's scream that nicely echoes it. There's also a fun compilation video on YouTube that shows a lot of examples of the scream used in movies.)

Gary Cooper is U.S. Army Captain Quincy Wyatt in 1840 Florida during the war against the Seminole Indians. He leads a small group of soldiers to blow up a fort but afterwards they are forced to hike 150 miles through the miserable swamp that is the Everglades to get back to safety along with several civilians they rescued, all the while chased by painted-up Injuns on the warpath. And yes, they play drums to communicate with distant Seminoles. We first see a large alligator eating a small one. Then when the soldiers are hiking through the Everglades, Cooper's love interest sees some gators in the water so he carries her. But she turns around to see the gators getting a soldier. He's the guy who does the scream. She does some creaming herself. Then we see some murky footage of a man and an alligator underwater, and then some incongruous film of some gators at an alligator farm eating some meat. We're supposed to be naive enough to believe that they belong in our movie, but we can tell that they're from somewhere else. Finally, at a Seminole villiage, Cooper and the men go inside a hut where there is a large pen full of water and alligators with several U.S. Army hats floating in the water. Apparently this is how the Seminoles get rid of their prisoners.

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