Sound Effects

How much do sound effects add to movies? Consider the Three Stooges shorts. Those of us who had our sense of humor shaped (our mothers might say “warped”) by the antics of Larry, Moe, Curly, and Shemp understand the deft comedic impact of an apt sound effect. Whether it’s a horn beep sounding when a nose gets bonked, the coconut sound of two heads colliding thanks to Moe, ripped fabric when Larry’s hair gets pulled out, or one of many other sound effects used in the shorts (many of which are found in the video clips above), the sound effects unquestionably add to the hilarity.

My favorite Stooges sound effect is the violin string pluck used when eyes get gouged by Moe, which you can hear in the clip below. Why do plucked violin strings work as a sound effect for an eye gouge? I don’t know–they just do.

The Three Stooges never won an Academy Award, although one of their early shorts (Men in Black, in 193) was nominated for Best Short Subject–Comedy. There wasn’t an award for best sound effect or best sound editing in those days. It’s too bad, because the Stooges deserved one. The sound effects were a key part of the whole Stooges experience.

The Significance Of Sound

Doug Grindstaff died late last month, at age 87.  It’s a loss for anyone who has enjoyed the Star Trek universe.

Who’s Doug Grindstaff, you say?  He’s the guy who came up with all of those nifty sound effects on the original Star Trek — the beeps and bloops and whooshes that made the show a feast for the ears.  The sssshhh sound when the doors from the turbolift to the bridge opened.  The blurbling bleeps that were emitted when a communicator was opened.  The puffing air that we heard when Dr. McCoy injected someone with some advanced medicine.  And the kind of crackling, whirring humming that the transporter made when Scotty beamed the away team down to the surface of a new planet, where one of the anonymous red-shirted security guys was bound to meet his maker.

We forget about how important sound can be to TV shows and movies.  But take a look at this snip from the beginning of the epic Star Trek “City on the Edge of Forever” episode — and then think about what it would have been like without all of those classic, memorable, and entirely fitting sound effects.  It’s hard to imagine Star Trek without those sounds.  We can thank Doug Grindstaff’s special form of genius and creativity for that.