Boneyard Media

The car crash in Medium Cool


I watched Medium Cool again, one of those classic bummer films of the late sixties. It’s about dispassionate journalism and the end of the sixties and is famous for being filmed in the midst of the real-life mayhem at the ’68 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The car crash at the end, though, uses the standard-issue sound effect first made famous by Nervous Norvus in his “Transfusion” single from 1956 and subsequently used in a number of records and TV shows. There’s a high-pitched male-voiced squeal at the end of this sound, and I always figured it was the voice of Nervous. Whatever the case, that goofy, familiar sound clashes with the somber, cinema verite vibe of the film, serving as a sort of buzzer handshake. Was this intentional? If so, it’s a better film than I thought.  Update 6/10: Just watched It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) and heard the “Norvus squeal” in Jimmy Durante’s opening car crash.

Nervous Norvus – “Transfusion” (1956)
Scatman Crothers – “Transfusion” (1956)
The Cadets – “Car Crash” (1960)
Jan and Dean – “Dead Man’s Curve” (1963)
The Shangri-Las – “Leader of the Pack” (1964)
Medium Cool (1968)

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