Chic socialite Melanie Daniels enjoys a passing flirtation with an eligible attorney in a San Francisco pet shop and, on an impulse, follows him to his hometown bearing a gift of lovebirds. But upon her arrival, the bird population runs amok. Suddenly, the townsfolk face a massive avian onslaught, with the feathered fiends inexplicably attacking people all over Bodega Bay.
Birds of a different feather do indeed flock together.
The Birds is directed by Alfred Hitchcock and adapted to screenplay by Evan Hunter from the story of the same name written by Daphne du Maurier. It stars Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Suzanne Pleshette, Jessica Tandy, Veronica Cartwright and Ethel Griffies. Cinematography is by Robert Burks and editing by George Tomasini.
Mother's love? Better to be ditched or loved?
When animals attack! The only outright horror movie that Alfred Hitchcock ever directed, The Birds sees the great man get the utmost terror from something so amiable in our lives - Birds! Modern day critics can hark on about it being dated all they like, it still doesn't detract from what a frenzied experience "The Birds" can still be - let alone what it did for cinema goers in 1963! Admittedly upon small screen ventures too much is missed or under enhanced, which is a crying shame.
But it isn't dark Annie! It's a full moon.
Plotting is simple in trajectory terms. Hip socialite Melanie Daniels (Hedren) has a friendly vocal joust in a pet shop with handsome Mitch Brenner (Taylor), the result of which sees Melanie, on a mischievous whim, buy a couple of lovebirds and set off for Mitch's weekend retreat out in Bodega Bay to deliver them as a show of devilish womanhood. Upon arrival in Bodega Bay, though, Melanie seems to be the spark for the birds in the area to start attacking humans, and pretty soon the attacks escalate and intensify...
Hitchcock and Hunter offer up no reasons or answers for what occurs in Bodega Bay (to keep it murky we learn late on via radio that other towns become affected), and famously the ending is open ended as well, forcing the audience to unravel ideas themselves. There's no musical score in the film, thus Hitchcock gets the terror and tension out of editing, bird effects and unholy sounds. The pacing is also a key area, it's a good hour before things go decidedly nasty, the wait keeps the viewer on edge, we seriously get to know the principal characters (the actors worked well by Hitch) and then the terror is unleashed. Perfect.
Hitchcock's skill at staging a memorable scene is well evident here. The climbing frame that sees one crow arrive, cutaway as Melanie smokes on a bench, back to the frame and now it's four crows, cutaway, back, and five crows – eight – then a "murder of crows". The birds first attack at the birthday party, the telephone kiosk, gas station mayhem, the birds swooping into view above the school roof and the POV viewpoint as we join a bird hovering above a town under siege, all great scenes, as is the crowning glory that is the eerie silence that accompanies the edge of your seat finale.
Motifs are plentiful, from Mothers to sexuality, from broken crockery - to glass - to abandonment fears, Hitch has fun, especially with the human interactions, or lack of in certain scenes. It's a film that cries out for analysis, such is the director's want, in turn it's a riveting horror picture and a crafty enigma. It sounded daft as a basic idea for a film, and some must have thought Hitchcock had missed the boat of the creature feature boom of the 50s. Yet "The Birds" stands tall and proud as a damn fine piece of film from a true maestro of his craft, one of his last true classics and still today, over 50 years after its release, the film provokes theory discussion and visual terror in equal measure. 9/10
Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions by Alfred Hitchcock, Daphne Du Maurier, Evan Hunter.
Stars: Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette.
Genres: Drama, Horror, Mystery, Romance
Keywords: pet shop seclusion playground seagull fireplace bird attack socialite based on short story practical joke schoolteacher lovebird shopkeeper unsolved mystery schoolhouse
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