Runtime: 2 hours, 0 minutes
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Rod Taylor,Tippi Hedren,Suzanne Pleshette
Genres: Drama, Mystery, Horror
Studio: Universal Studios
MPAA rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
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A wealthy San Francisco playgirl pursues a potential boyfriend to a small Northern California town which slowly takes a turn when birds of all kinds suddenly begin to attack people there, in increasing numbers and with increasing viciousness.
A highly innovative horror
Imagine Hitchcock trying to sell this idea to the filmstudios:the lives of a mundane country family are shattered when vicious rooksattack. Why? No particular reason. And what then? They fly away.and then? They come back again and attack. And then go and then . ..It seems like an impossible plot to pull off, but Hitchcock does it,slowlybuilding up the tension which spasmodically swells and subsides. Youngerviewers may get irritated with the slow stealth of the opening scenes andmay want to thrash the T.V. when the film comes to its beautifully drollconclusion, but form once those birds start attacking, every viewer isriveted.It was fine Hitchcockian innovation that took this very slim, cock-a-mamystory and turned in to a tense thriller. But the greatest innovation isthefilm score – there isn’t any. No director is more closely identified withthe music of their films, but in Birds, Hitchcock created a horror that isuniquely quiet. The great man appreciated something that so few othersdo -the atmospheric potency of silence, and how, in different settings,silencescan differ in character. Yet so many who watch the film seem to forgetthatthe music isn’t there. That’s the film’s greatest attribute.
Obsessions Under the Strobelight.
Some films are so well made that watching them unfold sequence bysequence creates the feeling of surrender to a higher force. Hitchcock,no stranger to spellbinding his audience, was known for bringing asense of intense masochism into the viewer’s eyes. In THE MAN WHO KNEWTOO MUCH the Albert Hall sequence is a perfect crescendo of images andmusic in which Jo McKenna sees a man who is the key to her son’s safetyprepare to commit a crime with deadly slowness. In PSYCHO, Marion Cranetakes a fatal shower and gets a vicious visitor. In VERTIGO, Scotty andJudy begin a dizzying affair which itself is as obsessive as narcoticand culminates high above the bell tower, filled with revelations uponrevelations.
THE BIRDS is by far one of Hitchcock’s most deadly incursions intocinematic masochism. In itself, it’s a masterpiece of misdirection.Hitchcock has no wrong man in his story, no chase sequences (or atleast, none that involve Cary Grant and some Bad Guys), and nodouble-crosses. All he presents here is Tippi Hedren’s arrival to thesmall town of Bodega Bay, a series of Meet Cutes between her and RodTaylor, what could pass as romantic suspense, and the most impressivesweeping of the rug right out from under the audience’s feet atprecisely halfway through the movie when the plot makes a left turninto uncharted territory. Who else can lay claim to that feat?Hitchcock, in revealing the black petals of his deadly flower revealingthemselves, opening up, and swallowing the viewer whole at this precisemark is one of the un-topped achievements in cinema history.
And so begins a sequence of events that proceed at the vertiginouscrescendo of domino’s falling. We’ve seen the birds amass and attack inincreasing ferocity. We’ve seen the damage they’ve done to the littlecity. Hitchcock, of course, has one better on the viewers during thefilm’s overpowering climax: making their presence oppressive andomniscient through the use of sound imitating their shrieks until itbecomes deafening and everyone is twisting and turning in revulsionamong the corners of the house in reaction not only to their fury butto what they might imagine as their horrible deaths. Hitchcock neveronce gives an emotional release, and then he outdoes himself in usingthe most hackneyed excuse for a plot device: Melanie ascending thestairs because she heard a rustling noise, the quintessential "Don’t gothere," which is the oldest trick in the book. Because we know whatlies on the other side of the door….
The stroboscopic effect of the last attack is petrifying as it isunflinching. Melanie, waving the flashlight in a weak signal for help,being slammed against the door, as Mitch tries to get inside but findshe cannot. As Melanie begins slumping and surrenders to the birds’attack, she has an odd mixture of horror and pleasure. We, of course,can’t do anything but watch and watch and watch.
Hitchcock had always been attracted to the theme of rape. Because his(professional) relationship with Tippi Hedren was brittle at best, thissequence, somehow out of place and character, seems more in tune withhis love-hate attitude towards blonde women and his need for theirtotal submission. Beginning with the emotional rape Jo McKenna sufferswith the disappearance of her son, the psychological stripping ofMadeleine’s identity in VERTIGO, Marion’s violent death at the BatesMotel in PSYCHO in and culminating in the barbaric rape sequence ofFRENZY, he possessed a desire to destroy that which he loved or desiredthe most.
I notice how he makes Rod Taylor’s character suddenly incapable ofsaving Melanie right at the end (which heightens the viewers agony –they want, they need her to survive the birds’ attack). It’s almost asif he, the Director as Ringmaster, were pushing the Heroine right tothe edge of the abyss for one last moment before bringing her back tothe (relative) safety of family. Even then, with the vague ending,Hitchcock seems to sort of wink at the audience and tell them that it’sstill not over — and this is the sort of thing only a sadistic imp ofa personality would do. THE BIRDS is his obsessions at its mostexplicit (as they were implicit in VERTIGO) and is the kind ofcinematic experience that can always be rediscovered even when itstricks become evident. It’s been considered Hitchcock’s lastmasterpiece before returning to almost full form for FRENZY, and inmany ways, it is the setup for the more graphic, cruel violence of thelatter film.
Tippi Feathers With Mother
Seems silly to give a 10 to "The Birds" what can I give to "Notorius"then? Or "Rear Window"? A 20? It doesn’t matter, a 10 shouldn’t meanthe best but one of the best. Best as in degrees of enjoyment, best asin time of enjoyment, 10 for the kind of enjoyment. "The Birds" is aten for all of the above. Hitchcock’s world varied consistently, itdepended very much on his travelling companions. Writers first andforemost then composers. There is no music in "The Birds" so most of myquestions are directed to the eclectic Evan Hunter who dissected Daphnede Maurier’s original story and transformed it into something that noteven Hitchcock had attempted before. A lyrically surreal horror soapopera kind of thing. It visits many of Hitchcock’s obsession’s ofcourse, an icy blond and a castrating mother. Tippi Hedren follows along line of Hitchcock blonds, from Madeline Carroll and Ingrid Bergmanto Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Janet Leigh, Eva Marie Saint and Doris Dayas Jessica Tandy follows Madame Constantin, Jesse Royce Landis andLouise Latham not to mention Mrs. Bates. Evan Hunter was behind filmslike Richard Brooks’s "Blackboard Jungle" and a semi forgotten gemFrank Perry’s "Last Summer" As well as having Akira Kurosawa based hisfilm noir "The Ransom" on one of his novels. Here, he followsHitchcock’s needs with religious reverence and at the same time comesout with something quite unique. I love the light weightiness of theheaviness. I’ve always loved the daringness of the pacing. The car tripto to Bodega Bay or the long shots of Jessica Tandy’s truck drivingaway in horror from the farm. This movie is also a reminder to thefilmmakers, depending in special effects, that effects tend to age amovie far too fast. The effects should be at the service of thecharacters and not the other way round. Rod Taylor, a charming,versatile matinée idol with a brain and the scrumptious SuzannePleshette ad to the many pleasures this 10 of a film will keep in storefor generations to come.
A true puzzle without an answer; brilliant
One of Hitchcock’s most enigmatic and fascinating films, a true puzzlewithout an answer. Hitchcock chucks away all but the barest conceit ofDuMaurier’s story, and instead constructs an elegant little comedy ofmanners so dry it’ll sting your lips. Tippi Hedren’s spoiled rich girlmakes a trip to a west-coast fishing town to play a joke on a smartasslawyer who still lives with his mum, and things get complicated. In themovie’s first half, the director layers on the sexual tensions and thebitchy wit until you’re at the screaming point–and then unleashes acataclysmic natural horror so unspeakable it could be something out ofthe Bible.
All technical elements are superb. Hitchcock, so well known for his useof music, shows here how terrifying silence can be, and ‘The Birds’remains an intensely quiet picture, even punctuated, as it is, bysudden noisy violence. The set pieces, like the fireplace scene, theplayground scene, and the visit with Dan Fawcett, are studies inperfection. The cast is smooth down to the tiniest roles, with theproto-Altman ensemble scene in the diner being one of the mostmemorable segments in a film chock-full of them.
And it is literally impossible to imagine better-cast actors in theleads. Hedren is perfect as Melanie Daniels, the party girl who, whilenot nearly as clever as she thinks she is, may just be telling thetruth when she says she’s looking for something more meaningful in herlife. Rod Taylor is charming and somewhat inscrutable as thelocal-boy-made-good who thinks he knows what he wants. SuzannePleschette is smoldering as the cynical (and perhaps sexuallyambiguous) schoolteacher who takes Melanie in.
And perhaps most important, Jessica Tandy is a searing, twitchilyhypnotic presence as Lydia Brenner, surely one of greatest supportingcharacters in the Hitchcock pantheon.
As the movie runs on, the director gleefully ignores one loose endafter another, leaving the viewer with an epic catalogue of unansweredquestions at the climax (the most important of which is articulated bythe diner’s birdwatching crone: Why?). And if you’re the kind ofmoviegoer who likes having everything neatly explained, you’d best trysomething else. But if you like ambiguity (and a healthy dose ofexistential nightmarishness), it doesn’t get any better than this. 10out of 10.
The last movie Senator Gill ever saw
An old friend, the late State Senator Ted Gill, of Holyoke, Colorado,once told me that The Birds was the last movie he ever saw. He gave upmovies after seeing this flick…they were just getting too weird anddisturbing for an old rancher like him. It’s still pretty terrifying,even if you’ve seen it again and again. You know what bad, brutalscenes are coming and don’t want to see the carnage again, but can’thelp yourself. It’s ominous as the crows flock tighter and tighter,always more and more, on the schoolyard Monkey-Bars and it’s alsoexciting to see the school kids chased down by the crows a few minuteslater. Subplots like the pitiful neurosis of Lydia Brenner, Mitch &Annie’s lost-love-affair, Mitch’s indifference to the needs of others,and the poor-little-rich-girl Melanie, who still just wants her mommie,are all well-written and acted. Loved best by me is Hitchcock’shumorous characters who are CHARACTERS! The old drunk at the barquoting Holy Scripture, the nosy neighbor done wonderfully by RichardDeacon, the dowdily-dressed old intellectual in the cafe buying hercigarettes and evidently a scientific expert for any field. SirAlfred’s macabre touches of comedy are unmatched, even in today’sthrillers. I’m repulsed and attracted by such scenes as the one in thefarmhouse, where Jessica Tandy discovers an old friend pecked to death,with his eye sockets bloody and empty. I find myself still searchingfor gory details on the farmer’s body because Hitch didn’t let thecamera dwell on the horrible face too long. But he DID give us tworapid jump-cuts with closer and closer close-ups, and we end up seeingjust as much detail as Jessica just did – enough to know that "We gottagit outta there!" Overall, a fine time. 119 minutes of revolting fun!
I Never Get Tired of Watching "The Birds"
I recall watching "The Birds" for the first time when I was about 8 yearsold and afterwards I was afraid of birds for years. (I’d still be freakedifone flew into a room I was in!)
I’ve probably watched "The Birds" over 25 times since I first saw it inthe1970’s and it still impresses me. By what exactly? Manythings.
First, the special effects were amazing for a film from 1963. How didHitchcock get the birds to attack (I read that Hitchcock once joked whenasked that question: "They were well paid!)
Secondly, the detailed camera angles that Hitchcock put into the film.Younotice this almost immediately in the Bird Shop when the bird is flyingaround loose. Who would ever think to film "arms and the ceiling"? Laterinthe Phone Booth the scene is filmed as if Melanie is in a "bird cage".Otherastounding angles include when the birds attack the house, not to mentionthe final attack in the bedroom. So many directors shoot scenes in aboringmanner, but not Hitchcock.
The more times I view "The Birds" the more I understand the ending, but Ido agree that at first I was not satisfied with it. I wanted the birds toeither finish the job or to be challenged by something (Mitch did hear onMelanie’s car radio that perhaps the military might be called in!) but wenever saw anything like that. I guess that’s why we haveimaginations!
‘Tippi’ Hedren was a beautiful cool blonde who played Melanie Daniels assheshould have – icy and yet ultimately very vulnerable. Rod Taylor asMitchBrenner seemed a good reason for her to travel to Bodega Bay. JessicaTandy as Lydia was what you’d expect of an older, widowed, small townwomanfrom that time. Suzanne Pleshette as Annie Hayworth, the school teacher,with her dark beauty was quite a contrast to Melanie and I felt awful atherdeath by the birds. Veronica Cartwright as Kathy Brenner was a littleannoying when she cried but then that IS what young girlsdo!!
Of course some of the dialogue is dated but that’s with mostfilms.
There is really nothing I dislike about "The Birds" as you can probablytell. Others may disagree, and they’re entitled to their opinion. Ijustthink everyone should re-watch "The Birds" a little deeper; perhaps itwillchange their perspective on it.
Terrific Visuals And Special Effects
Gripping and unnerving, Hitchcock’s "The Birds" is one of the greatfilms of all time. In more recent movies, special effects are the solereason to see the film; there is no real story. What makes "The Birds"so eloquent is that the special effects enhance an already masterfulstory.
One could reasonably argue that Hitchcock’s classic was one of thefirst, if not the first, films to explore an environmental apocalypse.As such, it has great thematic depth. The story shows how we take forgranted simple features of our everyday world, and how unsettling itwould be not to have control over these mundane environmental features.
Characters are multidimensional; we care about them; they clearlydisplay their humanity. And the dialogue is excellent. My favoritecharacter is the amusingly intellectual ornithologist. Mrs. Bundy, sosure of herself in the Café scene: "I hardly think that either species(of birds) would have sufficient intelligence to launch a mass attack;their brain pans are not big enough".
Plot structure is fine, although it’s not unreasonable to state thatthe story is a bit slow to develop; perhaps a few scenes in the firsttwenty minutes could have been deleted or shortened. The film’s endingis sufficiently clear without being explicit.
There are so many good visuals it’s hard to know where to begin. Afavorite of mine is the scene where Melanie sits in front of ajungle-gym smoking a cigarette; birds casually and innocently gatherbehind her. After a time when she has finished her cigarette, thecamera reverts back to the jungle-gym; this time it has been overrun byan ominous army of birds; the scene is rendered even more effective byhaving no dialogue.
Another factor that makes this film good is the absence of backgroundmusic; the story doesn’t need it. Ambient sounds alone enhance suspenseand realism. The sounds of flapping and squawking birds are eerie andeffective. Casting is almost ideal. Tippi Hedren may be a bit prim andproper but she does a good job with her role. I don’t recall a weakperformance anywhere.
"The Birds" is probably my favorite Hitchcock film. Aside from possiblya slow start, it’s a well-made film, using technically difficult visualeffects. It is not only entertaining but also thought-provoking in itsunderlying environmental theme.
Hitchcock’s Masterpiece: The Birds
I write this as I look out the window onto the bird bath. Now that Ihave watched The Birds (1963), I have a completely differentperspective of them. I have a slight, small fear that they will gather(there’s quite a few out there), and somehow attack me with force. ButI guess that’s what an amazing movie does to you – it affects yourthoughts and feelings long after you have finished watching.
The Birds is about a notorious socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren)who goes out of her way to deliver two lovebirds for a prank on a manshe just met (…although he recognized her!). She ends up staying theweekend in Bogeda Bay, strange things start to happen: a seagullattacks her when she delivers the lovebirds, and this is the start ofthe attacks which increase in terror over the movie. Hitchcock isextremely clever with this, and manages to build up both suspense andtension.
Out of all the Hitchock’s I’ve seen so far, I believe that this is myfavourite. I loved the air of suspense and tension that was created, Iloved the acting, I loved the story, I loved the special effects (Iwould much prefer the simplistic special effects than today’s – if thiswas made today, everything would be over the top and I believe it couldtake away from the movie itself), everything. Hitchcock truly excelledat this genre – no wonder why it is his trademark. A timeless classic –chilling and suspenseful.
Some birds have the potential to exterminate the entire human race.
Birds are not different from human beings.There are as keen on wreckingirreparable damage on people whom they despise as human beings havealways made a point to damage minds and souls of other humanbeings.This is the fundamental concept of "The Birds" directed byAlfred Hitchcock.This idea might not appear to be rational to all thosewho think that birds are innocent souls flying high in mighty sky.Ifthey are really innocent as human beings make them to appear, why is itthat not even a single bird other than a parrot is capable of emotinghuman sentiments.The Birds has been hailed as a horror film as itcreates a painful feeling in the minds of people.It is amazing that thefeeling of horror is conveyed using real birds.This demonstrates howMr.Hitchcock was ahead of his times in a world devoid of uselesstechnology.It is such a wonder that ordinary looking birds have fooleddevilish human beings who have always felt that birds are nothing butprosaic living organisms who never meant much to human beings.A wordabout Tippi Hedren.She is a joy to watch as she has been deftlydirected by Alfred Hitchcock who has helped her to get over her "maimedlamb" persona which was created when she appeared in their previousjoint venture "Marnie".
After briefly flirting with a young man in a bird store, MelanieDaniels, decides to see him again. Her search brings her to a quietcoastal town of Bodega Bay. Inexplicably birds of all types start topester people and it isn’t long before they begin to outright attack inswarms and no one can figure out why…
Not many effects and shock based films age well as the audiencesdefinition of shock changes over time. ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’from 1930 was the most graphically realistic war film of its time, yetit is seems like a remarkably lightweight next to ‘Saving PrivateRyan.’ Hitchcock, however is often an exception to this unofficialrule. His films are never re-made, just mimicked and even thoseoutright mimic often produce good films – DePalma’s ‘Dressed to Kill’with it’s grisly elevator murder is a clear copy of ‘Psycho’ but isstill a great on screen murder. So Hitchcock doesn’t age, he is justcontinuously appreciated and Brian DePalma borrowing heavily from himhas become a fine thriller director is his own right.
‘The Birds’ is a clear example of Hitchcock’s unsurpassed ability toget audiences biting their nails. He just lets things happen and setsabout showing them in the best way possible. The birds of the titleliterally just appear and begin to cause hell and the film just showsit almost as if it were happening and you were there amidst the swarm.The film also has groundbreaking sound and visual effect design asvirtually all the birds were faked – aurally composed by BernardHermann and visually superimposed from many other shots. Today’sseamless computer effects show that Hitchcock has plenty of apparentlimitations, but he still did a remarkable job. He must have known hislimitations since he sets up shots to make them relatively unapparent.He works with what he has and that results in a landmark of thesuspense genre. Other films in the same vein, such as ‘The Swarm’ fromthe 70s can’t lay a feather to ‘The Birds.’ Also, there is a subtle(actually, in your face!) reference to James Whale’s classic monstermovie ‘Frankenstein’ – can you find it?
The only thing that is left to be desired is that some of thecharacterizations seem a outdated by today’s standards. But, thenagain, this isn’t a classic because it’s new! — 10/10
Rated PG-13 for terror/violence