the birds | alfred hitchcock | evan hunter | rod taylor | tippi hedren | suzanne pleshette | united states | animal attack | drama | mystery | romance | jessica tandy | veronica cartwright | ethel griffies | charles mcgraw | ruth mcdevitt | lonny chapman | joe mantell
Film: The Birds
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer: Evan Hunter
Starring: Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren and Jessica Tandy
My history with this film was that at least one of my parents introduced it to me. I know for a fact when it came out, it terrified my father. This film definitely shows how well director Alfred Hitchcock is at creating tension. To get into this, the official synopsis is a wealthy San Francisco socialite pursues a potential boyfriend to a small Northern California town that slowly takes a turn for the bizarre when birds of all kinds suddenly begin to attack people.
As the synopsis states, we start with a woman going into a pet shop. She is Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren). She is a strong, independant woman and we see that with how she speaks to the woman working there. Her order isn’t ready yet and she is definitely going to get her way. We then meet Mitch Brenner (Rody Taylor). He knows her as she pulled a prank on someone that caused damage and had to go to court. He pranks her and she is intrigued by the man. She decides to go to his mother’s home, where he goes every weekend in Bodega Bay.
She ends up staying to have dinner with him. The film doesn’t waste too much time as she is attacked by a seagull before she can get off the boat she rented. The attacks become more and more frequent and the number of birds continues to grow.
This film is scary for the fact that there are so many birds not just around us every day, but in the world. If they decided to do what this film has them doing, we would be in a lot of trouble. They outnumber us and when they attack by force, the bigger birds could do some damage. Another thing that is scary, we do not ever get why they are doing it, why they don’t continually attack or anything, they just do and not knowing why is scarier. Even the other people in the film don’t know and begin to blame Melanie because it started when she got there. I could buy this as it is becoming hysterical.
The love story in this film I wanted to touch on briefly. From the beginning, we see that Melanie and Mitch have a connection. I really think that Hitchcock did a good job at developing their relationship. They don’t fall for each other immediately. They actually seem to bump heads. It seems natural to build. Something I really noticed in this last viewing as well is the development of the characters; we get scenes where the birds are in the background. Characters may or may not notice them, but we as viewers can. It is another way that Hitchcock builds tension and makes him a master of it.
There is an interesting feeling to how the film is edited though. I have stated that Hitchcock is great at building tension. When you see characters walking outside and there are birds accumulating, but you don’t know what will set them off or when they are attacking and you don’t know if they will get in or not. Both of these got my anxiety up and I’ve seen this film a few times. An issue I have though is that we lose some of the tension in a few scenes. An example is when Melanie brings Mitch’s mother tea, Lydia (Jessica Tandy). We are given insight in her character, but I don’t think it is needed. It just drags the film out. I will say though overall, the tension does build and we get an amazing final shot.
The acting is well done as well. Taylor is a great hero. Hedren is beautiful and becomes a great damsel in distress. My problem though is that she is built up to be the main character. During the climax she goes catatonic and we see Taylor taking over. I didn’t care for this shift. Tandy is solid as the mother. I just don’t know if we needed to flesh her out as much as we got. It doesn’t add a lot to the story in my opinion. Mitch’s sister Cathy is played by a young Veronica Cartwright. It is crazy to see her so young and she was fine in this film. There is also his former flame, she is the local school teacher Annie Hayworth. She is played by Suzanne Pleshette, she doesn’t have a lot of time in this film, but what she does is good. The rest of the cast round the film out for what they needed.
As to the effects of the film, I thought they were pretty well done for the time period. They didn’t have a lot to work with and it isn’t perfect what they did. They used superimposing images on top of each other, which does work fairly well. There is a scene in the house where it doesn’t. It doesn’t look great, but it is still effective. I do give them credit for getting as many birds as they do. The film also was shot amazing. It looks great.
What I was really impressed by was the score of the film. The music itself doesn’t stand out aside from the scene where Melanie is waiting for Annie while she is teaching the class. We get this somewhat cheery song the children are singing, but you hear the birds making noise as they gather in the playground. The rest of the soundtrack was pretty subtle. What really creeped me out was the sounds of the birds when you can’t see them. It is so loud and you know there are a ton of them.
This is a solid horror film about when animals attack. This one isn’t about something scary like a large animal, but something common we see everyday and something that severely outnumbers us. It is scary to think that if these common animals decided to start a war against us. The story actually isn’t overly complex, but I love that we don’t know why these birds or doing this. The hysteria it causes helps the tension. The acting was really good, as was the score of the film. It is shot very well, but there are some issues with the editing. It does build tension still and it is effective for the most part. The effects were good for the era and I didn’t have major issues with it. I would highly recommend this one as it is a classic. It is a good film in my opinion.
My Rating: 9 out of 10