The Birds – 1963 – English
Film directed in 1963 by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, Veronica Cartwright, Ethel Griffies, Charles McGraw, Doreen Lang, Ruth McDevitt, Joe Mantell, Alfred Hitchcock…
Synopsis: Melanie Daniels is the modern rich socialite, part of the jet-set who always gets what she wants. When lawyer Mitch Brenner sees her in a pet shop, he plays something of a practical joke on her, and she decides to return the favor. She drives about an hour north of San Francisco to Bodega Bay, where Mitch spends the weekends with his mother Lydia and younger sister Cathy. Soon after her arrival, however, the birds in the area begin to act strangely. A seagull attacks Melanie as she is crossing the bay in a small boat, and then, Lydia finds her neighbor dead, obviously the victim of a bird attack. Soon, birds in the hundreds and thousands are attacking anyone they find out of doors. There is no explanation as to why this might be happening, and as the birds continue their vicious attacks, survival becomes the priority.
Review: The Birds is one of Hitchcock’s most well-known movies. Along with Psycho, it’s the movie that most people identify with him. Many pages have been written about it and surely there will be more. I know that the superb technical aspects of the movie have been discussed a lot, so I’ll try to focus on something I noticed yesterday when I watched it.
It’s scarier when there are no birds on screen. The tension, the silence, the uncertainty, the mystery. That’s what suspense is about.
I was amazed of how carefully Hitchcock builds the suspense in this movie. You watch the birds standing there, and they do not move, they are just waiting. Even when you think they are dumb something tells you they are thinking. They are analyzing your moves.
This was possible with the aid of a top-notch screenplay, and great performances of the actors. This was probably the most difficult film for Hitchcock, specially for the technical aspects that were involved, but when you watch it, it really was worth the pain.
The main plot is well-known: Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren),a young girl goes to Bodega Bay looking for Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor),a handsome man she met in San Francisco, when suddenly, the birds start attacking humans by no reason. Pretty straight forward, and by this date very outdated, but Hitchcock adds his magic and the script spices this with the very complex relationships between the characters.
The complex relationship between Mitch and his mother Lydia(played by Jessica Tandy), and the conflict that she has with Melanie is very interesting and brings back memories from Psycho. Also, Melanie’s relationship with her own mother and the bond that she creates with Lydia and Mitch’s 11 years old sister Cathy(Veronica Cartwright) is fascinating.
The scene when the four of them are trapped inside the house with the birds waiting outside is classic; not only is, as I wrote above, a perfect example of the use of suspense, it is an awesome study of the characters and how their relation grows. I think that this particular movie was main inspiration for George A. Romero’s claustrophobic climax in his landmark film “Night of the Living Dead”(1968).
The technical aspects may be the focus of many studies, but the characters deserve to be praised, even the support cast with a few lines develop a personality of their own. The restaurant scene is Hitchcock at his best with witty dialogs that are both humorous and creepy. Very good ensemble.
Overall, this is an awesome movie, many reviewers have said it, I know. But I wanted to point that beyond the technical advances this experimental movie features, it is a perfect example of why Alfred Hitchcock is considered, “The Master of Suspense”.