Friday, August 20, 2010

The Birds

The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock
Based on the short story by Daphne Du Maurier
Release Date: March 28th, 1963
Starring: Tippie Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Veronica Cartwright, Suzanne Pleshette
Rating: ★★★
To Buy
Melanie Daniels is picking up a mynah bird for her aunt when she meets Mitch Brenner. As is the nature of this young socialite who is inclined to play practical jokes, she pretends to be a sales associate willing to help Mitch in his search for two love birds for his little sister's birthday. Of course, it's really Mitch who's playing the joke on Melanie, knowing full well about this girl who likes to wander around Italian fountains naked. Melanie, chagrined, decides to one up Mr. Brenner and shows up later at his home with the love birds only to find he's headed to Bodega Bay to spend the weekend with his family. Never one to be deterred, Melanie heads up there to deliver the birds in the most convoluted and confounding manner. Instead of simply driving up to his house she rents a boat to sneak up on their dock and therefore leave the birds as a surprise. Melanie gets the result she was hoping for, Mitch races back to town to meet her... too bad she's attacked by a bird on the way back, marring her triumphant smile. That night she is invited to dinner at the Brenners, where she gets to meet Cathy, the birthday girl, and Mitch's mother, Lydia. After a persistent Cathy insists that Melanie stay for her party the next day, Melanie stays with an ex of Mitch's and Cathy's teacher, Annie. That night at Annie's a bird kills itself against the door. The next day at Cathy's party birds come out of nowhere to harm the children. The attacks become more and more fierce till the Brenners and Melanie take refuge in a house boarded shut mourning the death of Annie and countless others. There is no end in sight of these ever vicious, ever increasing attacks. We are left with a minor victory, they survive the night, but how much longer will they live?

Perhaps the movie by Hitchcock, more than any other, that could be labeled a summer blockbuster, even if this was before JAWS set the standard. What starts out as almost a romantic comedy with a chance meeting soon spirals into death, death and more death, with a side of a man on fire. Hitchcock wanted to employ every special effect of the day, creating a world of feathers and blood. Aside from the shower scene in Psycho, the scene where Melanie waits outside the school for young Cathy while the birds slowly multiple on the jungle gym is one of the most ominous and scary in film history. The reason why it works so well is the counterbalance of the quietly massing birds with the children's innocent singing. In fact, aside from the singing of the children, this movie has no score, adding to the realism and also showing that the idea of birds turning against us is scary enough with their piercing cries that they don't need a Bernard Herrmann orchestra backing to get the blood pumping. But overall, this is not really my favorite movie. The reason is I kind of take glee in the death and destruction. Melanie is a spoiled rich girl, Mitch is a magnetic man whom women flock too, which I can not see for the life of me, Cathy is a spoiled little girl and Lydia is emotionally remote and almost a cold hearted bitch. This cast of unlikable characters being slowly tortured makes me laugh. I know it's some perverse, dark sense of humor that resides in me, I blame my grandparents, but I take joy in the character's pain. Except Annie. I feel bad for her, she doesn't get the man, only death trying to save that which Mitch does love, Cathy. After reading the short story though I can see how Hitchcock's mind was working. Things jump off the page that you then see in Hitchcock's eye. There's the lone telephone booth and the school bus, which Hitchcock surely thought, how about an attack in the telephone booth, and what good is a school bus full of children when you can put a while school in jeopardy. Plus, just as the story, the ending is bleak. They survive, for one last cigarette? For one last drive down the coast? Hitchcock had wanted to end this movie with a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge covered in birds... interesting thought, birds bringing about the end of days.


I do love this book!!!!
Read it for Gothic Literature class back in Literature and Linguistics school.

argh.. commented on the wrong post!
this was for Daphne's The Birds and Other Stories. :P

I've never watched the movie.

I watched The Birds for the first time not too long ago and I was not impressed. I've been hearing about it as long as I can remember so I was left feeling like "that's it?" Maybe I would understand it better if I read the short story...

LOL Fly! I love Du Maurier, she's awesome. Ladytink, I think it was amazing as a movie for what it did at the time and cinema buffs can get into it, but for those who are used to today's movie fare, it's not all that. No wonder there are rumors every year that they plan to remake it...

I'll watch this movie later today (sunday)
will come back to discuss your post!

Oh, love it! It's like you're doing fun homework!

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