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 there in increasing numbers and with increasing viciousness.
While attending a medical conference in Paris, American physician Dr. Ben McKenna, his wife, retired musical theater actress and singer Jo McKenna née Conway, and their adolescent son Hank McKenna decide to take a side trip to among other places Marrekesh, French Morocco. With a knife plunged into his back, Frenchman Louis Bernard, who the family met earlier in their bus ride into Marrakesh and who is now masquerading as an Arab, approaches Ben, cryptically whispering into Ben's ears that there will be an attempted assassination in London of a statesman, this news whispered just before Bernard dies. Ben is reluctant to provide any information of this news to the authorities because concurrently Hank is kidnapped by British couple, Edward and Lucy Drayton, who also befriended the McKennas in Marrakesh and who probably have taken Hank out of the country back to England. Whoever the unknown people the Draytons are working for have threatened to kill Hank if Ben divulges any information ... Written by
Conductor Bernard Herrmann plays himself on-screen. He's listed as such in the beginning credits, and his name can be seen on the poster play bill when Doris Day exits the taxi at Albert Hall. All the names on the poster play bill are those of the performers of the "Cantata Storm Clouds" : the London Symphony Orchestra, Barbara Howitt (mezzo-soprano) and the Covent Garden Opera Chorus. See more »
Prior to Dr. McKenna and Jo entering Ambrose Chapel, there is a white stain on Dr. McKenna's left shoulder, apparently from the struggle at the taxidermist. As soon as Dr. McKenna enters the chapel, the stain disappears, then reappears after they take their place in the chapel. See more »
All the trademark Hitchcock elements are in place yet again, for a wonderful example of crowd-pleasing from the man who knew better than anyone just how to work an audience. James Stewart, everyone's perfect everyman returns to familiar ground, with the perfect wife (Doris Day, perfect casting), and perfect family. Into this chocolate box world is thrown some dangerous information, and a downward spiral of kidnap and murder.
As usual, there are the elaborately staged set-pieces, and the intimate psychoanalysis that you would expect. Here, the assassination sequence in the Royal Albert Hall provides the former - a beautifully choreographed blend of music and images building to the pivotal crash of cymbals, and the scenes in Morocco the latter, as our couple become obliviously embroiled in international espionage. It is hard to find fault with any of Hitchcock's contrivances (using the Oscar-winning 'Whatever Will Be' as a plot device to get Doris singing is almost too much, but forgivable), and the the whole cast are superb, giving incredibly naturalistic performances - see the scene in the Moroccan restaurant, which almost seems ad-libbed.
One of Hitchcock's best.
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