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.
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. Written by
The classic scene in which Tippi Hedren watches birds attacking the townsfolk was filmed in the studio from a phone booth. When Melanie opens the phone-booth door, a bird trainer had trained gulls that were taught to fly at it. Surviving photos of the shooting of the scene were published in the book "Hitchcock at Work" by Bill Krohn. See more »
Twice in the movie, a kettle and serving carafe clearly show multiple bright studio lights reflected in them. See more »
Gripping and unnerving, Hitchcock's "The Birds" is one of the great films of all time. In more recent movies, special effects are the sole reason to see the film; there is no real story. What makes "The Birds" so eloquent is that the special effects enhance an already masterful story.
One could reasonably argue that Hitchcock's classic was one of the first, if not the first, films to explore an environmental apocalypse. As such, it has great thematic depth. The story shows how we take for granted simple features of our everyday world, and how unsettling it would be not to have control over these mundane environmental features.
Characters are multidimensional; we care about them; they clearly display their humanity. And the dialogue is excellent. My favorite character is the amusingly intellectual ornithologist. Mrs. Bundy, so sure 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 that the story is a bit slow to develop; perhaps a few scenes in the first twenty minutes could have been deleted or shortened. The film's ending is sufficiently clear without being explicit.
There are so many good visuals it's hard to know where to begin. A favorite of mine is the scene where Melanie sits in front of a jungle-gym smoking a cigarette; birds casually and innocently gather behind her. After a time when she has finished her cigarette, the camera reverts back to the jungle-gym; this time it has been overrun by an ominous army of birds; the scene is rendered even more effective by having no dialogue.
Another factor that makes this film good is the absence of background music; the story doesn't need it. Ambient sounds alone enhance suspense and realism. The sounds of flapping and squawking birds are eerie and effective. Casting is almost ideal. Tippi Hedren may be a bit prim and proper but she does a good job with her role. I don't recall a weak performance anywhere.
"The Birds" is probably my favorite Hitchcock film. Aside from possibly a slow start, it's a well-made film, using technically difficult visual effects. It is not only entertaining but also thought-provoking in its underlying environmental theme.
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