The Birds (1963)
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The tension Hitchcock slowly builds and the atmosphere of impending doom he creates are mesmerizing. This was probably the first true apocalyptic nightmare ever put on screen; a shocker, and the terror this film inspires is greatly enhanced by the fact that it refuses to give the viewer any answers. Nature just turns on humanity all of a sudden, and although it's just those adorable tiny creatures called "birds" that we see go amok, I was left with the impression that this might just be the start of something bigger, much much worse.
This was Hitchcock, the man who - next to Chaplin and Disney - probably had the biggest impact on the evolution of cinema from the twenties to the early sixties, at the peak of his creativity.
A terrifying work of beauty. My vote: 8 out of 10
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All technical elements are superb. Hitchcock, so well known for his use of music, shows here how terrifying silence can be, and 'The Birds' remains an intensely quiet picture, even punctuated, as it is, by sudden noisy violence. The set pieces, like the fireplace scene, the playground scene, and the visit with Dan Fawcett, are studies in perfection. The cast is smooth down to the tiniest roles, with the proto-Altman ensemble scene in the diner being one of the most memorable segments in a film chock-full of them.
And it is literally impossible to imagine better-cast actors in the leads. Hedren is perfect as Melanie Daniels, the party girl who, while not nearly as clever as she thinks she is, may just be telling the truth when she says she's looking for something more meaningful in her life. Rod Taylor is charming and somewhat inscrutable as the local-boy-made-good who thinks he knows what he wants. Suzanne Pleschette is smoldering as the cynical (and perhaps sexually ambiguous) schoolteacher who takes Melanie in.
And perhaps most important, Jessica Tandy is a searing, twitchily hypnotic presence as Lydia Brenner, surely one of greatest supporting characters in the Hitchcock pantheon.
As the movie runs on, the director gleefully ignores one loose end after another, leaving the viewer with an epic catalogue of unanswered questions at the climax (the most important of which is articulated by the diner's birdwatching crone: Why?). And if you're the kind of moviegoer who likes having everything neatly explained, you'd best try something else. But if you like ambiguity (and a healthy dose of existential nightmarishness), it doesn't get any better than this. 10 out of 10.
It could be said that the plot of The Birds is ridiculous, and it is. The idea of birds, a type of animal that isn't aggressive, attacking humans despite living with us for millions of years is preposterous and is never likely to happen. However; it is here where the film's horror potency lies. Birds live with us in harmony; we're so used to them that for the most part we don't even realise that they're there, and the idea of something that we don't notice suddenly becoming malicious is truly terrifying. Especially when that something is unstoppable, as the birds are portrayed as being in this film. The fact that the birds' motive is never really explained only serves in making it more terrifying, as it would appear that somewhere along the line they've just decided to attack. Of course, the film could be interpreted as having Melanie's arrival, or the presence of the lovebirds as the cause for it all; but we don't really know. This bounds the film in reality as if there was a reason given, it might be improbable; but there's no true reason given (although there are several theories), so it can't be improbable!
The first forty minutes of the film feature hardly any - if any - horror at all. Hitchcock spends this part of the movie developing the characters and installing their situation in the viewers' minds, so that when the horror does finally come along, it has a definite potency that it would not have had otherwise. In fact, at first the birds themselves come across as a co-star in their own movie as there are brief references towards them, but they never get their full dues. However, once the horror does start, it comes thick and fast. Hitchcock, the master craftsman as always, uses his famous montage effects and never really shows you anything; but because you're being bombarded with so many different shots, you'd never realise it. Many people have tried to copy this technique, but most have failed. Hitchcock, however, has it down to an art and this is maybe the film that shows off that talent the best. There are numerous moments of suspense as well, many of which are truly nail biting. We see the birds amassing and ready to strike - but they don't. And this is much more frightening than showing an attack from the off. Hitchcock knows this. The final thirty minutes of The Birds is perhaps the most thrilling of his entire oeuvre. First, Hitchcock gives us an intriguing situation where numerous inhabitants of the town give their views on the events, and also explains the birds' situation with humans, even giving the audience an angle of expertise from an ornithologist's point of view. He then follows it up with a truly breathtaking sequence of horror that hasn't been matched since for relentless shock value.
Hitchcock has made many great films, and this certainly stands up as one of them. Here, Hitchcock gives a lesson in film directing and creates a truly macabre piece of work in the process. I dread to think what the state of cinema would have been if Hitchcock had never picked up a camera, but luckily for us; he most certainly did.
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".
THE BIRDS is by far one of Hitchcock's most deadly incursions into cinematic masochism. In itself, it's a masterpiece of misdirection. Hitchcock has no wrong man in his story, no chase sequences (or at least, none that involve Cary Grant and some Bad Guys), and no double-crosses. All he presents here is Tippi Hedren's arrival to the small town of Bodega Bay, a series of Meet Cutes between her and Rod Taylor, what could pass as romantic suspense, and the most impressive sweeping of the rug right out from under the audience's feet at precisely halfway through the movie when the plot makes a left turn into uncharted territory. Who else can lay claim to that feat? Hitchcock, in revealing the black petals of his deadly flower revealing themselves, opening up, and swallowing the viewer whole at this precise mark is one of the un-topped achievements in cinema history.
And so begins a sequence of events that proceed at the vertiginous crescendo of domino's falling. We've seen the birds amass and attack in increasing ferocity. We've seen the damage they've done to the little city. Hitchcock, of course, has one better on the viewers during the film's overpowering climax: making their presence oppressive and omniscient through the use of sound imitating their shrieks until it becomes deafening and everyone is twisting and turning in revulsion among the corners of the house in reaction not only to their fury but to what they might imagine as their horrible deaths. Hitchcock never once gives an emotional release, and then he outdoes himself in using the most hackneyed excuse for a plot device: Melanie ascending the stairs because she heard a rustling noise, the quintessential "Don't go there," which is the oldest trick in the book. Because we know what lies on the other side of the door....
The stroboscopic effect of the last attack is petrifying as it is unflinching. Melanie, waving the flashlight in a weak signal for help, being slammed against the door, as Mitch tries to get inside but finds he cannot. As Melanie begins slumping and surrenders to the birds' attack, she has an odd mixture of horror and pleasure. We, of course, can't do anything but watch and watch and watch.
Hitchcock had always been attracted to the theme of rape. Because his (professional) relationship with Tippi Hedren was brittle at best, this sequence, somehow out of place and character, seems more in tune with his love-hate attitude towards blonde women and his need for their total submission. Beginning with the emotional rape Jo McKenna suffers with the disappearance of her son, the psychological stripping of Madeleine's identity in VERTIGO, Marion's violent death at the Bates Motel in PSYCHO in and culminating in the barbaric rape sequence of FRENZY, he possessed a desire to destroy that which he loved or desired the most.
I notice how he makes Rod Taylor's character suddenly incapable of saving Melanie right at the end (which heightens the viewers agony -- they want, they need her to survive the birds' attack). It's almost as if he, the Director as Ringmaster, were pushing the Heroine right to the edge of the abyss for one last moment before bringing her back to the (relative) safety of family. Even then, with the vague ending, Hitchcock seems to sort of wink at the audience and tell them that it's still not over -- and this is the sort of thing only a sadistic imp of a personality would do. THE BIRDS is his obsessions at its most explicit (as they were implicit in VERTIGO) and is the kind of cinematic experience that can always be rediscovered even when its tricks become evident. It's been considered Hitchcock's last masterpiece before returning to almost full form for FRENZY, and in many ways, it is the setup for the more graphic, cruel violence of the latter film.
The screeching bird soundtrack in itself was chilling.
The absence of backgound music added a sense of calm before the storm which made the bird attack scenes all the more intense.
The film builds up slowly and that serves to build up the tension and edginess.
The most chilling scene was definitely when Melanie (Tippi Hedren) was waiting outside the school while the singing was going on in the school. At each loop of the song, a few more crows would perch on the climbing frame. The site of them was truly grotesque. This scene is a lesson to all the "subtle as a sledge hammer" so called 'thrillers' that are churned out today.
By the end of the film, there is no conclusion, no neat result. It is somewhat uncomfortable watching a film like this and not seeing a conclusion. How will it end? Why did the birds attack?
Why spoil the film with an explanation?
I've probably watched "The Birds" over 25 times since I first saw it in the 1970's and it still impresses me. By what exactly? Many things.
First, the special effects were amazing for a film from 1963. How did Hitchcock get the birds to attack (I read that Hitchcock once joked when asked that question: "They were well paid!)
Secondly, the detailed camera angles that Hitchcock put into the film. You notice this almost immediately in the Bird Shop when the bird is flying around loose. Who would ever think to film "arms and the ceiling"? Later in the Phone Booth the scene is filmed as if Melanie is in a "bird cage". Other astounding angles include when the birds attack the house, not to mention the final attack in the bedroom. So many directors shoot scenes in a boring manner, but not Hitchcock.
The more times I view "The Birds" the more I understand the ending, but I do agree that at first I was not satisfied with it. I wanted the birds to either finish the job or to be challenged by something (Mitch did hear on Melanie's car radio that perhaps the military might be called in!) but we never saw anything like that. I guess that's why we have imaginations!
'Tippi' Hedren was a beautiful cool blonde who played Melanie Daniels as she should have - icy and yet ultimately very vulnerable. Rod Taylor as Mitch Brenner seemed a good reason for her to travel to Bodega Bay. Jessica Tandy as Lydia was what you'd expect of an older, widowed, small town woman from that time. Suzanne Pleshette as Annie Hayworth, the school teacher, with her dark beauty was quite a contrast to Melanie and I felt awful at her death by the birds. Veronica Cartwright as Kathy Brenner was a little annoying when she cried but then that IS what young girls do!!
Of course some of the dialogue is dated but that's with most films.
There is really nothing I dislike about "The Birds" as you can probably tell. Others may disagree, and they're entitled to their opinion. I just think everyone should re-watch "The Birds" a little deeper; perhaps it will change their perspective on it.
The climactic attack that takes place at Mitch's home is sheer brilliance. As the birds are pecking through the door and gathering in the attack, there is a sense of madness unleashed that is breathtaking. The ambiguity of the ending has been roundly criticized but it is most successful in leaving behind a sense that the story is not quite over. Of course, it wasn't quite over it had to be insulted with a sequel, *The Birds II*. The film has acquired a certain campiness over the years that allows the sophisticated viewer to look past the obvious plot devices, and find an arch humor in the classic scenes. From Melanie getting clocked on the forehead by a seagull, to the crotchety ornithologist at the café, to the scene with the guy whose eyes have pecked out, to the amassing of the birds at the schoolhouse, where the children are singing what is surely the longest children's song ever written, the scenes are imprinted indelibly on our memories. So much so, that Tippi has become a popular Halloween costume just pin a bird in your wig, and you're instantly Melanie Daniels. It's easy to laugh at something that used to be scary, but is there anyone that doesn't think of *The Birds* whenever they see more than a dozen of them get together?
One cannot help thinking of things 'coming home to roost'. Tippi Hedren (playing Melanie), an ex-wild child who enjoyed the dolce vita in Rome- however true the 'naked in fountain' allegations- confesses to trying to 'find herself' via charity work and studying linguistics! In her first film appearance (Hitchcock discovered her in a diet drink commercial) Tippi produces a wonderfully perplexing performance of tight suppression; her hairstyle alone, so smooth and well-polished, indicates neurotically tight personal packaging: when it starts to come unravelled, so does she!
Robert Boyle- the film's designer- claims that the design of the film was inspired by Munch's painting, 'The Scream'. In a direct and visual sense it is hard to see that. But, in terms of this being a film that is about personal anguish and dislocation, there are definite parallels. All is not well in sunny Bodega Bay! Mitch (played woodenly by Rod Taylor) has a dead father, a mother who never got over that bereavement, and an 'ex' who washed up as the local schoolteacher. Via an off-shot TV set we hear about meaningless violence in the outside world.
The scene in the local cafe is pivotal: when, thanks to the birds, the stone of this little community is turned over, all manner of small crawling things emerge. In the cockpit that the diner becomes people turn on each other and (metaphorically) spit as the anxiety gnaws at them. The film is worth watching for that sequence alone.
Hitchcock shows his usual and effortless mastery of the visual. There is the early humorous touch where two lovebirds in Tippi's car sway from side to side as she drives round the curves of the coast road. There is the heavily symbolic 'pieta' scene at the end where Tippi (who has no idea where her mother is, who is dead to the world after being savaged by the birds) is cradled in the lap of Jessica Tandy- playing Mitch's mother, Lydia- who is finally enabled by this new crisis to start to get over her old one (the loss of her husband): the tableau is enormously moving.
It is worth reflecting whether what makes little sense as a straight account of external events doesn't add up a great deal better as an indicative account of internal events. In the cafe scene Tippi is accused of bringing the birds with her and- in this sense- that would be true: her unresolved and pitiless internal landscape is writ large in the skies above Bodega Bay, where she has to fight, suffer, and ultimately be redeemed. Meanwhile the schoolteacher- holding a torch in self-imposed exile- is finally snuffed out.
Oh, and there is the strange case of the dog that did not bark: this is a Hitchcock film unique in that it has no music! How does that affect what it conveys?
Another wonderful feature of the narrative is the ironic inversion between birds and humans it tells of. The petshop where the action opens is full of caged birds. One escapes and briefly flutters round before being ignominiously caught under Rod Taylor's hat and bundled back in the cage. At the height of the action it is people who are caged up in their houses by the birds- to the extent where they are nailing themselves in! Yet, finally, the birds allow the carload of people to leave showing, in this respect, more liberality than their erstwhile captors. One is reminded of what Tippi says in the petshop (to Rod Taylor) "now you know how it feels to be on the other end of a gag"
One of the most innovative aspects here is a lack of any musical score of any kind. Hitch's long-time partner Bernard Herrman is listed as "sound consultant" and I'm sure he had something to do with the ominous sounds of the various birds, as their building wrath is indicated by their squawks. The attack scenes are a bit dated, but considering the technology of the day was pre-historic compared to the computer generated effects of today, they come across chillingly. Some birds were props, others hand-drawn, even others real. The film surprisingly benefits from a lack of music, heightening the suspense.
Tippi Hedren is the icy blonde and a standard of Hitch's movies, the jealous or overbearing mother, is played by Jessica Tandy (in an awkwardly distant role). Performances aside, Hitch does something he wished not to do in PSYCHO. The bloody attacks are in bright technicolor, and one scene depicting a victim of the birds is quite shocking. Hitch was afraid of showing the bloody carnage of the 'shower scene' in color, leaving it to the viewer's imagination. It works here, showing the blood-red evil happening in this everyday small town.
If you are claustrophobic, I would avoid THE BIRDS. Like Janet Leigh in the PSYCHO shower scene, Tippi Hedren is caught in a phone booth in one of many tight situations, shot from overhead. Otherwise, let Sir Alfred play you like a piano, like he so often has before !
Main-character Melanie, the Paris Hilton of her day (did she or didn't she skinny dip in a Roman fountain? Oooh, titillating!) has absolutely no affect to her voice--in every line, she channels Lauren Bacall on barbituates. The women all hate each other instantly and are each fixated on "Mitch," a hubba-hubba guy with no chemistry. The cute meet is stupid; the melodrama is boring; there is no suspense because, between deadly attacks, people seem to forget the trauma of the birds--after a harrowing encounter, the mother rambles on about missing her husband and not knowing whether she likes Hubba's new relationship, for example.
In short, this would be excellent, excellent fodder for Mystery Science Theater--just the right level of movie-making competency and retardness to make for gleeful ridicule.
I was not only not WOWed, I can't even say this movie is mediocre. This movie was just plain awful. There was honestly no plot. The only thing that happened was the birds went nuts and attacked a town. We don't know why, we don't know anything about the characters who got attacked. It wasn't even scary! It was actually somewhat cartoonish, with the liberal use of obviously-fake bright red "blood", and the screaming children and towns people were pretty silly.
All in all, I just can't believe this movie was made by the person who made Vertigo. That movie was EXCELLENT, it had a very solid and Suspenseful plot, great and complex characters, and it kept us guessing until the end. There was nothing mysterious about this movie. The only mystery was why did these birds go insane? But we were not even afforded the luxury of receiving an explanation. When the movie ended, I couldn't help myself and said "That has got to be the crappiest movie I have ever seen." You know when was the last time I said that? It was after watching Pearl Harbour.
Don't waste your time! Just because it was made by Hitchcock doesn't mean it's worth it.
Still annoyed ...
By the end of script page 161 I had not really learned anything worthwhile from any of the characters. Since the script called for "insert information here from Dr. X for a possible reason to why birds may violently attack", I decided to watch the movie in hopes that I might find a reasonable explanation and maybe have a better understanding of the characters. I also decided to watch the movie thinking maybe it was a story that needed to be 'seen' in order to capture the eeriness and essence of the birds' wrath. I must say, that was not the case.
Melanie (Tippi Hedren) is a spoiled rich girl that is used to being childish and foolish and uses her Daddy's newspaper to bid her ways. Mitch (Rod Taylor) is the sophisticated lawyer strangely attracted to Melanie's beauty despite her 'reckless' behavior. Lydia (Jessica Tandy) is Mitch's widowed mother who is (unsuccessfully) coping with the loss of her husband and clinging to her son tooth and nail. Annie (Suzanne Pleshette) is Mitch's ex-girlfriend who still remains friends with him but continues to love him. Add to this soap like melodrama the sudden attack of birds for no inexplicable reason and you have yourself a movie titled "The Birds".
The reason why it failed to even remotely interest me was not because it wasn't "scary enough" or because the "special effects weren't good enough" those are poor excuses but because I could not see a personal growth from almost all of the characters. The romance between the two lead characters seemed abrupt, there is a scene in the script that actually displays them getting close and ultimately displaying their affections for one another, but in the movie it just seems rushed and out of nowhere. Annie's love for Mitch is not resolved in a tasteful manner her character meets a terrible faith and she is simply taken out of the equation. Lydia is about the only person that comes to some sort of resolution and resignation in this inexplicable catastrophe of events. The brief 10 minutes of monologue she has on screen serve to explain the struggles she finds herself in as she attempts to overcome the fear she has been plagued with.
Still, the connection and emotional value just lack from my part and do not allow me to engage with a plausible contempt for the story.
***1/2 (out of four)
First of all: the acting is completely wooden from virtually everyone in the movie. It could be that the actors could find no motivation for their characters.
Whatever is supposed to be happening or building between the characters in the first half of the movie seems to lead to absolutely nothing int he movie. It's vague back story for the sake of back story. If Hitchcock was trying to have us care about the characters, he failed miserably.
Second, and perhaps most important: what do the birds have to do with any of this vapid soap opera that is occurring on the ground? Nothing. Nothing at all. And that would be fine, if somehow the bird frenzy created some sort of empathy in the viewer or brought about a change or revelation in the characters. But no, I found myself not caring if the whole town got eked to death. The characters all come across as shallow, self-centered, bitter people.
I know I might get the wrath of many fans of this movie. But, sorry, this movie fails on so many levels.
In my opinion the best Hitchcock films are "North by Northwest," "The 39 Steps," "The Lady Vanishes," "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "Vertigo," "Rear Window" and of course my favorite horror film of all-time, "Psycho." "The Birds" is a good film and very well-made but because its content is so silly in nature you may find yourself having a hard time taking it all as seriously as Hitch expects us to.
So overall, it is a fine movie, but not one of the Master of Suspense's greatest.
Hitchcock's classic about a gorgeous woman who follows a gentleman until a quiet place where suddenly happens mass bird attacks . After frightening spectators of the 60s with ¨Psycho¨ director Hitch took one more successful outing at the terror genre with this excellent movie full of subterranean hints. Exciting scenes when birds attack with death dropping fiercely , its menace magnified similarly to crop-dusting images in ¨North by Northwest¨. Interesting screenplay by Evan Hunter based on Daphne Du Maurier's (Jamica Inn,Rebecca) short story. Al always, Alfred Hitchcock cameo, this time as man walking dogs out of pet shop. Wonderful Tippi Hedren as obstinate Melanie , she's marvelous and brilliantly dressed by Edith Head , but she had a tortuous involvement to Hitch, habitual issue with his leading ladies. Acceptable special effects by Ub Iwerks, Walt Disney's usual, and Albert Whitlock in pictorial designs and the future director John Bud Cardos as bird wrangler. And colorful and evocative cinematography by Robert Burks, also Hitchcock's customary. Rare and strange electronic musical score fitting to bird attacks. This delightful film is stunningly directed by the master Hithcock. Followed by a lousy and cheesy sequel in 1994 titled ¨The birds II : land's end¨ by Rick Rosenthal under ordinary pseudonym as Alan Smithee with Brad Johnson, Megan Gallaher and again Tippi Hedren. Rating : Not for squeamish but well worth seeing because it is an immortal classic movie. This is Hitchcock at his best.
The writing was horrible and forced. The worst was probably when, near the end of the movie, Melanie (Tippi Hedron) was sitting on the couch curling up into a ball because they here the birds trying to get into the house. Just seemed like either bad acting or bad direction by Hitchcock. I'm gonna guess bad direction because Tippi was a fairly good actress through most of the movie.
Oh and the scene where she is attacked in the room! Why would you go in there and then when you're in there getting attacked, why wouldn't you scream?
Ugh! Sorry the whole movie annoyed me! Don't waste your time.
Some might complain that the first hour is a little slow, but when the direction's this good I didn't mind at all. Still, once the birds DO attack, things really hot up. The shock scenes do just that - the bit with the chimney is an example of a good, solid cinematic moment. The attack on the children's party is another. Characters hole up in a bar, and things remain just fine until the end. Hitchcock choreographs an excellent 'out of control' set-piece as the town is destroyed, full of flames and broken glass and chaos. We get a mini siege scenario at the end, no doubt inspiring the likes of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and all that's come since. The special effects are still pretty good to this day and Hitchcock doesn't skimp on the sadism in the bloody attacks, either. This might well be one of the first of the Hollywood FX blockbusters.
The cast is very good too. Taylor is as perfect as the everyman hero as he was in THE TIME MACHINE. Jessica Tandy is excellent, playing a very irritating character and giving her some warmth and life despite her bad points. Veronica Cartwright is convincingly menaced, just as she was years later in ALIEN and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. I didn't care much for Tippi Hedren's cold character the first couple of times I saw this, but her presence has subsequently grown on me in the intervening years.
I was attracted by it because of its status as a 'classical horror', appearing in many listings as one of the best horror films, and the fact it's made by Alfred Hitchcock.
I can't understand all the hype. Ed Wood made better films.
This film is so bad, most of the 'scary' scenes actually had me laughing. No just the 'that is too silly' laugh, but the 'I almost fell out of my chair laughing' laugh; nothing short of Monty Python or Chaplin have ever made me laugh this much.
I showed this film to some of my family; the adults were mostly shaking their heads and questioning how Hitchcock could have success with something like this, while the younger ones (10-14 years old) were laughing and later said it was the best comedy they ever watched.
The acting is beyond amateurish, with characters mostly making faces to the camera and shrieking to convey their shock being something straight out of a bad parody. It also shocks me that Hitchcock, who always cast beautiful women like Ingrid Bergman, Vera Miles or Grace Kelly to star in his films, would cast the rather ugly Tippi Hedren. Was there no beautiful/cute blondes available? The characters are not far behind with their terrible development, being pretty much caricatures of human beings; Hedren's character being the worst offender, with her motivations or actions. They also act inexplicably dumb at times: Hedren's reaction to the birds in the school being the best example, but also the information given by the radio news.
The special effects are terrible. Not just the usual background scenes, but the birds and their attacks are laughably badly done. Suspension of disbelief can only work so far; in here, the birds looked like bad puppets with the way they moved. I fell laughing at most 'attack' scenes, with the gas station one being my favorite. The fact this was Oscar-nominated is nothing short of a joke, you could find better effects in the silent era four decades before this.
But the very worst of all is the story itself. Hitchcock always managed to make his stories have a degree of sense, even his most fantastic tales like 'North by Northwest'. That doesn't happen here. There is no explanation at hand, not even a hint for us to go by. Even horrors like George Romero's zombies or crap like 'The Mist' leave a hint for us to work on, to base ourselves. Hitchcock offers nothing at all. He explained that, by giving a reason, the movie would turn into science-fiction; clearly, he must either be an idiot or not understand horror at all.
This is a terrible, nonsensical film that should be on par with the likes of 'Plan 9 from Outer Space' or 'Battlefield Earth'. It is as if Ed Wood himself wrote/directed/produced.
Perhaps the major problem, for me, is that by this point in his life, Hitchcock seems to have decided his destiny lay in making honest-to-God Art Films for the masses. It's a confused mixed pot that Vertigo, Psycho, The Birds and Marnie comes from. A French auteur critic-influenced pot. His montage called more attention to itself than ever at this time; his pacing slowed, also becoming more deliberate; and a European stillness, almost Bergmanesque, began to pervade his films. I don't know if the man felt personal confusion at this time about whether he was an artiste or a roller coaster designer (to use his own frequent parallel), but his films seem to betray such a state of confusion. There are stretches that are downright odd in these films, so slow and floating in some abstract space. For the first time you are moved to ask, of this brightest of directors, "what on earth is he getting at here?"
The scene where the Pleshette character sits taking a smoke while the birds cover a playground set is brilliantly constructed of "pure montage". --But also slow as molasses. It takes one of the master's hallmark gambits (letting us in on something that the people in his film do not know yet, and tightening the screws until, as he said, we want to cry out to them "don't go in there!") and inverts it by dragging it out to the point of comedy/absurdity, not tension. This time, we want to scream "we get the point already!" by the time the scene reaches it's flash point. Am I wrong to read this as arty conceit setting aside the vitality of the Hitchcock of old? But there is perhaps, too, a bit of uncertainty about how to proceed, how to pace things that all this attention to Hitchcock the Artist may have thrown off kilter for good. The sureness and lightness of touch seems impaired.
The other big issue I have with The Birds is that it looks and feels like a Universal TV show. Gone is the grit and bleakness of Psycho (which one could describe as like Universal TV, too), replaced by Universal City in Hollywood cheapness. The color is garish and the sets look freshly painted and put up. But this isn't just a question of production values. The look and feel of the film adds to the impression that nothing about the Birds (or Marnie) seems to be taking place in the real world. The production screams back lot. This problem, which one overlooked for a decade or so after the films release, becomes harder to ignore over time. It wasn't long after this that films began shooting more and more on location, in natural light on faster speed film. This replaced the 60s TV look with the grit of real locations and images of Rembrandtesque palette and color control. Film cross-processing would come along in a couple more decades and make the universe of the Birds seem even more alien.
Now, I didn't wake up one day saying to myself, "I want to beat up on my all time favorite director." But hearing a radio adaptation from the 1950s of Daphne DuMaurier's original story reminded me of how great a director Hitchcock really was. He recast the story for the film and expanded it to something mythic and universal, far removed from its pulp melodrama origins. Then, a couple of weeks later, a local theater showed The Birds in a retrospective. That reminded me of the limitations of The Birds of which I had been aware for some time.
Final report: The Birds is a film by one of the two or three most brilliant, innovative, influential and visionary directors in film history. Here, he is in absolute control of his medium, but not at the top of his form, sorry to say.
If you want a truly silly analysis about the "deeper" meanings behind this turd of a film, check out Slavoj Zizek's rants in his documentary "A Pervert's Guide To Cinema".