During my Freshman year in high school, I viewed The Birds (1963) through my English/literature class. This was after reading various excerpts from Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name. This was one of my favorite parts of the entire semester. Most people were more excited that semester by the Romeo and Juliet assignment which allowed to watch Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. While I love Baz Luhrmann’s work, I was more excited about The Birds.
I love Hitchcock. He had a way with films not done today and noted by the awful remake of Psycho (1998). The sad part? Gus Van Sant re-shot the film frame for frame and it did not work. It did not have the same affect as the original. A remake was schedule for 2013, but the film was never released. Rumors of this particular remake surfaced in 2007 yet to see the light of day. While some might feel the update crucial, critics David Thomson specifically said it best when he wrote The Birds is the “last unflawed film.” This is probably why people have been so up in arms about it in the first place.
Before delving more into the film, I’d like to share a few more facts. The film debuted at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival and then as part of an invitation-only screen at the Museum of Modern Art during a 50-film retrospective. At the time the feature cost an estimated $2,500,000 to make. This makes sense seeing the various effects that went into the film. This of course helped produce the earnings of $11,403,529, but was not one of Hitchcock’s most successful box office ventures.
The Birds is about a socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren). While in a pet shop Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), Mitch decides to play a practical joke on her. Deciding to return the favorite, she drives into Bodega Bay because she knows Mitch spends his weekends there with his mother, Lydia (Jessica Tandy), and his younger sister, Cathy (Veronica Cartwright). Soon after her arrival, she begins to realize that the birds in the area are beginning to act rather odd. As Melanie is crossing the bay, a seagull strikes her head. By the time she gets to her location, she discovers that Lydia has found her neighbor dead and obviously another victim of a bird attack.
Not knowing what is truly going on, they soon realize that hundreds of thousands of birds are beginning to attack anyone in the area. While many people begin to explain that birds are not going to viciously attack anyone, various instances prove otherwise. What makes everything worse is the lack of explanation for why nature has decided to start attacking the various people of Bodega Bay in the first place. As the birds continue their vicious attacks, everyone realizes that their survival is of the utmost importance.
The thought of nature turning on humans is absolutely fascinating. That’s why I enjoy The Happening (2008) as much as I do. Both features give viewers a reason to ponder what they would do in the same situations if push came to shove. I have no idea how I would handle such circumstances, but The Birds has definitely made me think about that more so than I probably ever should have in this lifetime.
Furthermore, part of what makes this so successful is with the amounts of pauses and glances that take place between the various actors within the feature. On more than one occasion, they tend to look at each other without speaking a word of dialogue. In many ways, people believe that others can communicate more so with their actions than their words. Plus when one adds the anger toward Melanie within the film when she has seemingly done nothing but merely bring lovebirds, that Mitch was hunting for in the first place at the pet store, something far more captivating happens within the film.
In many ways, the film focuses on what can happen when paranoia within a group takes over. This is a social commentary about how people are far more willing to blame the outsider than to blame those already within the community. After all, the attacks did not occur until after Melanie arrived so why not place the blame on her? The passion showcased due to these attacks, especially those that take place against the various school children running down the street, one can easily see both fear and paranoia coursing throughout the character’s very souls.
By not answering many questions by the end of the film, this further indicates that the people should continue to fear the situation. This further stresses the need to fear these birds and take them seriously, because it would be far easy for them to out number the humans and take over.
The Birds is one of the best horror films of all time. This is a film is a great way to introduce others into the world of horror. The only problem is that many younger viewers are not willing to appreciate the likes of his work or even that of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) because the films challenge people’s minds. With the various other releases pure entertainment is more valued these days. No intricate background is suddenly needed. However, if these films are viewed at a younger age the desire to continue to do so when they are older will continue.
This was honestly the case for me. This film made me want to explore other works by Hitchcock. To be honest, I am not entirely sure how it would not make others want to explore his work as well. While I have yet to make it through all the features that I desire to see in Hitchcock’s filmography, The Birds started my obsession and continues to be a film people flock to explore.
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