- Alfred Hitchcock
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Tuesday, August 17, 2004
However, to some, calling The Birds anything less than a masterpiece of the horror genre is a blasphemy, and it is indeed magnificent, but never to the lengths of Psycho. Then again, it’s as good in setting its horror pieces and having the audience on the edge of their seats at all times!
The story, scripted by Evan Hunter from a story by Daphne Du Maurier, begins in San Francisco, and has Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren, in her film debut), a carefree socialite with a bizarre taste for jokes, meeting Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) in a pet shop, and developing a peculiar attraction towards him. After pretending she’s an employee at the store, which leads to Mitch playing a prank on her too, she decides to stretch the joke as far as the coastal town of Bodega Bay, where he spends the weekends.
Ever since the first scene, birds show a strange behavior, which only gets worse as the film advances. As if these occurrences were actually following Melanie, they get much worse in Bodega Bay, and also seem to surround her. The first attack comes when a gull strikes Melanie directly, which is how she ends up in Mitch’s home, along with his mother Lydia (Jessica Tandy) and his little sister Cathy (Veronica Cartwright). Though the latter becomes very fond of their guest, Lydia doesn’t quite trust her, which is why the visitor prefers to stay at the home of Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette), a local teacher she met on the way, who has her own history with Mitch.
Unfortunately, birds begin to attack people more and more. At their worst, gulls and crows and other sorts of birds strike in groups, beyond any possible explanation. Hitchcock is sure to terrorize the viewer as much through the attacks as he does through the tension of Melanie’s presence in a town where she’s not welcome or trusted; Lydia’s distrust extends to the townspeople who relate Melanie to the attacks.
Despite the interesting psychological aspects of the story (and some comical ones, in the best early Hitchcock tradition), and the fine cast, the attacks take first chair and are amazingly realized. The visual effects and the staging of actual birds are uncanny. The complete lack of music gives the film an eerie touch of reality, and one of the scariest scenes happens indoors, with birds trying to penetrate from outside. But it’s the fact that we don’t get any explanation that makes the experience actually terrifying and unforgettable; a triumph of psychological horror. The day after I watched the film for the last time, a huge bird flew right next to my car while I was driving, and I got the impulse to change lanes, getting away from it. It’s that scary.
In my opinion, this isn’t first-rate Hitchcock… but it comes pretty darn close.
“Why are they doing this? Why are they doing this?!”
Gon C Curiel en Twitter | CriticSociety en Twitter | CriticSociety en Facebook
Share on Facebook | Share on Twitter