Alfred Hitchcock for Universal
directed by Alfred Hitchcock
starring Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, Veronica Cartwright, Ethel Griffies, Charles McGraw, Ruth McDevitt, Lonny Chapman, Joe Mantell, Doodles Weaver, Malcolm Atterbury, John McGovern, Karl Swenson, Richard Deacon, Elizabeth Wilson, Bill Quinn, Doreen Lang
screenplay by Evan Hunter, based on the story by Daphne Du Maurier, electronic sound production and composition by Remi Gassmann, Oskar Sala, special effects by Larry Hampton, special photographic advisor: Ub Iwerks
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Urbanite Melanie (Tippi Hedren) comes to rural Bodega Bay to play a
prank on Mitch (Rod Taylor), a man she hardly knows - and ends up as a
guest at Mitch's kid sister Kathy's (Veronica Cartwright) birthday party.
There, she and Mitch get close - when disaster strikes and ordinary birds
attack the children at the party. From now on, the local birds gang up and
attack everywhere, be it at a school, at a diner or wherever else, and
it's unsafe to walk the streets anymore. It all ends with Melanie being
holed up in the house Mitch and Kathy live with their mother (Jessica
Tandy), and because the birds become more and more vicious, even this
place has to be fortified. And even in here, they are not safe, as there
is a hole in the roof that gave the birds access to one room, one room
Melanie unfortunately enough chooses to inspect - and she is almost killed
by the birds. The last images of the film have Mitch and family carry
Melanie to the car to drive her to the next doctor, all under the watchful
eyes of the birds ...
One can't deny that The Birds is a
very well-conceived piece of animal horror: Hitchcock's mastery of
suspense has already been sufficiently proven by the early 1960's, and he
doesn't disappoint here, he certainly knows how to handle the medium like
no other, and the special effects are impressive to this day.
well-concieved film doesn't necessarily equal a really good film, and the
main flaws of The Birds can be found in the script: The film wastes
an awful lot of time setting up its main characters, and while fleshed out
characters as such are never a bad thing, the set-up story that takes
Melanie out to Bodega Bay certainly is - there is simply no way you
believe she would drive all the way out there to play a prank on someone
she hardly knows. On top of that, the story of Mitch's family is dragged
out way too long, undermines the pacing of the film, and seems to be made
out of the stuff cheap soap operas are made out of. Plus, Rod Taylor looks
way too old to be Veronica Cartwright's big brother and Jessica Tandy too
old to be her mother. And speaking of Rod Taylor: He is not exactly the
best leading man Hitchcock has ever had, and there is pretty much zero
chemistry between him and Tippi Hedren.
In all, The Birds is
still a well-conceived movie, and probably a classic as far as the
animal horror genre - an otherwise rather classic-free genre - is
concerned ... but to call this film a masterpiece or even one of
Hitchcock's better films would be very far-fetched.