The Birds



Release date: May 30, 1963

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Tippi Hedren, Suzanne Pleshette, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Veronica Cartwright, Ethel Griffies, Charles McGraw, Doreen Lang and Ruth McDevitt

A lady who is very lonely walks through the streets of San Francisco. Just before entering a pet store, she stops and notices an oddly large group of seagulls spread out in the sky.

Inside the pet store, she finds out that her order of a Myna bird is still not their. Which means she has to wait as well while the pet Store lady tries to find out when the bird will actually be at the store. While she waits, a handsome man approaches her and supposedly mistakes her as a worker. Since he is good looking, she shows her prankish side and pretends to be a worker, attempting to help him choose two love birds for his sister's birthday. It quickly becomes clear that the lady knows nothing about the different species of birds. Then the guy surprises her, calling her by name: Melanie Daniels, he knows that she is really the playgirl daughter of the city's newspaper publisher. Surprised, embarrassed, and flustered, she demands to know why he tricked her (even though she thought she was tricking him). The man answers "Maybe I wanted you to know what it's like to be on the other end of a gag! What do you think about that?"

Publicly mocked and ridiculed, Melanie can only yell angrily as the man smugly leaves, untouched by her insults. Thinking quickly she races outside in time to see him drive away. She writes down his license plate number and has a someone investigate it for her. Now she knows that he is the city's popular playboy lawyer, Mitch Brenner. With her this information, Melanie soon learns everything she needs to know to turn the tables on him, and is soon driving along the roads of Big Sur toward Mitch's weekend retreat in Bodega Bay, a cage of lovebirds in the car with her.

Talking to the locals, Melanie is able to find out where Mitch lives and decides to return the prank. In a drawn out, but very interesting scene, Melanie rents a boat and takes it across the bay to Mitch's house, sneaks inside, and leaves the cage of birds with a birthday card for Mitch's sister. But she doesn't get far before Mitch spots her, and as she races back across the bay, he takes his truck the long way around by road, speeding to meet her at the pier. As Mitch waits on the dock, Melanie smiles at him in triumph, and a seagull swoops down and gouges her head.

Well the film is called The Birds, right? We knew going in that they were going to kill people. But such is the setup of this scene that the attack is seems lacking in appropriateness. And then that's it. A seemingly isolated attack and then, while everyone is surprised, even disbelieving (Seagulls don't attack!), life appears to return back to normal. Mitch invites Melanie to dinner, she eventually meets his prickly Mother, finds a place to stay until dinner, and winds up being a room mate with Mitch's old flame, Annie Hayworth.

The birds attacks throughout the film come in waves, and when they aren't attacking, director Alfred Hitchcock allows the human drama to unfold. Screenwriter, Evan Hunter (often wrote under the pseudonym, Ed McBain), working from the short story by Daphne Du Maurier, cannily wrote a compelling story of human beings. People who don't pointlessly talk to each other until the next horror is seen, but actually have something to say, lives worth watching. These are people with their own stories whether an apocalypse happens or not. Mitch goes through life confident and strong, unfazed by the damaged women around him. His Mother is still greatly affected by the death of her husband from four years before. It was also four years ago that Annie came to Bodega Bay to try and be a part of Mitch's life. But when Pop died, Mom took over with her helpless victim hood and Mitch - far from being a Mama's boy now spends every weekend with his sister and Mother.

Annie however, is jealous of Melanie, but she knows she should not be. Annie is torn between worrying that Melanie will end up succeeding with Mitch where she did not, and sympathizing with a lady who could wind up discarded and wasting her life like Annie does. In their moments together, talking at Annie's house, there is a strange potential spinster vibe. For Melanie, Annie is a red flag warning that chasing after Mitch could end up leading to disaster.

That disaster has a name and it's Mitch's Mother, Lydia. In one moment, Lydia, in bed, terrified by an experience, curses her weaknesses. She knows she behaves like a childish, helpless, old, useless shrew but finds herself trapped by her own cowardice, unable to escape or even know how. She knows that her son Mitch returns the romantic interest that Melanie shows in him, and admits she doesn't know how to feel about it. These are all wonderful, layered performances that must have real acting and Hitchcock's well-trained masterful touch. Yet it would all be soap opera if it weren't for the impending death brought about by the horrific bird attacks. And when it comes time for the birds to attack, Alfred pulled out all of the stops.







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