on May 17, 2004
That quote used in my review title is from my favorite scene in 1963's "The Birds", Alfred Hitchcock's tale of nature gone crazy. "The Birds" stars Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Jessica Tandy, and one of my favorites of all-time -- the beautiful Suzanne Pleshette.
The underrated Miss Pleshette plays school teacher "Annie Hayworth" in this movie, and is just great in her part, IMO. This was just the 4th movie role for the then-25-year-old Suzanne. For Tippi Hedren, age 31 when the movie was shot in late 1962, "The Birds" was only her 2nd motion picture appearance (and first U.S.-made film).
"The Birds" is all about how the whole bird world suddenly goes amok and begins orchestrating concentrated, unprovoked attacks on the population of a small California community. Hitchcock (as usual) builds the suspense up, little by little, during the film. Despite the lack of computer-generated technology, Hitchcock still manages to create a quite realistic array of special effects, featuring hundreds of real and fake birds blended together in many scenes.
As I said at the top, my favorite scene in this flick is not any of the various "attack" scenes -- but, instead, the nerve-racking, tension-filled "Tides Restaurant" scene (Chapter #12 on the DVD), which is dialogue-driven and very well done, and eerie, in my opinion. The restaurant scene is made all the more believable and realistic by the casting of England-born actress Ethel Griffies as bird expert "Mrs. Bundy". Griffies was 84 years of age when she made "The Birds". It was her 90th (of 92) films.
Mrs. Bundy's presence in this scene (coupled with her character's "expertise" on all matter bird-related) roots the scene in "fact", and makes these "impossible" bird attacks on the town even more frightening. When Mrs. Bundy says that all the continents of the world "probably contain more than 100-billion birds!", it puts things in better context. And now the audience begins thinking: "Gee, what would happen if all of these birds attacked at once?" A scary proposition indeed.
This Universal "Collector's Edition" of "The Birds" was released initially on March 28, 2000 -- 37 years to the day after the movie premiered in theaters. This single-disc, single-sided DVD delivers a finely-tuned Anamorphic Widescreen image, in its original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1. The print looks very clean and virtually blemish-free. Colors look natural and "warm". The audio is in 2.0 Dolby Digital Mono (in both English and French).
The Hitchcock series of Universal "Collector's Edition" DVDs all contain very informative (and virtually feature-length) documentaries. And "The Birds" DVD is no exception. The "Making Of" program for this film is terrific. A very satisfying effort from the "featurette master", Laurent Bouzereau.
Here's a complete summary of this disc's Special Features .................
>> "All About The Birds" Documentary -- Lots of interesting behind-the-camera tidbits are offered up by the stars and crew in this featurette. Running time = 79 minutes.
>> Newsreel Excerpt featuring remarks by Alfred Hitchcock (Run Time = 1:55.) -- I love this extra bonus, for Mr. Hitchcock's droll, humorous comment to his audience regarding the title of his current film project. He dryly utters: "There were four words in the title. But we cut the first word, "FOR" -- and call it simply 'The Birds'." (This is followed by prodigious laughter from the "National Press Club" gathering. LOL!)
>> Another Newsreel Clip, "The Birds Is Coming" (Length = 1:15).
>> "The Original Ending" -- This "alternate" (and very intriguing) ending to the film was never shot. But this bonus offers up some script pages and original sketches of what the scene would have entailed. This ending is also discussed in some detail during the "All About The Birds" feature on this disc as well.
>> "Deleted Scene" -- This, like the "Original Ending" extra, isn't a video bonus either. It details (through script pages and still photos) a scene from the original script that was never used in the final cut.
>> "Tippi Hedren's Screen Test" -- This is really some cool stuff. A lengthy "test" featuring Miss Hedren acting out several scenes (which have nothing to do with this film) opposite Martin Balsam (who, of course, had co-starred in Mr. Hitchcock's previous picture, "Psycho"). You can even hear "Hitch" giving directions off-camera. Video quality isn't very good and it hasn't been color-corrected, but it doesn't really matter here. This is a fabulous bonus, lasting 10 minutes. I'm glad this was dug out of the archives for this DVD release.
>> "Stroryboard Sequence" -- This "Gallery"-like bonus shows storyboards linked with actual related film frames from the movie. Nicely done.
>> Original Trailer.
>> Photo Gallery.
>> Production Notes, plus Cast & Crew Bios (text features).
The DVD's Menus are simple and "static", with the Main Menu accompanied by the only real "score" that shows up in this film -- the sound of flocks of birds (up to no good, of course). It's quite amazing to think that this picture contains absolutely NO MUSIC whatsoever. Not a single note. But Hitchcock's previous effort, "Psycho", if placed in the same "music-less" state, would have been much less effective. Can you just imagine "Psycho" without that Bernard Herrmann score? Impossible! And, by the same token, it's difficult to imagine "The Birds" WITH any music. Just wouldn't "feel" right somehow. Mr. Hitchcock worked wonders, with AND without musical adornment attached to his feature films. I suppose that's part of the reason he was "The Master".
The DVD has with it a 4-page booklet, with a Chapter List for the 20 chapter breaks on the disc; plus some personal notes by Alfred Hitchcock and his daughter, Pat (who oft-times popped up in small roles in her dad's movies -- although she was not in "The Birds"). This paper insert also re-produces five "Lobby Cards" advertising the film.
For all Alfred Hitchcock aficionados, this DVD of "The Birds" is a must-have item. Fine picture quality, good bonuses, and .... Suzanne Pleshette, to boot. What MORE do you want, for heaven's sake?! :)
It is certainly true.What Spielberg would do in 1975 for the reputation of sharks,12 years earlier venerable director Alfred Hitchcock did it for birds.Everyone I know who ever watched it certainly thought twice afterwards about our fine feathered friends hovering above us and the possibility of their "turning" at any moment.However what is easily forgotten in Hitch's 1963 film is that there is a romantic story that plays out throughout its' run of two hours.
It involves one Melanie Daniels(Tippi Hedron) who is the daughter of a wealthy west coast newspaper owner.She goes into a pet shop one day to pick up a myna bird she ordered,which isn't in.In walks Mitch Brenner(Rod Taylor)a lawyer who instantly recognizes her and decides to play a joke on her by making her think he thinks she is a store employee.He asks for some love birds for his daughter and asks many detailed questions on birds that Melanie can't possibly know.In the end the joke comes out,Mitch leaves the store and Melanie though infuriated has taken an instant liking to the handsome prankster.
Obtaining his address through a jotted down license plate number she drops a cage of lovebirds with a note in front of his apartment door;but he has gone out of town for the weekend.Melanie follows directions and ends up in a town called Bodega Bay about 60 miles north of San Francisco.She motor boats her way to his house,leaves her present,and leaves the same way.Just before she reaches the dock a seagull swoops down on her head and flies off;drawing blood.Mitch having spotted Melanie boating away arrived ahead of her and helps her.The two become more closely acquainted and Melanie decides to stay overnight and rents a room in town.While there a seagull smashes mysteriously into the house door.Next day she attends Mitch's daughter's birthday party and birds make an all out attack on the attendees.
Meanwhile Melanie and Mitch's mother Lydia(Jessica Tandy),who is weary of all of Mitch's "interests",draw ever so slowly closer;through their own efforts and through their joint stand with the mounting avian problem.When Lydia discovers the grisly remains of a neighbour the bird problem is about to blow wide open.In town later that day in a restaurant there is some lively discussion,both pro and con,about what is happening.Suddenly a gas attendant gets attacked and gas flows down a hill.A nearby smoker ignites the gas which kills him and the ignited trail follows itself back to the pumps which blow up.All bets are off now and the birds take this moment to launch an all out assault and pandemonium reigns supreme.
Mitch,his daughter,Lydia and Melanie board themselves into Mitch's home to stave off the onslaught.In the claustrophobic atmosphere all wonder when and how the next attack will come.They hold their own and for the time are relatively safe,but when Melanie decides to investigate a scratching noise in an upstairs bedroom she almost ends up another victim of the birds.Luckily Mitch and his mother come to her rescue but she is badly cut and in shock.In need of immediate medical attention there is nothing else to do but make a dash for freedom.Mitch slowly makes his way to the garage and brings his car out front.The house and surrounding property is filled with birds of all kinds which he has to gingerly make his way through and as does his family with Melanie.Once inside the car he slowly drives down the lane way and to freedom and help.
The ending is a kind of "cheat",in the sense we get no resolution as to the whys of the bird attacks,just a "sailing off into the sunset" moment.But I'm sure Hitch wanted to leave it up to the audience as his message of railing against complacency comes through loud and clear in this film;take nothing for granted in life,not even the birds.However I find the picture gets a little bogged down in the sub plot of Melanie and Mitch and their growing relationship(along with a clinging mother and Melanie's lack of one),which tends to drag the films' pace at times.Hitch seemed a little over zealous in trying to create an escalatingly ominous atmosphere in regards to the bird attacks.The two hours of celluloid seems just a little more than it should have been.
Technically speaking this film while crisp and generally clear shows it still needs some work on it as there are many areas of excess dirt and it does get grainy;for the price tag they are asking this should have been pristine.I would invite a comparison of Hitch's "To Catch a Thief" released in a two disc remastered set by Paramount and you will see what "The Birds" SHOULD have looked like.There are alot of special features however that are a welcome addition to this release.A featurette about the film,the surviving scripts of the original ending and a deleted scene,the storyboard sequence,Hendron's screen test,a Universal newsreel on Hitch,production stills and notes,cast and filmmaker bios and the trailer.
Finally,The Birds is definitely one of Hitchcock's more well known pieces and it certainly had a changing effect on many viewers after its' initial theatrical showing and subsequent airings on TV.The underlying romantic aspect of the film in my opinion tends to be a bit of a drag at times on the films' pace as the "master of suspense" I found got a little more "heavy handed" in his later years/offerings.This along with the less than stellar release print brings this rating down a good full star.Still,Hitch's most obvious stride into Sci-Fi territory,has many memorable and unforgettable moments that make it worth recommending.You may not remember the plot,but you will remember "The Birds".
on April 3, 2013
Last evening 2013 APR 02, I actually had some spare time and I viewed this DVD on my new Blue Ray player. The Birds has always been a favourite for me, as has Alfred Hitchcocks North by Northwest. I was most impressed by the shear clarity of the product and along with the vibrant colours as well as the nature of the film itself, it was a most enjoyable movie experience.
Though I have seen The Birds many times, this is the most enjoyable restoration version that I have seen.
Kudos to everyone for the work involved. I must admit that I was not expecting such a good restoration product!
The recent release of The Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection on Blu-ray prompted me to revisit some of the best films in the set. I have always liked The Birds because I saw it as a child and it has stuck with me over the years. It's interesting viewing such films again with a critical eye, rather than as a young boy who just needed to be entertained.
There are frequent spoilers ahead, so stop reading now if you haven't yet seen the film.
Like Psycho, The Birds starts off with a light tone, as Hitchcock leads us to believe that the film will develop into a romantic comedy. I admire this approach because it's realistic. People would be acting normally a few days before a disaster or a terrifying turn of events. So you can expect to see the main characters introduced at the start of the film, and you'll see them flirt and develop a mutual attraction. This paves the way for Melanie Daniels' (Tippi Hedren) subsequent actions as she drives to Bodega Bay to deliver a gift for Mitch Brenner's (Rod Taylor) daughter, Cathy (Veronica Cartwright).
If Hitchcock had decided to make the entire film a romantic comedy, I'm sure he would have done a good job. There's a depth present that doesn't exist in most examples from that genre. The dialogue gives us important insights into the characters, as well as supplying some of the exposition for the basic plot. We learn that Melanie is rich and works several jobs on different days of the week. She seems to have a wild, impulsive streak, and that fits her actions when she decides to visit Mitch. She also lies often, although never in a malicious way. Mitch is playful when he interacts with Melanie, but we soon learn that he is dependable in a crisis.
Melanie is also resourceful, and we see her charter a boat and use it to approach Mitch's house unobserved. The first indication that the world might not be idyllic comes when Melanie is attacked by a gull as she is returning the boat. The scene is so out of place because there hasn't been any suggestion that the film will be anything but fun up to that point, and it seems all the more shocking for it.
The events begin to turn darker in tone, and the pace increases from the moment of the initial attack. Other people begin to report attacks, and we witness several instances of unusual behavior by the birds. This is exactly the kind of novel that Stephen King might write; the world is apparently normal, but one thing is out of place. What would you do if you witnessed similar behavior from birds or small animals? It's so unexpected that it can be quite frightening in places. There's no campy humor to relieve the tension like that found in many modern horror movies. Hitchcock slowly increases tension throughout the film, without ever explaining why the birds are behaving in such an odd way.
I have always enjoyed seeing what happens when events cause society to begin to break down. What lengths would you go to to keep yourself or your family safe, or to provide food when it was scarce? The story takes place over a couple of days, so there's no serious breakdown of order in The Birds, but we do see how people start to band together and take care of each other.
The film was made in 1963, so you can't expect the special effects to be as convincing as modern techniques would allow. The bird effects are a combination of puppets, machines, and a few live birds, using a blue screen to insert them into the action. The special effects earned an Oscar nomination at the time, so try to forgive the somewhat dated feel.
As usual, Hitchcock assembled a strong cast. Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren are convincing as potential romantic partners, and both give good performances as their characters encounter stressful situations. Mrs. Brenner (Jessica Tandy) is an important character too. She's reluctant to embrace Melanie's arrival and fears that her son Mitch may abandon her at some point. There's one particularly good scene in which Melanie talks to Mrs. Brenner and tries to allay her fears about the birds. You can sense some level of acceptance from Mrs. Brenner, although she can't decide whether she actually likes Melanie.
One of the best scenes occurs outside the town's school, where Annie (Suzanne Pleshette) is teaching a class. She makes the children sing, while Melanie waits outside to collect Cathy. In typical Hitchcock fashion, we see one or two birds landing behind Melanie. She's unaware of their presence until she turns and sees hundreds of them. She comes to a decision and goes inside to warn Annie of the potential problem. This leads to one of the most dramatic sequences in the film as the children leave the school.
The Birds is elevated above the level of most horror films for several reasons: The characters are real people with genuine fears, the dialogue means something, the acting is strong, and the audience is given time to absorb the danger of a situation rather than being bombarded with gory or shocking scenes. The ending (intentionally) doesn't completely resolve the story, but it leaves us with a sense of optimism.
With the exception of the song sung by the children at the school, there is no score in the entire film. It reminds me of The Mist in that way, and I think the scenes contain more tension because we make up our own minds about how to feel, rather than having the music inform us that there is danger or a scary moment approaching.
Most of the whimsical scenes happen early in The Birds. Hitchcock's cameo is impossible to miss, and when somebody whistles at Melanie, it's a reference to a TV ad in which she first caught the attention of Hitchcock. By the end of the film, you'll feel as if you have been through a grueling emotional journey. It's a journey well-worth taking. It doesn't even matter why the birds were behaving so strangely, or whether their behavior was only present in Bodega Bay, or more widespread.
As for the Blu-ray, it's a mixed bag. The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track enhances the experience considerably. The sound of fluttering wings is particularly effective. However, the picture quality is disappointing. While some of the brighter scenes do show good detail, far too many of the shots appear soft. It appears that Tippi Hedren's close-ups were intentionally softened, in a way similar to the female characters on the original Star Trek show. As for the effects, the additional information offered by the Blu-ray transfer highlights some of the weaker shots. This is probably as good as it's going to get for a long time, and I do recommend that you upgrade, but I'm still a little disappointed.
on June 11, 2004
This eerie Hitchcock thriller doesn't have a shower scene but is has its fair share of suspense, dread and anticipation as to when the birds will attack. Filmed in color and without the accompaniment of music, the movie builds steadily towards tense and dangerous moments when hundreds of blackbirds swoop down on the human populace and scratch, peck and claw them to shreds without rhyme or reason. Even a lone seagull gets in its licks on Melanie Daniels who has followed Mitch Brenner to Bodega Bay to close in on the handsome fellow. The film has several attacks in which adults and school children are ravaged, and the air assaults are frightening to watch. The dangerous birds' unexplained sheer destructive force is displayed in the attack in a bedroom where the unfortunate Ms. Daniels is trapped, and their determination to destroy every human in their path is awful to behold. The movie's special effects are first-rate, and the gloomy, overcast skies of the Northern California coast add to the depressed mood of the film. The characters all seemed detached and distant from each other and although Ms. Daniels tries very hard to connect with Mr. Brenner, the romance angle is never developed.
on May 25, 2004
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, Veronica Cartwright, Ethel Griffies.
Running Time: 120 minutes.
Not Rated, but equivalent to a PG-13 for its violence, some gory scenes, and brief language.
Hitchcock's unforeseen success of "Psycho" put him in a tough spot--so many high expectations were placed on all of his films thereafter that it almost was not fair. Many of his films were scrutinized due to the fact they weren't as explosive or haunting as his 1960 classic and "The Birds" is no exception. While it portrays the story of avian, murderous birds terrorizing California with a horrific sense of dread and atmosphere, this film is a showcase for a cast of exceptional actors and actresses who do not even have a chance to show their stuff.
Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren are throw into an unusual relationship when the area is attacked by flesh-eating birds of prey (for no apparent reason mind you), setting the stage for a showdown of man versus flock. The premise seems laughable, but Hitchcock uses his uncanny tools to create a film that possesses great cinematic urgency, using the birds as a sharp shock of terror. With such attention placed on horrific scenes (such as the Tippi Hedren pay phone scene that has become a classic), the incredible ensemble cast does not have time to develop themselves as characters and vital chess pieces of the film. "The Birds" is a well-respected thriller and for good reason, but it is no "Psycho" and it should not have been created in attempt to be one.
on February 14, 2004
this motion picture was made in the early sixties at a time when revolutionary changes were threating the calm peacful american scene and society. his view in this picture was that riots, demonstations loss of tranquility that we took for granted was soon to be ripped apart. the birds represent all of those social changes that were soon to tear up the fabric of american society.the attack of the birds was upon a peaceful normal small slice of ammericana.this indicated that no place was to be safe from the trumatizing effects of drugs, bizzare behavior, riots,crime,generation gap and all the other effects which were to destroy all that was held to be sacred. schools were attacked.childrens birthday partys were no longer safe.could the birds be held to represent all that was to soon render our society a fearful place to live in. even bodega bay? has anyone ever considered this point of view? if i am correct then this was the one and only prophetic and most horrifying of hitchcock`s motion pictures. I loved and hated it for that reason.
on January 15, 2004
An Alfred Hitchcock classic! If you like thrillers, you'll like this one. A woman, Melanie Daniels, played by "Tippi" Hedren, is interested in some special birds in a San Francisco Bird Pet Shop. A gentleman, Mr. Mitchell Brenner, played by Rod Taylor (The Time machine ) also comes in for some love birds. Miss Daniels takes a sudden interest in this dashing man, so she pretends to work in the shop for the man who requested her help. However, he just so happens to remember who she is and where he saw her before, in court. So Miss Daniels becomes more inquisitive about Mr. Brenner. She decides to put it upon herself to travel to Bodega bay to deliver two love birds to Mr. Brenner for his girl's birthday. In Bodega Bay, she encounters some interesting people (Suzanne Pleshette, Jessica Tandy, Veronica Cartwright). The birds in this small bay town don't want to welcome her. The terror starts when the birds begin mass attacks. Morgan Brittany is the child in the light blue dress. You may recognize the bird sales clerk. That was actress, Ruth McDevitt. You have seen her in the tv series' Bewitched, Love American Style and the film, Change of Habit (1969). The scared mother in the cafe is Doreen Lang. It is well known that Miss Hedren was injured during filmimg by real birds they were using and her ankle was hurt. However, she did work for Hitchcock again in MARNIE (1964). Tippi Hedren also appeared in the cable tv-movie sequel, THE BIRDS II: LAND'S END (1994).
on January 13, 2004
Very good movie. Superb. Alfred Hitchcock really made it good when he made this movie. I saw this when I was nine. When I saw the ending I was like, "What a rip off". But then I realized, since it was such a good horror movie, most horror movies are ruined by the ending. This one was just best left alone.
Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) is a mistaken woman who has a lot of spare time on her hands. Maybe too much. Though she may be one for pranks, she decides to make a special delivery to Mitchell Brenner (Rod Taylor) with a present at hand for his sister who's birthday is coming up. Things start to become a little strange around the sleepy little town of Bodega Bay once she arrives. A gull swoops down and hits her for no reason. Crows are gathering around childrens playgrounds, and they even invade houses trying to kill people. Nothing seems to be adding up. Why the sudden change in the birds activity. What could possibly be going on that is making them go against humans? Maybe it was the humans in the first place.
The plot was really exciting in this one. When the birds attacked, it was just out in the open. There was no music which made it even stranger on account of you never really knew the mood of the present time until it happened. You weren't sure when they were, or weren't going to attack either. It took over 3 years to make this film with of all the trick photography at hand. For those of you who have seen this movie, the birds was supposed to have an alternate ending where the four survivers drive into San Fransisco and find it invaded with Birds. But Alfred hitchcock decided to cut it thinking it would give too much away. I would recommend The Birds II: Lands End also, because it was more of a make of the book instead of a sequel.
on December 10, 2003
I decided to see The Birds for the simple reason that Alfred Hitchcock directed it(and also has a blink and you'll miss it scene outside the pet shop where he is walking two dogs). Melanie Daniels meets Mitch Brenner in a chance encounter at the pet shop downtown where he is looking to purchase some love birds. Later on, after finding out where Mitch lives; a coastal town called Bodega Bay, Melanie(Tippi Hedren) goes down to visit him so they get get aqainted better and she brings two love birds with her for his daughter Lydia. On the way over she is strangely attacked by a seagull which is later dismissed by the town as being an odd accident. The film drags on a bit and features a cool scene (SPOILER) where one of the men in the movie gets his eyes gouged out by a crow.Other than that the movie has no music score which I found incredibly amazing! Usually in movies the music works up when a suspense moment is about to happen and because there is none in the movie everything is so eerie and unexpected.