Sunday, September 11, 2022

REVIEW: Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (live action movie)

The Birds is a 1963 thriller/horror movie based on a story by Daphne du Maurier. I bought my copy brand new.


Melanie Daniels meets Mitch Brenner while at a pet shop in San Francisco. She's there to buy a Mynah bird, while he's there to get a pair of lovebirds for his younger sister. He pretends to mistake Melanie for a shop employee and eventually leaves without buying anything. Melanie, both intrigued and annoyed by handsome Mitch, buys a couple lovebirds and ends up taking them to his mother's home in Bodega Bay, where he goes every weekend.

Out of nowhere, Melanie is attacked by a seagull, which she and Mitch assume is an isolated incident. However, as incidents of odd bird behavior mount, it all becomes more ominous, until finally someone is discovered dead, apparently killed by birds. With no idea what's causing the attacks or how to stop them, Mitch, his mother, his sister, and Melanie try their best to survive and wait whatever it is out.

I don't think I've ever seen this movie before, although I remember talking about it with my mom. When I was a kid, we went to some kind of petting zoo where a bird pecked my foot because I wanted to save the food I'd been given for the other animals. I'm pretty sure my mom got slight The Birds flashbacks.

Anyway, in terms of overall scariness, I thought this was better than Psycho, although since it was a level of scariness even I could handle, I'm assuming most horror fans wouldn't consider it all that scary anymore. I thought Melanie was weird and a bit much, buying birds, traveling for a couple hours, and sneaking into Mitch's house just because of one embarrassing encounter (which she set herself up for, honestly). But the gradually increasing tension involving the birds was great. I think I preferred the scenes in which the birds were gathering, but not attacking, more than the actual attacks.

There were a few moments that were kind of stupid. For example, ushering all the kids out of the school while the birds were gathering was a bad idea. It may not have gone better if they'd stayed in the school, but at least they wouldn't all have been so exposed when the attack finally came. It was mind-boggling, the number of times people went outside when they knew a bird attack was likely.

Where this movie fell apart, for me, was the ending. I remember checking how many minutes were left and wondering how it was going to wrap up in time, because there were no answers and only a few minutes to go. Why were the birds attacking? Did Melanie's arrival really have something to do with it? Were the lovebirds a clue somehow? 

It felt like this movie was all build-up with nothing to let the pressure off at the end. No answers, no indications that the characters were or were not going to end up safe, and no additional information beyond the tidbit that Mitch got from the radio, that incidents maybe weren't isolated to Bodega Bay after all. It was a bit of a letdown.


A deleted scene (script and some stills), the original ending (script and some drawings), Tippi Hedren's screen test, "The Birds is coming" (Universal International newsreel), "Suspense story: National Press Club hears Hitchcock" (Universal International newsreel), production photographs.

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