The Birds (1963)

The Birds is another one of those universally-seen classics from Alfred Hitchcock. It is a spellbinding film of suspense and desire, but one that is strangely lacking covert motivation, the sort of thing a Hitchcock film feels naked without. It’s characters have suspicion, but not the dangerous sort, just the ‘What makes you want that’ kind of way. The film is better all the more, because the characters must trust against the idea of covert motivation, and sincerely crowd together to stay safe from The Birds.

Melanie Daniels, played by Tippi Hedren, talks to a man while at a pet-shop, Mitch Brenner, played by Rod Taylor, and later finds herself attracted to him. She finds a bird he seemed to like, and brings it to a small Northern California house where he resides, hoping to surprise him; this bizarre notion, since she barely knows him, creates an air of peculiarity from the start. While they slowly get to know each other, Melanie stays with Mitch’s old girlfriend, Annie Hayworth, played by Suzanne Pleshette, who tries not to bad-mouth his mother too much, who seems to just be a snobbish, protective mother. Their relationship is jump-started once the small-town starts to get attacked by viscous birds from the sky.

The frightening qualities of this scene are plentiful. For one, it takes the innocence of a playground and turns it into a pack of hungry and deadly birds. They have no recognition of innocence or place. They squat where they please. The other is the sheer steadiness, like a man on a wire, of the birds. They sit, not moving, creating an air of suspicion, a cause to think that they themselves may be thinking, terrifyingly. And when they move in a synchronous flock of deadliness, it makes it all the more fearful; one sudden jitter and they are all off.  Also, this is the first time they are seen while not flying or in small, single numbers; It’s not just a deadly bird from the South, they are here.

The film weaves through its premise with suspense and economic storytelling; from a small anecdote in the beginning when Melanie gets picked on the head by a Bird, to later in the film when people are nibbled down to the bone by the terrible Birds. The performances are mesmerizing, especially the chemistry between Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren.  It is a notable classic and a must-see for anyone who hasn’t.

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