The Birds (Collector's Edition)
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114 of 119 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2000
Alfred Hitchcock apparently spent the better part of two years trying to find subject matter that he felt would be worthy of a follow up film after 1960's PSYCHO. He bought Daphne duMaurier's short story, "The Birds", and very quickly decided that he would only retain the title, and the bird attack plot point. Evan Hunter and Hitchcock crafted the screenplay structure, and after a staggering amount of technical pre-production, Hitchcock made THE BIRDS. It opened to huge acclaim from the public, if not critics, and is one of the master of suspense's best remembered pictures. As it should be. And with the stunning new DVD edition, this terrific movie at last gets the home video treatment it so richly deserves.
The transfer is immaculately sharp and clear, letterboxed at the 1.85:1 ratio used for theatrical exhibition, and the mono digital sound is clean and vibrant. The letterboxing actually gives the film more breathing room, and some of the sequences, especially the complex technical passages such as the attack on the school, and the spectacular attack on the town, have a visceral punch that's ratcheted up by the clarity of the digital image and sound. Don't be put off by the many sodium process shots that were necessitated by the demands of the screenplay; they are perfectly cut into the film, and give the movie a primitive realism that is perfectly in keeping with Hitchcock's stylized view of reality. His films are all designed within an inch of their lives, and the audience is all the better for it.
The extras on this collector's edition are quite valuable. A featurette entitled "All About The Birds" presents interviews with actors Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Veronica Cartwright, along with various technical personnel, and is lively and full of information about the film's production. Also featured are Tippi's screen test, production notes, a trailer, and web links. This is one package that beautifully showcases a film which gets better each time you see it.
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65 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2000
Hitchcock's macabre classic finally gets its due on this DVD Collector's Edition. The film, which by turns thrills (the various bird attacks) and amuses (the frequently bantering dialogue), is presented in all its widescreen glory -- an important consideration for Hitchcock enthusiasts, given the director's meticulous planning of his films' visual compositions. "The Birds" features some great cinematography, a nerve-wracking soundtrack, and some finely wrought performances (particularly those of Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette and Ethel Griffies); all are well-served by the film-to-DVD transfer. There are a wealth of bonus features, including newsreel footage of Hitchcock and Hedren publicizing the film, an extensive stills gallery, and a fascinating behind the scenes production documentary. Especially intriguing are the ad-libbed screen test clips pairing Hedren with "Psycho" player Martin Balsam while Hitchcock provides verbal instructions off-camera! All in all, a most welcome addition to my DVD collection, and one I'm pleased to recommend for yours.
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94 of 107 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2005
The Birds is Hitchcock's masterpiece. It is my official selection for the best Hitchcock movie EVER...It is so much more than just a horror movie - especillay when you start asking yourself why the birds attack. Could the bird attacks be fueled by female sexual hysteria and competition for the only virile male (Rod Taylor) in the film? Or could it be just mankind's payback for abusing the fowl of the animal kingdom? This film is loaded with haunting images and symbolism which deserves multiple viewings and discussion among serious film buffs. Not only is the film worth 5 stars but there is an impressive flock of DVD extras. The film itself is a beautiful widescreen presentation with very nice sound; the extras should thrill Hitchophiles with a "making of documentary", vintage newsreels of the film's theatrical release, a very witty original trailer, deleted scenes, and Tippi Hedren's original screen test. YES!
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2000
Although I don't think that The Birds is Alfred Hitchcock's greatest film, it is probably my favourite of his movies. I've seen the trailer for the film, and it's very humourous, and obviously Hitchcock wanted to have a lot of fun with his audience. The trailer suggests that the birds attack as a response to all that man has done to them over the years. It's an interesting idea, especially since the reason for the attacks is omitted in the film, which is one of the things that I like about it. I like the way the film looks at the reaction of people to bizarre events, especially as some of the townspeople connect the arrival of the birds with the arrival of Tippi Hedren as though she somehow brought this on them. I didn't even notice that there wasn't a musical soundtrack the first time I saw the film, because the sounds of the birds attacking amidst the silence is really effective. The performers are good, especially Suzanne Pleshette, and although I don't think Tippi Hedren was the greatest actress to appear before a camera, I think she's better than most people give her credit for, especially considering that the actors are secondary to all that is happening in the film. She looks great, and projects a certain detached coolness, which is appropriate for the character. The special effects are good (condsidering the time), and the tension slowly builds with each attack. I particularly like the scene where Tippi Hedren waits outside the schoolhouse, and the birds slowly gather behind her without her knowledge. For me, this is a fun movie to watch, well made and very effective for its purpose. I've seen a lot of other suspense and horror films and they generally don't stay with me. But I have to admit that there have been a few times when I have gone by a large group of birds perched somewhere, and I've flashbacked to this movie and walked a little faster!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2002
Thoroughly mean-spirited (just ask Ms. Hedren) Hitchcock film about a sudden, senseless bird-attack in a sleepy Northern California town. For my money, *The Birds* is Hitchcock's best movie -- an opinion probably not shared by many, but why be typical? Why do I think *The Birds* to be the Master's best? Perhaps it's the rigorous special effects, way ahead of their time. (And so complicated that Hitch never attempted anything like this again.) Perhaps it's the creepy little touches like, for example, no score . . . except for the experimental electronic sound effects that sound remarkably like avian screeches in Hell. Perhaps it's the force of Hitchcock's fury at America's mid-century complacency: people like you and me die in very ugly ways in this movie. (Significantly, children are attacked several times.) Perhaps it's the Oedipus subtext: when one character dismisses Rod Taylor's momma-fixation with the throwaway phrase, "Apologies to Dr. Freud, but that's not the problem," well, there's your clue -- it is indeed the problem. Perhaps it's the rather unnerving sadism that could conceive the scene near the end when Tippi's attacked in a besieged house. Perhaps it's the final shot -- one of the most grim, somehow, in movie history. Nothing else in the Master's canon is quite so fundamental in its brutality, doubtless because there are no maguffins here, no tawdry human motivations . . . just death and destruction. A chilling masterwork. Universal's DVD is excellent: superb picture, good sound, somewhat overly-technical "Making Of", and Tippi Hedren's screen test . . . during which you can hear Hitch (and Martin Balsam as well) well-nigh pant from lust.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Strangely enough, or maybe not strangely at all, the film has aged. The building of the suspense, the progression from one strange behaviour of one bird to a mass attack from flocks, schools and shoals of birds is still perfect. We are also observing the building up of the hysterical attitudes of human beings in front of this situation, in all the shades and hues we can imagine. The bird-lover who does not want to believe it and turns against the stranger as the one who caused the disturbance. The drunkie who finds in the Bible the perfect explanation of the end of the world brought by birds. The rational policeman who refuses to believe it and tries to find some more criminal explanation. And then ordinary people who lose all sanity and become agressive, paranoiac and even psychotic under the shock when they realize that they cannor do anything against thousands of birds who are the perfect uncatchable army. Then Hitchcock goes a little bit further by showing how one or two people can remain sensible and resist the attack and run away without causing a new attack. But there is no hope, except to run away and hide. Against such a mass of assailants there is no real protection or defense. They can break windows, peck through roofs and doors. They are all-powerful. Hitchcock of course mixes a dose of humour in this drama, particularly in the first half with the meeting of his « Jane » and « his « Tarzan » in a bird shop where Tarzan, sorry Mitch, is looking for two lovebirds. Love indeed will come out of it, but on how many corpses and victims. Humour turns sour and bitter. But the ending is kind of flat : running away on tiptoe in a car after the battle lacks luster and shine, the flight of powerless people who cannot stand tall in front of danger. This is a new way of looking at the world. No fight is proper when you deal with a nearly invisible, innumerable and massive attacker. This is maybe a lesson about our modern world : we are very helpless in front of terrorism when it moves masses of warriors who do not fight according to standard war rules, methods and laws. How can you catch such enemies who are always on the move and are a multitude of unpredictable kamikazes ?

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2005
If you remember seeing this movie at your theatre or on television a long time ago then you should have this DVD in your collection! It is still one of Hitchcock's masterpieces after 42 years. It has a quiet beginning but picks up the pace later on. Good entertainment!!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2005
Alfred Hitchcock finished off his quartet of masterpieces between 1958 and 1963 with this classic thriller about birds run (or is it flown?) amok. It was his last film before many feel he hit a decline, as many feel everything after "The Birds" was weak.

Beautiful blonde Melanie Daniels ("Tippi" Hedren in her film debut) has arrived in beautiful Bodega Bay, where she falls in love with Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor). One day, a seagull attacks her without reason. Soon, bird attacks are reported around the town, as our feathered friends target school children and residents in horrifying strings of attacks. Mitch and Melanie must rely on their wits and each other before it's too late.

"The Birds" is truly a masterpiece. edren excels in her first film role, and the rest of the cast is great. Hitchcock directed this film with fist clenching assuredness, and some of his finest camerawork is present on this film. The extras are great. If you don't own "The Birds", then what are you waiting for?
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31 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2000
THE BIRDS has always been my favorite Hitch film. All the wonderful traits we've come to love and expect in a Hitchcock film are here: suspense, moments of terror, and counter-balancing those, needed moments of humor. The plot has been outlined many times already in other reviews, so I'll skip that. What I do need to point out concerning this Collector's Edition DVD version is the outstanding "extras" that come with. Included is the telling of Hitchcock's original ending, an example of Hitch's story-boarding a scene, Tippi Hedren's screen test, and the inclusion (via photos and commentary) of a deleted scene.
The highlight of the entire DVD however, is the most superb "Behind the Scenes" documentary of the making of this film that I've yet seen on a DVD release. Almost everything you want to know about the making of this film, including how all the bird attacks/tricks were done, comes from interviews with Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Veronica Cartright, Patricia Hitchcock (Hitch's daughter) and many others. Simply a fantastic documentary. Even if you might not consider purchasing the DVD because you don't really care for the movie, the documentary alone makes it worth the price. Never before have I learned so much about the making of a movie, and in particular, one of Hitchcock's. Not to be missed.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Time has a way of qualifing our initial assesment of films, and this is particularly true of films made by director Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980.) Throughout the 1930s and 1940s he was regarded as a solid craftsman but not an artist; in the 1950s many of his films, most notoriously VERTIGO, were received with lukewarm interest. In the 1960s, however, attitudes about his work began to change, and with that came a major re-evaluation of his films. Films that had been earlier dismissed were recognized as great classics; some films that had received tremendous recognition at the time of their release were now seen as somewhat over-praised.

To a certain extent this re-evaluation continues today, and at this point one film in particular proves extremely contentious to critics: THE BIRDS, which was considered both extremely innovative and a great shocker in 1963 but which is now teetering on the brink of critical dismissal. Just as it took some thirty years to fix VERTIGO's position in the Hitchcock lexicon, so may it take fifty to arrive at a final summation here.

According to film lore, Hitchcock was intrigued by a newspaper story about a "bird attack," and his interest in the story gradually evolved into THE BIRDS. (Although technically based on the 1952 novella by Dauphne du Maurier, the story and film bear little relation to each other.) The story developed by Hitchcock and Evan Hunter concerned slightly wild San Francisco socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), who becomes infatuated with Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) and whimsically follows him to his home at Bodgea Bay as a prank. Not long after her arrival, however, she is attacked by a seagull, and although her injuries are slight she is quickly, albeit somewhat unwillingly, received by Mitch and his circle. One attack soon leads to another, and before very long Melanie, Mitch, and the entire community are under seige.

THE BIRDS is primarily famous for the sheer number of disconcerting and often stunning set ups it creates for the birds' attacks. Two of these are particularly famous. While Melanie sits on a bench outside the grade school, her attention is attracted by a flying bird--and she turns to find the playground's jungle gym covered with crows, assembling for an attack as the children leave the school. Later, when the birds attack the town itself, Melanie is trapped in a telephone booth, a helpless witness to the horrors around her even as the birds begin to batter the glass that protects her.

But the sheer brilliance of these set pieces is off-set by the overall film itself. Stories and scripts of Hitchcock films are usually very tight and very precise, but where THE BIRDS is concerned you could drive a Mac Truck through the gaps. It is much easier to 'suspend disbelief' re the bird attacks than it is to accept the way in which the characters behave throughout the film. This is not actually the fault of the cast, which ranges from serviceable to excellent, but rather of the way the film works (or more specifically, doesn't work) as a whole. Having made up her mind to play a prank on Mitch, how is it that Melanie can't come up with a better one? Why evacuate the children into open air instead of an interior room? Why search for the source of a sound, alone no less, when you know what the source must be?

Hitchcock apologists tend to justify these and many other loose ends in the film by stating that THE BIRDS is intended to have an open-ended structure without resolution and that the random and often incomprehensible nature of the script is intended to reflect the random and incomprehensible nature of the bird attacks. A typical argument in favor of the film also notes that the film is driven by themes instead of plot points. Well-- maybe. But I'm an "art film" fan myself, and I can't see it.

In the final analysis, THE BIRDS is more akin to modern ultra-commercial action and adventure films than it is to an art-film, with the action and adventure distracting you from the holes in the thing--including the fact that the film is surprising slow. Even so, while THE BIRDS has major flaws, it is so crammed with inconographic moments and visuals that it is impossible to completely dismiss the film as a commercial wallow pure and simple. At its best, THE BIRDS has an incredibly high level of artistry, and those moments really do carry the film and impress themselves in your mind in a most remarkable way. I offer my own experience as an example. I first saw THE BIRDS on television when I was a teenager, and although I thought it was entertaining enough I wasn't particularly impressed. The next morning, however, I opened the living room curtains--startled a flock of birds perched on the outside window sill--and I was scared half to death. And that's cinematic power, nothing else.

The DVD presents the film in excellent form and includes several bonuses, most particularly Hitchcock's darkly humorous movie trailer and outlines of a deleted scene. Final comment: it's extremely uneven, but it is also extremely powerful. Recommended.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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