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THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS> I TRIED TO KEEP IT TO A MINIMUM BUT THERE"S NO OTHER WAY TO DISCUSS THE FILM. Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds has over time, become a classic among classics. Along with Psycho it is one of the two films most associated with him. It's scenes are still remembered. It does not matter if he made some better films, this will be one of his most immortal. Ask someone what Rebecca was about or even North by Northwest or Vertigo. Hitchcock was at the top of his form in the early 60's Since 1954's Dial M for Murder he had made a succession of films that were artistically superb and mostly very popular with audiences. He had been smart enough to work relatively independently and not be assigned films by some studio head. Both Psycho and The Birds were closer to horror than anything he had previously done and both broke cinematic norms.

The Birds was slightly disappointing in it's day in terms of box office. Though it made five times its cost and was one of the ten biggest films of 1963 (grossing 11.4 million), it paled in comparison with Psycho, the number two box office film of 1960 that made an astounding 32 million or 40 times its cost. Psycho had been a national sensation in the fall of 1960. It was a major topic of conversation and even kids like myself were aware of it even if our parents wouldn't let us see it. Everybody kept the secrets of the film, too. It was kind of like a new thrill ride: people dared each other to see it. Psycho violated a major unspoken rule of films by killing off its ostensible heroine mid-film. But it was a satisfactory film for the audience because in the end things were resolved and justice was served.

The Birds was something else. It violated cinematic norms in a much greater way than Psycho. It had no psychologist at the end to explain everything to the audience, and most of all The Birds had an open and unresolved ending. So unresolved was it that when the group slowly pulls away in Melanie's Aston Martin there was no traditional title saying "The End". This truly disturbed people in a way that Psycho didn't (some people are still disturbed by it). Technically The Birds belonged to a long chain of sci-fi films where some kind of monster disrupts normal life (Frankenstein and Dracula farther back or any number of atomically mutated, gigantic creatures in the fifties). No matter what, the source of the trouble is found and the menace killed, often only when a sudden hunch or discovery shows a way. The Birds didn't do this and the word of mouth was that people were confused by it. Thus it didn't catch on as big with the general public. But over the years its reputation has grown and its scenes have become famous. Who can forget Melanie sitting outside the playground while the schoolchildren sing "Rissedy Rossity" or the birds pecking through the back door after Mitch has boarded up the house?

The Birds was quite prophetic in its way. It came out in early 1963, before the Kennedy assassination that forever changed the country. Up to then, since the mid 50's the country was full of an optimism and a feeling that everything was going to work out beautifully. (This, of course was not true for everyone but it was the general tenor of the times). In Bodega Bay everybody leaves their doors unlocked. But beneath that all kinds of problems were lurking that would eventually break out. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring had just been published. Until then no one had any idea of environmental problems, and that's just one example. Looking back from today's vantage point it seems a remarkably prescient film: the birds have, in fact, come home to roost. Within the film reasons were only guesses and unsatisfactory ones at best. In the famous restaurant scene Mrs. Bundy, the ornithologist (and great plot device) suggests, "It's mankind, rather, who insists upon making it difficult for life on this planet." while the town drunk quotes Ezekiel and offers a theological explanation as God's wrath. But neither suggestion sticks and they are abandoned.

It's not that Hitchcock was himself socially prophetic. He had been inspired by a 1961 incident when thousands of seagulls had crashed into homes on the Monterey Coast; in that case because they had eaten small fish tainted by poisonous plankton. He remembered that he had already bought the rights to du Maurier's short story with the intention of using it for an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Everything works in this film, even the things that some people criticize. The actors, thrown into a typical Hitchcock stew of psychological issues, are all perfect in their roles. Rod Taylor's Mitch is supposed to be emotionally distant. Tippi Hedren was supposed to be somewhat aloof and buttoned down. She did not have much of a career due to her problems with Hitchcock, but she owns this role forever. Jessica Tandy seems a bit old to have an eleven year old daughter in Cathy (Veronica Cartwright), but the ages do work out. Suzanne Pleshette is great as Annie Hayworth, Mitch's old fling and current town schoolteacher. Even the small roles handled by character actors are memorable. The special effects are a little apparent at times, especially during the bird attacks but they were state of the art in their day and still mostly hold up. In a film this good you don't question things like that. The schoolhouse is actually miles inland from Bodega Bay but you'd never guess that from the film. That final shot where they pull out of the driveway? That's a composite of 32 separately filmed parts. And the lack of music is brilliant. It's the first thing you notice as the film begins, that something is odd about this opening, even if you don't quite figure out what it is. Later on the silences are deafening.
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on November 5, 2015
I love this movie, have loved it since I was a little kid. First time I watched it, I might have been 7 or 8 and my brother was around 6. We kids found it gross and scary, which made it a favorite. My favorite scene is when birds come down the chimney into the house. We never did get the ending though.... I figured my grandsons, who love to watch scary movies, would find The Birds to be really mild by modern-day standards. But they say this one is TOO SCARY for them. They're fine with super heroes blowing each other up and a terminator shooting people and zombies doing who-knows-what, but a bird pecking a corpse was too much for them. They were terrified and couldn't get through the movie. So, I don't think we'll be watching this one again. Grandma watched it by herself, after the kids went home.
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I loved The Birds as a kid. The film is pretty frightening stuff and is one of the few films of Hitch's that crosses the line from thriller to horror (along with the much maligned but terrific little film Frenzy made with Anthony Schaffer of Sleuth fame. The effects, script and eerie "score" by Bernard Herrmann make this a late period classic from Hitch.
The script is a bit uneven and the performance of Tippi Hendren can generously be called "wooden". Rod Taylor gives a nice, complex performance that enhances the film. All the performances with the exception of Hendren's are stellar. It's not that she's necessarily bad she just doesn't fit in the Hitchcock universe despite all of the appearences to the contrary.
Nevertheless the film benefits from a number of powerful set pieces including the sequence where Hendren is trapped in a telephone booth. The first major assault by the birds is effective and frightening. The effects work by Albert Whitlock given the time the film was made is nothing short of astonishing.
With Psycho Hitch seemed to turn a corner in his career. His films took on both a new complexity and venture into territories that he hadn't visited before. Although Hitch would have a few missteps after this film (Marnie, Torn Curtain and the uncertain Topaz)he managed to close out his career with two minor classics with Frenzy and the comical Family Plot.
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on November 4, 2015
I love this movie and this particular item not only shipped and arrived ahead of schedule, but the movie itself is fantastic in Blu-ray...it looks really great. The Digital HD content (just the movie in digital format) with the iTunes bonus both downloaded easily which allows me to carry this movie with me on my portable devices wherever I go which I also love. At the current price, it was an irresistible "must have" movie to add to my collection.
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on March 23, 2017
I would recommend this film to young people who are so used to technology in film production. This film was produced before character generation, so live-action birds were scary. Also, the film did not have a sound track like most movies. Silence or actors singing or playing a piano was the only music.
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on August 16, 2017
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on June 18, 2014
This is an interesting and spooky film that I first saw during lunchtimes in junior high school in 15 minute segments daily. It is fun top see it all at once and to remember what the female lead endured to make the film, after reading histories of Hitchcock's works. I think it stands up in quality to most of the horror movies of the 2010s, with even more suspense than some modern offerings have.
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on March 12, 2017
Fantastic classic horror film, we loved it
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on January 13, 2008
The Birds as a film is exceptional because of its ingenius director. I will not go into plot descriptions or anything like that. I will say that this film is enjoyable multiple times because is was so carefully planned and well constructed on so many levels. Hitchcock didn't crank films out like cookies. He took his sweet time and made real gems.

Look at the film with fresh eyes and it begins like a screwball romantic comedy. Aren't they cute, this aloof blonde and this wisecracking man? Will they get together? And what about that smoldering brunette school teacher, Annie Hayworth? Suddenly we learn about checkered lives, past trysts, lost loves, domineering family members, bad reputations...and that's just the backstory of the main characters. Then on top of this the invasion of the birds slowly begins. Slowly. Hitch creates atmosphere and suspense with amazing prowess. Some may not care for this deliberate pace. But it works.

Film students need to watch this. Consider when Melanie decides that she's going to have some fun with this Mitch person. She goes way out of her way, even renting a motorboat, to bring a pair of lovebirds as a gift for his younger sister. (It is a Trojan Horse because it is a symbol, but that's another analysis.) Anyway, the scene that enfolds when she carefully stalks Mitch, and takes the birdcage to the Brenner home, making sure she is not seen, is like watching a spy stealthily deliver a bomb. There is such suspense here, and it's just a lady dropping off some pets. More directors and writers could do well to pay attention to Mr. Hitchcock's work.

This is just one scene in the film that's fascinating and expertly crafted. There are many more. Yes, the film is dated, and some call it silly, but in its time it was like Jaws. Hitch purposely stayed away from the original story by Daphne DuMaurier, allowing screenwriter Evan Hunter to create a very interesting set-up and relationships.

It's a fun horror film that's multifaceted and fascinating.
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on March 5, 2017
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