Hitchcock does it again, by taking a seemingly preposterous situation and turning it into one of the most impressive, intelligent, and tense movies ever. Tippi has often been accused of not being the greatest actress, but in this she is suitably mysterious as the outsider, at the same time seductive and vulnerable. For reasons unknown, Melanie Daniels’s arrival at a cosy seaside town heralds the attack of countless birds, ending in death and chaos. It is often assumed that the birds come as a warning about overt female sexuality, as Melanie travels to Bodega pursuing Mitch Brenner (Taylor). Whatever the reason, what ensues is a gripping finale as the remaining townsfolk hide in their house, wondering when the next attack will be. After a rather slow and uneventful build up, the film shocks the viwer with successive and quick assults on the senses. The scene in the café, as the town argues over whether a recent bird attack is real or fake, quickly followed by a full scale bird assault is a famous example. We are ominously told that birds vastly outnumber people. While people fumble around, trying to escape incompetently, the birds work as an unstoppable group. If you kill one, there’s a thousand more.
The stand out scenes are obvious; the birds gathering on the playground, the attack on the school children, the `don’t open that door scene’, and the final scene, as the humans leave, defeated. The birds themselves are truly remarkable, again making CGI seem very very stupid. Never underestimate the powers of live action, suggestion, and good old matte painting. Perhaps too slow for some modern movie lovers, especially those expecting a fully blown gore and shock fest, but for everyone else-this is another must see from The Master.
Most DVDs of The Birds contain good extras- trailers, commentary, and a suitably long and incisive documentary. The stories about the bird trainer, and the one bird which took a personal dislike to Rod Taylor are entertaining.
As always, feel free to comment on my review or the movie itself: Did this one terrify you as a youngster?