Rated PG-13 for Violence and Adult Themes
Written By: Evan Hunter
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock
Staring: Tippi Hendrin, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Susanne Pleshette, and Veronica Cartright
” I thought you knew! I want to go through life jumping into fountains naked, good night!” -Melanie Daniels
The Birds may not be Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest film, but it still easily makes it in the top five. One common parallel I’ve noticed throughout the years is Hitchcock’s attraction to magnificent blond bombshells and then putting them through hell. Grace Kelly, Tippi Hendrin, Janet Leigh, Doris Day, Julie Andrews, Kim Novak, and Ingrid Bergman. For time unchecked, Alfred Hitchcock put us through the ringer watching some of the most beautiful and vivacious women in Hollywood stumble their way through films that exude feelings of terror, shock, but mostly fear. The greatest gift Hitchcock left us with was zeroing in on the fears of mankind and exploiting them through bone chilling entertainment.
Melanie Daniels is a spoiled and bored socialite, used to getting her way. In a pet shop, she by chance meets the handsome Mitch Brenner who facetiously pretends to believe she is an employee and engages in a flirting match. Mitch doesn’t buy the lovebirds he was seeking to purchase for his younger sisters birthday and heads home. Melanie, who is used to playing games buys the birds and takes them to Bodega Bay, a small coastal town. Once Melanie arrives she is attacked by a passing seagull. Soon it becomes obvious it wasn’t a random incident and something has gone very wrong with the birds in Bodega Bay.
What’s most compelling about The Birds is there is never any real rhyme or reason for the strange and irrational events that begin to take place. Did really have something to do with Melanie and her lovebirds or was it just some strange phenomenon? It’s never elaborated on except for some crazy reaction from a scared woman in a diner. The topic is acknowledged but left an enigma. The fact that there is never any real allusion to the reason behind the mysterious bird attacks or explanation in the end makes the story itself that much more eerie. Often, our worst fears are irrational, so why not make a movie about fears that make no sense and have essentially no chance of ever happening, except in the darkest parts our minds?
Along with the overpowering feel of helplessness and an eerie sense of fear the actual birds themselves evoke a feeling fear. The scene where they are sitting on the monkey bars and Melanie and Annie are trying to usher them safely away, you can hear a pin drop, even though the birds aren’t doing anything other than sitting quite still on the bars. My palms still get clammy and my stomach still turns to knots each time I watch that scene. Pure Hitchcock genius.
The beautiful Tippi Hendrin and her stunning glances and overwhelming sense of charisma made this movie feel like it was alive. She gave the rest of the cast something to feed off of and really enhanced everyone else’s performances as well. When the first seagull swoops down and slashes her forehead, her facial expression is priceless. The best acting scene in the movie is the moment she and Jessica Tandy share together when discussing Mitch. The two very strong and smart women really connect and make it an incredibly memorable scene. The handsome Rod Taylor easily passes as the object of both Melanie and Annie’s affection, and his infectious little sister played by Veronica Cartright is more than easy to fall in love with.
It’s a bit frightening to know that a re-make of this film is in the works, even with the brilliance of Naomi Watts playing Melanie, it still seems daunting to take on a film made in such elegance and detail and make it again. Some pieces of art are better left alone. The Birds is rated PG-13 but in comparison to today’s PG-13 most kids would be way too desensitized to be afraid of this film. I wouldn’t bring my four year old to it, but maybe when he turns about ten he’ll mature enough to appreciate the kind of scary this movie exudes. The Birds is true brilliance and for anyone who loves a good Hitchcock flick. Four out of Four stars.