I feel like I’m one of the few people on the planet who had not seen this Hitchcock classic. To be honest, even though I’m working my way through Hitch’s films, I had put this one off The Birds because I was afraid it might be too scary. I do not do horror films and I do not like to be scared.
Just in case you are not familiar with the plot, wealthy Melanie Daniels played by Tippi Hedren (Melanie Griffith’s mother and Dakota Johnson’s grandmother) has a meet cute in a San Francisco pet shop with attorney Mitch Brenner who is portrayed by Rod Taylor. He plays a little trick on her in order to repay her for a prank she perpetrated against one of his clients. Strangely enough, they are both in the shop looking for birds.
This encounter intrigues Melanie enough to track down his name and address, drive out of town to his family home to retaliate. If Melanie’s behavior doesn’t creep out you a little, then don’t worry, the birds that begin to congregate in Mitch’s small town will.
Once the story has both Melanie and Mitch in the same place it gets to the gist of the plot which is basically a bunch of birds terrorizing an entire town. I’m not kidding, that’s the entire story in a nutshell. Well aside, from some scenes which try to establish and develop other characters and their relationship to Mitch and Melanie. I don’t know which is creepier, the birds randomly swarming and attacking people or Mitch and Melanie’s relationship.
In the course of a couple of days, they go from strangers, to love interests. But Melanie is the strangest one of the two. She arrives in town to get back at Mitch, ingratiates herself with the town school teacher, gets talked into having dinner with Mitch’s family (why?), staying overnight so she can attend Mitch’s little sister’s birthday party (again why? the young girl acts is if Melanie is her best friend and she just met the woman!), to voluntarily staying in a town that is under attack by insane, flying, winged rodents! Why Melanie, why don’t you get the heck out of Dodge while you still can?? The birds seriously injure and even kill some people, wreak havoc on the town and this crazy chick wants to stay?
The other strange thing about this film is that there is absolutely no explanation behind why these birds gather in this town and what inspires them to attack humans. In some scenes, they simply amass in huge numbers and just perch together without attacking at all, allowing the people to walk through the midst of them with no repercussions. I suppose when I think about it, this makes the birds even scarier because there is no rhyme or reason to their behavior.
I’m being a bit silly, but I actually enjoyed the film. Although there were a few violent scenes of bird attacks and a few deaths overall I would classify it as more of a psychological drama than a horror film, more creepy than scary. When I told my parents I was watching this film, they both remembered seeing it back in the day. My mom saw it with a girlfriend and said the scene where the birds attacked the schoolchildren made them laugh so hard. She has always had a strange laugh reflex. My dad on the other hand remembers being scared. It probably is a bit much for children.
Although I joke about the story line between Mitch and Melanie, I have to say their characters were ably played by both actors. I believe, this was Tippi Hedren’s film debut and she is lovely in it. Apparently the scene at the end of the film in which she is attacked by the birds took a week to shoot and the birds were actually attached to her clothing so they couldn’t fly away. This so traumatized her that she had to be hospitalized. What a welcome to the weird genius of Alfred Hitchock. Hitchcock is well known for his icy blonde female leads and Tippi is one of my favorites. She is so cool and sophisticated, but when her composure is broken she ends up sounding like a little girl. She’s also excellent in Marnie, another Hitchcock film. I’m also fond of Australian actor Rod Taylor who I’ve seen in several other films. He comes across strong without being too aggressive. If you love old films you might also recognize Suzanne Pleshette, Jessica Tandy and Mitch’s young sister who is played by actress Veronica Cartwright and looks remarkably like her sister Angela who played Brigitta in the Sound of Music.
All in all, despite my complaints about this film I will most likely watch it again. Kind of like a train wreck that you can’t look away from, it’s just strange enough to be fascinating.