Friday, September 21, 2012

Special Cinema Spotlight: The Birds

"The Birds" (1963)

I'm sitting in a dark theatre and I begin to hear these loud, piercing sounds. I wondered what they were....and then wondered no more when I looked at the screen and saw birds flying. I never noticed the sounds that birds make at the beginning of this film. I have seen it many times as it is one of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock films, but let's just say that after seeing this movie on the big screen I will never look at birds the same way again!

On Wednesday night I headed off to a night with TCM's Robert Osborne at a special screening of The Birds. Okay so I didn't really spend the night chatting it up with Robert Osborne but I did see him on the big screen as he introduced the film and also shared an interview with the film's star Tippi Hedren.

Before I get into the film itself-the two photos below are a little taste of the kind of advertising Hitchcock did before releasing his films. The man was a genius story teller and a genius at getting the word out about his works. Remember this was many, many years before the Internet was around so it takes smarts, creativity, and a certain savviness to do what he did and the way he did it.
There are so many things I didn't notice and in many ways I felt like I was watching the film for the first time. In the beginning of the film you see Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren's character) walking into a bird shop. A little boys whistles at Melanie as she walks by, she turns around and smiles happily because someone noticed how fabulous she is. Then moments later Hitchcock makes his famous cameo while walking two of his own dogs. He made cameos in almost all of his films. Goodness how did I not notice these things before!
The story begins when Melanie meets a dashing and incredible handsome Mitch Brenner who was played by Rod Taylor (who was also in another film I spotlighted, The Time Machine). There they exchange flirtations and inquiries about love birds (how ironic). Before long Melanie is on an adventure to Bodega Bay where Mitch's family lives to surprise his sister Cathy (played by Veronica Cartwright) for her birthday. Joining the cast is Jessica Tandy as Mitch's mother and Suzanne Pleshette as Annie Hayworth, a school teacher at Bodega Bay and former flame of Mitch's.

As Melanie goes from spending a few hours to spending the weekend in this sleepy seaside town, various bird attacks begin happening and yet no one knows why.

I must share with you that there were quite a few actors in this film that played smaller roles but after digging a little I found out more about them and realized that Hitchcock put some amazing players into his film. I get the impression that it didn't matter whether a role was big or small but he made sure he brought along some amazing talent to his masterpieces.

One such talent was an actress named Ethel Griffies, whose role was that of the ornithologist (science of birds). She was the women in the Tides Restaurant that informs Melanie and Mitch that it is impossible for different types of birds to flock together or attack in the way that they did at the school. Griffies was a veteran actress who was first brought onto the stage as a baby in 1881 by her parents! So incredible!

Another surprising actor was the drunk who was screaming about the oncoming Apocalypse-it was Karl Swenson who went on to play Lars Hanson in "Little House on the Prairie"! When you get the chance and if you are as intrigued about people and film as much as I am-head on over to Wikipedia and read all about the other actors who were in the film because each of them had such interesting lives!

Now you may wonder-was this film really scary? I mean it's from the early 1960's and birds really can't be scary but seriously hearing the sounds of the birds all around me in the theatre brought chills down my spine. There were a few scenes that will make you gasp or wonder to yourself, what would you have done?

Here are a few photos of the school children being attack by the birds-they used mechanical birds because they wanted to frighten the children without scarring them for life. Plus it was safer that way! Also included are photos from behind the scenes of the making of this film as well as Hitchcock giving instructions to his actors.

Does the film end with a "happily ever after"? Yes and No. Yes, Mitch and Melanie are in love and together. Yes, Mitch's mother embraces her future daughter in law, giving Melanie a chance to finally have a mother's love. But you wonder as they drive off into the sunset with all of these birds surrounding their car if they will find the rest of California or the world facing the horrors that they faced. And you wonder if worse awaits them when they arrive at their destination. We do not know but that is the joy of a great makes you wonder!

For those of you who are interested in learning more about this film and the star of the film, Tippi Hedren, in October of this year an HBO film called "The Girl" will be coming out. It stars Sienna Miller and Toby Jones (who was in Doctor Who so you know I love him even more!! hee). Let me know if any of you see it!
I really hope you all enjoyed this post. It was such a pleasure to see it on the big screen but if you haven't seen it at all try and rent it. You will be pleasantly surprised!!!



  1. That was one of my Mother's and I favorite movies to watch together, The Time Machine, just fantastic.

  2. This is, without a doubt, one of Hitchcock's best films, and one which I always think is so well suited to the Halloween season that's fast approaching (there's just something about ominous birds and October 31st that go hand-in-eerie-hand so well).

    ♥ Jessica

  3. Thank you ladies!!! Mine as well!!! xox

  4. Birds scare me stupid! And living in a small village surrounded by forest there are plenty of them around!
    I refused to watch this for years as I was scared enough already but finally decided to get over myself!
    It is a brilliant film but it really didn't help my phobia!
    My favourite Hitchcock film is North by Northwest, my children love it too & even chose it for family movie night (they are 7,9 & 15).
    Hitchcock films are still scary & more so than most modern films as he let's your imagination run wild, for example, my 15yr old tried to watch Psycho with us & was petrified just by the music! She got to the shower scene & couldn't watch anymore!
    I watched a brilliant Hitchcock film a while ago butcant for the life of me remember what it's called! It was about a man who worked in an aircraft factory during the war & is wrongly accused of sabotage & murder. I think it's what he based North by Northwest on. Think I'll have to go research & see if I can find out the name of it ;0)

    1. Heheh I'm so happy to hear you love Hitchcock films and that you are showing your kids! We need to teach the next generation! I cannot wait to do that with mine one day!! xox

  5. Lucky duck getting to go! I've seen "The Birds" a few times and even knowing the ending it always leaves me with a dazed feeling when it's over (in a good way). Hitchcock certainly knew how to engage his audience. :)

    If you haven't read the short story by Daphne du Maurier the movie is based on, I highly recommend it. It's really interesting to see how Hitchcock adapted the story laced with tension of WWII into something a '60 audience could relate to.

    (By the way, the Hitchcock movie mentioned in the above comment is Saboteur)

    1. Oh man me too! I feel the same way at the end also! Great description! Hummm I will def try and get the book-thank you for that suggestion. xox

  6. As you well know, I did have the chance to go see "The Birds", on the large screen and it was a wonderful opportunity for more than one reason. I have to admit Bunny, every time I read one more of your blogs, I am that much more impressed with all that you bring to your blogs. As an aspiring director, I have to admit that I am particularly pleased that you chose to point out some of the character actors in "little" roles in Hitchcock's film. I was also particularly impressed with the older woman in the diner scene that I now know (thanks to you) to be Ethel Griffies. She was wonderful and I thought stole the scenes she was in as she was so engaging that you could not help but focus on her!

    I have two stories to share about "The Birds" and birds! As a youngster I remember waking up one night from a nightmare and feeling quite shaken. As a result, I decided to literally quietly creep into my parent's bedroom, where the television was still on while they slept. So I sat on the floor carpeted floor and stared up at the television screen hoping to find some comfort and distraction in what was playing. It turned out to be my first incomplete viewing of "The Birds." I ended running out of their room terrified and hiding in my room under the quilt.

    Last Fall, I had an experience with real birds trying to make a nest in a tiny little space under my air conditioner. I figured it out as I heard the chirping beginning at 5:00 A.M. Well to make a long story short, I had to play the big bad monster and remove all their hard work before I had a situation on my hand as well as many angry neighbors. Much to my surprise after removing their first nest, I again heard bird activity at my window. Once again, I removed their nest, and once again they resumed their activity with as much determination as myself! The story ends with when they actually witnessed me actively removing their nest, and they actually started dive bombing me, which may sound funny but was quite scary and unnerving. They were unusual looking rather tiny red birds but I will never forget the experience!

    1. Wow Bonnie-thank you for sharing your stories with me! Awww poor lil thing. My daughter when she is scared goes straight into our bed with us-lil sneak hehe xox


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