Blind Spot Review: The Birds
Alfred Hitchcock is a man whose body of work is utterly daunting. Not only does it include countless masterpieces such as North by Northwest, Psycho, Vertigo, and Rear Window, there are countless others that could be considered his very best. Every time you think that you’ve seen all of his most vital works, something else is mentioned. For the longest time one of his films stood out among the rest as a giant blind spot, The Birds.
Adapted from a 1952 short story by Daphne du Maurier, The Birds depicts a world where birds have had enough. Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren in her screen debut) is a wealthy woman who hides behind her lies. Perhaps she takes her cues from her father, the owner of a prestigious newspaper, but that’s besides the point. She is intrigued by Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) who can see beneath her mischievous lies. He says he needs some lovebirds for his sister and Melanie pretends to be working at the pet shop. Melanie is driven to find out more about this man so she does her best detective work to find where he lives.
Melanie follows Mitch all the way out to Bodega Bay under the ruse that she is delivering the lovebirds for his sister. She wants to be completely secretive about the whole ordeal as to not seem to forward. She even rents a boat to cross the bay as to not make too much noise driving her car. Once Mitch discovers that someone has been in his house, he discovers Melanie in the small boat and chases after all. It all seems so very romantic, until a seagull attack Melanie upon arriving on shore.
Thus begins the bird attacks. Many of the villagers find it unreasonable to imagine birds attacking. They must’ve been provoked they say. Birds don’t just attack randomly, they aren’t smart enough to plan attacks. Interestingly enough most of the attacks seem to happen around Melanie. Whether it is at a party for Mitch’s younger sister or at the local school, the birds seem to follow her. Strangely enough this is never explained, although few of the unlikely occurrences are.
Mild spoilers will follow for The Birds so turn away now if you haven’t seen it.
Hitchcock has created this horrible new world where birds attack, but never bothers to explain why they are attacking. Was it some kind of chemical explosion? Does Melanie have some sort of evil spirit in her body that draws the birds toward her? Is Bodega Bay just doomed for some odd reason? None of these ideas are ever expanded upon. Even the ending is left completely wide open. The secret is that the birds just attack for no other reason than to be an interesting antagonist. We’ll just pretend we are here for the thrills instead of any logical explanation.
In that case just how do the scares measure up to other Hitchcock films? I’d say they are a little wanting. The special effects used to create the birds just don’t hold up all that well today and while I can imagine the film was terrifying when it was released, it just can’t hold a candle to Psycho. Another thing, unless these birds were genetically enhanced, I can’t imagine how much damage a human would have to take to be killed by a bird. In all the ways to go, that would have to be one of the slowest.
That being said there are a few fantastically done scenes that really use the effects well. There’s a scene by the school yard were Melanie is outside waiting for Mitch’s sister. Melanie is unaware that birds are quickly gaining in number on the jungle gym behind her and just that element of knowing something bad is going down is fantastic.
Does The Birds hold up as one of Hitchcock’s greatest films? I’m not so sure I’d put it in the upper echelon, but it features all of his trademark style. The beautiful blonde bombshell, a captivating leading man, a mother who is over protective of her son, and plenty of thrills. Regardless of what I take away from The Birds I’d recommend most fans of Hitckcock give it a shot. It’s not an all-time classic, but rather another quality entry in an illustrious career.