The Birds

The Friday Film – The Birds

Tippi Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963). Photo: Everett Collection/Rex features
Tippi Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963). Photo: Everett Collection/Rex features

I’m pretty late to the party, but last night I finally got round to watching The Birds, the Hitchcock film based on Daphne du Maurier’s story of the same name (first published in The Apple Tree).

It stars Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren, both intriguing but slightly unlikable, at least in these roles anyway. The film begins with sweet little lovebirds and a wealthy woman with stalker-like behaviour (Hedren) and ends with murderous crows and seabirds.

The women of the film are intriguing and at times it can be hard to judge what the bird-loving Hitchcock or Hunter were getting at with these characters. Perhaps that’s why they made Taylor’s character so bland. I must admit, it was no Vertigo, but I still really enjoyed The Birds.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Edited by George Tomasini
Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • March 28, 1963
Budget $3.3 million
Box office $11.4 million

Running time: 119 minutes.

Birds invade the Brenner house
Birds invade the Brenner house

It is one of the most disturbing sequences in cinematic history: a woman tiptoes through a house until – in three staccato shots – she discovers the bloody corpse of its occupant on the bedroom floor, his eye sockets two black holes dripping with gore. Telegraph

In this film, the female lead, Melanie Daniels is standing outside and you can see the playground behind her gradually filling up with birds.  This could be perhaps my favorite scene in movie history.  This scene is the best example of montage or Mise En Scene I could think of.  Hitchcock was extremely impressive in his dramatic techniques.  It helped to build the tension which also made this film horror and suspense. Lighting the Birds

Is The Birds about feminism? I don’t know, and I’m less convinced of this now than I was a decade ago. The Imaginative Conservative

Hitchcock initially wanted his 1950s leading lady Grace Kelly for the role of Melanie Daniels, but after she married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956, she retired from acting and declined all offers to return to Hollywood. He’d also sought Anne Bancroft for the role, but even with his expansive budget, he couldn’t afford her. Others on his wish list included starlets Sandra Dee, Carol Lynley, Yvette Mimieux, and Pamela Tiffin… He discovered his eventual leading lady, Hedren, a model with no acting experience, when he spotted her in a TV commercial for a diet drink during NBC’s “Today” show… The director initially wanted Joseph Stefano, his “Psycho” screenwriter, to return for “The Birds,” but Stefano wasn’t interested in the story. Movie Fone

The Birds
The Birds

Hunter began working on the screenplay in September 1961. He and Hitchcock developed the story, suggesting foundations such as the townspeople having a guilty secret to hide, and the birds an instrument of punishment. He suggested that the film begin using some elements borrowed from the screwball comedy genre then have it evolve into “stark terror”. This appealed to Hitchcock, according to the writer, because it conformed to his love of suspense: the title and the publicity would have already informed the audience that birds attack, but they do not know when. The initial humor followed by horror would turn the suspense into shock… Hitchcock at later stages consulted with his friends Hume Cronyn (whose wife Jessica Tandy was playing Lydia) and V.S. Pritchett, who both offered lengthy reflections on the work… The director commissioned Sala and Remi Gassmann to design an electronic soundtrack. They are credited with “electronic sound production and composition”, and Hitchcock’s previous musical collaborator Bernard Herrmann is credited as “sound consultant”… Source music includes the first of Claude Debussy‘s Deux arabesques, which Tippi Hedren’s character plays on piano, and “Risseldy Rosseldy”, an Americanized version of the Scottish folk songWee Cooper O’Fife“, which is sung by the schoolchildren. Good old Wikipedia

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