Review of 'The Birds'

the_birds.jpg Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) is a wealthy San Francisco socialite who travels to the small town of Bodega Bay to deliver a gift of a couple of birds to lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) after a chance meeting in a pet shop. After delivering the birds by boat to Mitch's family home on the far side of the bay a seagull attacks Melanie. After a bird attack kills Mitch's grandfather Melanie is asked by Lydia (Jessica Tandy), Mitch's mother, to visit the local school to take Cathy Brenner (Veronica Cartwright), Mitch's sister, back home to safety but instead the birds amass outside the school and attack the children as they flee into the town. Very soon the entire village is under attack and the death toll starts to rise. What is going on and what can Melanie and Mitch do about it?

One of Hitchcock's masterpieces but I have only just found time to sit down and appreciate it. Putting aside the somewhat dated, though still quite effective, effects, the pacing and drama is very much spot on giving the viewer an increasing sense of dread as the film goes on. The innovative use of camera angles and lighting employed by Hitchcock also serves to heighten the tension. The scenes of the birds simply massing in many ways out-creeps those where they are attacking - One bird, a few more, a few more, a few more…Here Hitchcock is at his best building and building the tension until the audience cannot stand it any longer and something has to give. The calm if somewhat aggressive beginnings of a pleasant relationship between Mitch and Melanie is in contrast with the somewhat distant horrific physical violence occurring around them.

As far as acting is concerned, Hedren as Melanie is somewhat unconvincing (though she did have very little, if any, acting experience prior to this film) with only the barest hint of character. Taylor is a bit better in that he at least emotes. To be fair, the story here is about the birds, not the actors, and full kudos to them they do a great job (yeah, yeah, the fake birds do standout to modern audiences) and must have had the SPCA busy during filming. Tandy as Mitch's mother Lydia plays the role with cool calm though I have to say the decision for her to act so oddly towards Melanie is somewhat jarring - Yes, perhaps hostility, perhaps jealousy but passivity? Weird.

Unusually for an American film the ending is more than somewhat ambiguous which is perhaps the right note to strike. In watching a documentary on the making of the film they explain (without giving anything away) that to provide any explanation would be to go in directions they, perhaps, did not want to go.

A masterpiece from the master of suspense and one of the best directors of all time. Yeah, the acting is barely adequate but ignore that and enjoy the ride. If you haven't seen it, why not?

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2017-11-12

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Studio: Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions

Year: 1963

Length: 119 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure

Other reviewed films by Alfred Hitchcock: