The Birds (movie)

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The Birds
The Birds original poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlfred Hitchcock
Screenplay byEvan Hunter
Based onStory The Birds by
Daphne du Maurier
Produced byAlfred Hitchcock
StarringRod Taylor
Jessica Tandy
Suzanne Pleshette
Tippi Hedren
CinematographyRobert Burks, ASC
Edited byGeorge Tomasini
Music byOskar Sala
Remi Gassmann
Bernard Herrmann
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • March 28, 1963 (1963-03-28)
Running time
119 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$3.5 million
Box office$11,403,529

The Birds is a 1963 American horror movie. It was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It is set in San Francisco, California. The movie stars Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren. It was Tippi Hedren's first movie. It also stars Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette and Veronica Cartwright. The movie is part of the National Film Registry, because it is culturally significant.

Plot[change | change source]

The story is about bird attacks. Melanie Daniels is a city woman. She meets Mitch Brenner at a pet store. She pretends to work at the store. She drives to Bodega Bay to give love birds to his daughter. She first goes to the center of town. She meets the school teacher Annie Hayworth. She takes a boat to cross the lake. She drops off the birds and goes back in the boat. Mitch follows by car. A seagull attacks Melanie on the boat. Mitch helps her out of the boat. Mitch bandages her cut in the restaurant.

Later Mitch invites Melanie to birthday party of Cathy. There, birds attack the children. Lydia's chickens have not been eating. So she goes to the neighbor. She finds his dead body. His eyes have been removed. Dead birds are in the room. At the schoolhouse, Melanie is waiting and birds come to the playground. Annie and the children leave the school building quietly, but the crows attack. Gulls attack the gas station in the town. Gasoline causes an explosion. The people panic and leave the restaurant. Melanie gets trapped in a telephone booth. Back at the restaurant, a woman accuses Melanie that it is all her fault.

Mitch and Melanie get Cathy from Annie's place. Annie is found dead. Melanie and the Brenners go to their house. Birds come in through the fireplace. They secure the windows and fireplace with wood and nails. The birds attack again. They eat at the wood of windows and doors. They break in through the roof. Melanie goes up to see and is attacked. Mitch comes up and brings Melanie downstairs. He listens to the radio in the car. The radio says that there were other attacks. The attacks were around Bodega Bay. Eventually the Brenners and Melanie leave. They drive with the car and take the lovebirds.

Cast[change | change source]

Production[change | change source]

Development[change | change source]

Evan Hunter did the screenplay for the movie. It is based on Daphne du Maurier's novella "The Birds". Hitchcock wanted the movie to start funny and end with horror. The audience would know bird attacks would come but not when. These things would create suspense. Hitchcock really liked suspense.[1] The movie was to be shocking. Hunter and Hitchcock developed the story. Hitchcock wanted the ending to be puzzling and not clear. So he cut part of the original ending out.

Birds in the Film[change | change source]

Most of the birds were real. Some were mechanical like a machine. The real birds were caught and trained.

Soundtrack[change | change source]

There is much silence in the movie. This creates suspense. It is a contrast to the noise of the birds. There is no traditional score. The music tells the audience what emotions to have.[2] Sound effects were created with the electroacoustic Mixtur-Trautonium. This was a form of synthesizer.[3]

Special effects[change | change source]

The movie had many technical difficulties. It was challenging to make. There were many special effects for the birds. The sodium vapor process ("yellow screen") was used for the attack scenes of the birds. The process shoots two images at the same time and overlaps them. SVP was better for the fast-moving wings of the birds.[4] Blue backing and sodium matter and optical printers were also used. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for best special effects.

Themes and style[change | change source]

Themes[change | change source]

One theme in the movie is love vs. violence. The two lovebirds are in contrast to the violent crows and gulls, who attack people. There is also the theme of civilians being trapped. This is seen in the telephone booth. Melanie is trapped in a very small space and the birds attack. Any time someone goes out, they are in danger. At the Brenner's house, they must seal windows and doors. Outside, the birds surround them in every direction. In the beginning, only birds are in cages. Eventually humans are trapped like in a cage. There is conflict between nature and man. Humans can be very vulnerable to nature. The attack of the birds can also be a form of punishment.[5]

Style[change | change source]

The movie is slow-paced and builds up to the attack scenes. This means that not much happens until the birds attack. When the birds attack, a lot happens and everything gets chaotic.[6] There are many short shots put together in a short time. This is called montage editing. Eyeline matches and point-of-view (POV) are used. This is when the audience sees the same things the actors see. It is as if one is in the head of the actor. One can see their emotions and how they see things. The camera switches from facing the actor to the object of their sight and back again. There are also shots from the view of birds. An example is the birds-eye view. This happens when the birds attack the center of town and the gas station. One sees the entire town from above.

Real life event inspiration[change | change source]

The Birds film was partly inspired by the true events of a mass bird attack on the seaside town of Capitola in California on August 18, 1961.

"Capitola residents awoke to a scene that seemed straight out of a horror movie. Hordes of seabirds were dive-bombing their homes, crashing into cars and spewing half-digested anchovies onto lawns."[7]

Alfred Hitchcock heard of this event and used it as research material for this film which was then in progress. The real cause of the birds' behaviour was toxic algae, but that was not known back in the 1960s.[8]

Reception[change | change source]

The movie had mixed reviews at first. It received better reviews later. It is important in the horror genre. On Rotten Tomatoes it has positive reviews with a 95% rating.[9]

Controversy[change | change source]

There was a controversy about Hitchcock and Hedren. Hitchcock seemed to be obsessed with her. She accused him of sexual assault. She was also injured on the movie set.

References[change | change source]

  1. McGilligan, Patrick (2004). Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-098827-4, p. 616.
  2. Auiler, Dan (1999). Hitchcock's Secret Notebooks. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 0-7475-4588-X, p. 516.
  3. Pinch, Trevor; Trocco, Frank (2004). Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-01617-3., p. 54.
  4. "Cinemafantastique (1980) – The Making of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds". the.hitchcock.zone. Retrieved October 19, 2018.
  5. Hunter, Evan (1997b). "Me and Hitch". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. 7 (6): 25–37.
  6. Hitchcock, Alfred; Gottlieb, Sidney, eds. (1997). Hitchcock on Hitchcock: Selected Writings and Interviews by Alfred Hitchcock. California: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-21222-0. p. 295
  7. Laurel Hamers, Mercury News, The Hithchcock movie was inspired by crab toxin, December 7, 2015
  8. Wynne Parry, Blame Hitchcock's Crazed Birds on Toxic Algae, LiveScience, January 3, 2012
  9. The Birds, retrieved 2022-06-24

Other websites[change | change source]