It’s the end of the world
You know, I was having a hard time thinking of what movie to open with. What ’60s movie do I like?
Then I stupidly remembered The Birds. Of course!
This movie is one of the best Alfred Hitchcock movies ever. I simply adore this film so much. It has everything that makes up a good film. And I can just watch it over and over again.
So I don’t remember what exactly got me into Alfred Hitchcock, but I became obsessed with his films. I do know how I was introduced to The Birds. It was through Ann M. Martin, author of The Baby-Sitters Club.
I loved the BSC books as a kid and read them all even belonging in the reading club that sent you two books a month and a little newsletter. I don’t remember if the newsletter or a book mentioned it, but I remember reading a note by Ann M. Martin about how she loved the film The Birds and because no one she knew had a VCR they could only watch it when it was on TV. Whenever it aired they would plan a sleepover and watch it with friends.
I became consumed with the idea of watching it, did and loved it. It was the first Alfred Hitchcock film I ever owned, me ordering it and planning on purchasing one every year on my birthday or Christmas and having the whole collection when I was an adult (did not happen sadly).
Later, a friend of mine. knowing how much I loved it, took me to Bodega Bay so I could see it in person and all the sites used in the film. It was so cool seeing everything and I later took many more trips out there. Here I am with the house that is used as a schoolhouse in the film. I blurred myself out as there are a lot of weirdos on the internet, no offense dear readers.
They also used to have a museum full of things from the movie and marketing/promotional materials, but it always had weird hours, then they closed it, then they had an awesome shop which doubled as a mini museum-but then the person died who owned it and the collection moved. Here I am with an item when they still had it.
Back in 2011, Tippi Hedren actually came out to do a promotional thing at Bodega Bay. I lived near there when I was going to school, but unfortunately I could not go and meet her as I had scheduled a trip home to be with family. However I had truly amazing and awesome friends who went out and stood in line and got her autograph my DVD. I tried to pay them back, but they would not let me know the price if it or let me do so.
So while it was an amazing film done by an amazing director there is a sad twinge to the story as well. Alfred Hitchcock was obsessed with Tippi Hedren and controlled her, he wouldn’t let anyone talk to her-unless they were filming, and just was plan awful to her, abusing her really. She tried to talk to the studio heads but he was such a money maker they refused to do anything. And when she refused him, he blackballed her. Too bad she wasn’t able to have justice. If you would like to know more I really recommend reading Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies by Donald Spoto
So that’s enough background, let’s move on to the review!
The film is based on a book by Daphne Du Maurier, this being the third of her works being published into a film-following Jamaica Inn and Rebecca. However, this story and her story have nothing in common besides birds attacking. And before we discuss the film, let’s watch the trailer.
So the film starts off in San Francisco where we have Melanie Daniels, Tippi Hedren, going into a bird shop to pick up her myna bird.
***little side note Alfred Hitchcock strolls on by***
****Second side note, by the way there is no music track-just bird noises****
*****And can I just say she is wearing a stunning green suit. I love it and wish I owned one just like it, although I have nowhere to wear it to.*****
Melanie notices a lot of birds in the air, thinking it odd, but moving along.
Unfortunately her bird has not arrived yet. The shopkeeper goes to call and she waits along at the desk. In walks the gorgeous Rod Taylor, and Melanie decides the same thing. Pretending to be the shopkeeper so that she can talk to him and put the moves on him.
He wants lovebirds for his sister’s birthday. He can tell she is not a shopkeeper but is trying to embarrass her, asking her questions she has no clue to the answers. When he asks to see a love bird it escapes around the shop causing havoc. And the real shopkeeper comes out to try and catch it. He reveals to Melanie that he knows who she is and has been playing her the whole time. It turns out that she went to court over a broken glass window and he was there too. He’s a lawyer and believed she should have served time for what she did, not gone off scot-free because she is a wealthy woman with a famous father.
She’s offended, but not so that she takes down this handsome man’s license, has a friend of her father run the plate, buys him lovebirds,and tracks down the address of a Mr. Mitch Brenner.
She’s got it bad, and is slightly creepy-but I kind of understand as Rod Taylor is a dreamboat. Who wouldn’t want to run into him again.
She brings the birds to his house and plans to leave them outside with a cheeky note, but his neighbor informs him that Mitch is gone for the weekend to visit his family in Bodega Bay.
A little funny that neighbor knows so much, but hey this is the ’60s. People actually knew their neighbors.
So Melanie drives the curvy winding coast road to Bodega Bay, which I have done plenty of times, and I always thought it was weird that the birds never flap around but just move with the vehicle. They don’t act like normal birds. It has always been my theory that they are the demon seed that start the revolution against people. They are just too quiet and creepy.
This is the only video I could find. There was originally no music
She goes to the post office, which you can visit, so that she can find Mitch’s address. The postmaster shows her the way to go. When you go now everything is compeletly different, but you can still look across the water like she did.
The Tides restaurant still exists, although it has been redone as there was a fire. In fact they were allowed to use it for filming only if the main male character was named after the owner of the Tides, Mitch Brenner. So yes, that is how Rod Taylor’s character got his name.
Melanie asks for the name of Mitch’s sister, but the postmaster doesn’t know. He directs her to the school and the schoolteacher, Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette), to get the actual info. Turns out the name is Cathy.
Annie asks Melanie a few questions about her relationship to Mitch. Hmm, sounds like there is some history there.
Annie Hayworth: Did you drive up from San Francisco by the coast road?
Melanie Daniels: Yes.
Annie Hayworth: Nice drive.
Melanie Daniels: It’s very beautiful.
Annie Hayworth: Is that where you met Mitch?
Melanie Daniels: Yes.
Annie Hayworth: I guess that’s where everyone meets Mitch.
Melanie heads out into a rented boat with the birds. She sneaks up to their house in heels, not an easy feat, goes into the house and drops off the birds.
Now Tippi Hedren may be a beautiful woman but I would be extremely creeped out if someone did that to me. I mean she doesn’t even know him but tracked down not only Mitch’s home address, but boyhood address. A bit creepy and stalkerish.
Mitch, however, is besotted.
As Melanie heads back across the bay, Mitch takes his car to meet her.
******Can I stop and go on a slight sidebar here? Feel free to skip over if you wish. I just love Rod Taylor in that white sweater. I don’t know what it is but he is extra dreamy.
Drooling is over back to the movie*******
So Melanie gets dive-bombed by a gull, and pretty badly hurt and bleeding. Head wounds are the worst. Here is were I guess it starts, the first shot in the revolution.
******Side note: The man who asks Mitch what happened, is the real Mitch Brenner.*******
Back to the film. They go into the resturant where Mitch tends to her wounds. She questions him, wile he tries to get to why she came. Melanie tries to play off her stalkerish by saying it was on the way to visit Annie, the schoolteacher, but Mitch knows that its a lie, therefore confirming to us that there is something between Annie and him, or was.
Melanie tries to play it cool, but she can’t hide the fact she had the serious hots for him. Come on Melanie, you tracked him down-don’t try to be haughty.
Mitch’s mom Lydia comes in and is introduced to Melanie. Lydia is the original ice queen and horror future-mother-in-law. Ouch. And Jessica Tandy is a great actress, one line “Oh I see”, packed with serious weight. Let the games begin.
Melanie is trying to head home but get tricked into coming to dinner as “she was staying the weekend” and won’t give up her lie. A girl has her pride after all.
She goes to Annie’s and wheedles staying there for the night. She tells Annie that she didn’t plan on staying long, which Annie replies she knows. That’s weighty right there, she knows as she didn’t plan on staying long either.
Melanie goes to dinner and meets cute little Cathy-friendly, cheery, adorable child. They mention that there is something wring with the chickens, They don’t like the feed…maybe because they are craving something else…like human flesh!
When Lydia calls her supplier it turns out her chickens aren’t the only ones on hunger strike. She agrees to see the farmer tomorrow to see if something is wrong with the chickens. And there is!
I love how Alfred Hitchcock plays the foreground and background against each other, both parts having things happen that go with the story, important, tension building, and just plan good.
We also found out that law and order Mitch is a defense attorney for “hoodlums and criminals”, interesting. Definitely a deep character.
Cathy invites Melanie to her birthday party the next day, while in the kitchen Mitch and his mom start talking. They have a slight weird relationship as in someways his mom speaks to him as a child and in others their relationship is more spousal. Not that anything incestuous is going on, but as if that is the role that his mother put him in after his dad died.
We find out that there is a lot of interesting things in Melanie’s life. She jumps into fountains naked, tours Europe, and is always in the papers. A 1960s Sabrina van der Woodsen Debutante thats always doing something.
Mitch roots out the truth from Melanie about Annie, and starts goading her about her past misadventures, but Melanie isn’t having any of it. Good looks can only carry you so far Mitch.
Mitch Brenner: What about the letter you wrote me, is that a lie, too?
Melanie Daniels: No, I wrote the letter.
Mitch Brenner: Well what did it say?
Melanie Daniels: It said ‘Dear Mister Brenner, I think you need these lovebirds after all. They may help your personality.’
Mitch Brenner: But you tore it up?
Melanie Daniels: Yes.
Mitch Brenner: Why?
Melanie Daniels: Because it seemed stupid and foolish.
Mitch Brenner: Like jumping into a fountain in Rome?
Melanie Daniels: I told you what happened!
Mitch Brenner: You don’t expect me to believe that, do you?
Melanie Daniels: Oh, I don’t give a d*** what you believe!
Mitch Brenner: I’d still like to see you.
Melanie Daniels: Why?
Mitch Brenner: I think it might be fun.
Melanie Daniels: Well it might have been good enough in Rome, but it’s not good enough now.
Mitch Brenner: It is for me.
Melanie Daniels: Well not for me!
Mitch Brenner: What do you want?
Melanie Daniels: I thought you knew! I want to go through life jumping into fountains naked, good night!
We see the creepy birds watching from phone lines, congregating at the barn-waiting for the call to strike.
Back at the house Annie and Melanie have brandy and Annie tells her her story and what happened. She met Mitch in college and fell in love, followed him here but Lydia got in the way. She kept them apart. She doesn’t want a daughter-in-law, she just wants her children. Annie didn’t want to lose him and stayed out here.
Then Mitch calls his ex-girlfriend for his new one. Ouch!
Melanie is apologized to and invited to the birthday party agreeing to come.
Both Annie and Melanie are surprised when a bird crashes into their door.
At the party Mitch takes Melanie off to the side with alcohol. She wants to head home as she has work. On Mondays and Wednesdays she works at the airport, on Tuesdays she takes classes, on Thursdays she has her club and lunches supporting a child through school, etc. Normal society things. Appears there is more depth to this party girl. Hmm…I wonder if the creators of Gossip Girl have ever watched this.
Mitch makes a joke about a mother’s care ad it turns out she has serious mother issues. Her mother abandoned them at age 11. A theme of mother’s issues is nothing new to Alfred Hitchcock as he himself had a ton and used the theme in many films, the most famous being Psycho.
At the party they are playing a game when the gulls show up and start attacking all the kids. Dive bombing and scratching. They try to help shoo them away and get everyone into the house.
Mitch is worried for Melanie ands invites her to stay the night there to be safe. And seriously, I think it is the love birds. Even with the cloth over them that should put them to bed as it is “night” they still squabble like crazy stopping only, when Cathy remarks on them. And just after, tons of sparrows come down the chimney attacking them. All cower in fear while Mitch tries to fight them off. Melanie moves Lydia and Cathy out of the room, to safety. After the attack and birds are gone they call the police, but there is nothing they can do about it.
The next morning, Lydia takes Cathy to school and then heads out to question the farmer about the chickens being sick. Lydia goes in looking for him and instead sees broken teacups, just like how hers were destroyed by the bird attack. The rooms are quiet and face the same destruction as hers and then she sees it!
Him, the dead birds, his eyes!
So freaky the first rime I saw it. Oh, and still remains a scene that terrifies most.
Lydia races home and leans on Mitch, telling him what happened. Mitch heads over to the police that are called when he and Melanie have some very tender intimate moments. Relationships speed up when danger mars your every moment.
Lydia is worried over Cathy, with the large windows at school and the broken ones at the dead body looming in her mind. We see another side of Lydia as well, more vulnerable, worried-maybe Mitch comes home not just to help his mom but because without his aid they would loose the land. Hmm…thats one thing I love about this film, on the surface it is one thing but there are many sides to all these characters.
Lydia asks Melanie to pick up Cathy as she is very worried about her and Melanie heads out right away. Melanie goes to the school, but decides to wait a bit until recess. The kids are singing and she stays outside when we have this amazing scene.
Melanie runs in and warns Annie about the jungle gym. Annie tells them they are conducting a fire drill as not to scare them and directs them to run to different places. Of course the birds attack. Poor kids.
Melanie ends up in the diner calling her newspaper mogul father and telling him the story of what happened, All listening to every word she is telling her father.
We are introduced to Mrs. Bundy (BUNDY AHH) who is an ornithologist and for the birds, Giving us some serious information on the birds.
Traveling Salesman: Gulls are scavengers, anyway. Most birds are. Get yourselves guns and wipe them off the face of the earth!
Mrs. Bundy: That would hardly be possible.
Deke Carter: Why not, Mrs. Bundy?
Mrs. Bundy: Because there are 8,650 species of birds in the world today, Mr. Carter. It is estimated that 5,750,000,000 birds live in the United States alone. The five continents of the world…
Traveling Salesman: Kill ’em all. Get rid of the messy animals.
Mrs. Bundy:…probably contain more than 100,000,000,000 birds!
We get a bit of debate as a Captain interjects that he also hates birds and wishes they were all gone, them having attacked one of his ship captains. Melanie states that the birds are killers after the kids. Everyone keeps talking down to Melanie as she tries to tell them that it wasn’t just a few but a ton and a series of different kinds.
Mitch shows up asking for Kathy, who is at Annies. Just as they argue the birds attack again. Mitch tells Melanie to stay behind as they take out a guy pumping gas causing it to flow over the ground. An unsuspecting smoker sets it off and boom.
This causes a big sign that the other birds can see and they all come in swarming. The pyre’s have been lit.
All go out of the restaurant (Why? Don’t know) and we have the famous telephone scene.
They actually have a telephone booth and Tippi Hedren mannequin at one of the shops there and you can get a picture with it.
Mitch gets her out and they head back to the restaurant. Hiding with others. Mrs. Bundy, I notice you are quiet. Not talking down at her anymore are you?
One of them is hysterical, blaming Melanie. In a way I believe she is right. Although it isn’t Melanie, but those love birds.
Mitch and Melanie run to the schoolhouse to get Cathy finding Annie’s dead body.
Cathy is safely inside, but utterly traumatized. Mitch carries Annie inside and covers her with his coat. Then the three speed off to the Brenner house.
At the Brenner home, Mitch patches up the openings, prepping the house for an attack. He notices that there appears to be a pattern. They attack, disburse, regroup, attack again. Why?
Melanie tries to contact her father but the lines are cut. The birds isolating them and making it unable for them to reach anyone or get even local radio.
Lydia starts to freak out wanting answers, the tension exploding. All are succumbing to it.
Cathy wants the love birds with her, NOOOO nor those evil things. Even now they are probably plotting.
Now they wait, trapped. Kathy gets so anxious she makes herself sick. Then they wait again. Hearing them, being taunted by them.
We have the first attack of gulls breaking windows and trying to peck through the door. Mitch being the one to take action and stop them. Then Melanie goes up to the attic.
Poor Melanie. they tend to her, but she is banged up. This scene was horrible to film. Seven days of birds being thrown at her, again and again.
Mitch uses this time of quiet to plan an escape. Melanie needs a hospital, so he and Cathy start getting things ready, not knowing what will face in the outside world or if they will be able to ever come back.
I like how Hitchcock ends the film with us not knowing if they make it out okay. We never know if everything will go back to normal. What or who caused this? I think it makes the film stronger and gives you the opportunity to create your own theory from each of his clues. If they had given us an answer, it probably would have been lame no matter what was chosen, we would have found faults. Sometimes it is better just not knowing.
So there we go, believe my theory or create your own. Either way watch the film.
This film changed how I look at birds. I never liked them before and hated them ever since. I’ll never look at another the same way again. Especially when they get in large groups or swarm overhead.
After I showed this film to some friends who had never seen it, a few days later we were shopping at a store. As we are leaving, my one friend looks behind us at the store and goes ashen. She freaks out and tells us to run. As we are I look back and see a ton lined up on the store watching, then deciding to take off. We all ran as fast as we could to the car struggling in, and speeding home. Nothing happened, but a film like this just sticks to you.
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So this kicks off the beginning of Horrorfest VII. I hope you enjoy it and the spooks. thrills, and chills that are to come.
For more on The Birds, go to Going on a Treasure Hunt
For more Alfred Hitchcock films, go to You’re a Detective, Let Me Give You a Tip. Don’t Wave Important Evidence in a Telephone Booth. They Have Glass Windows: Blackmail (1929)
For more Daphne de Maurier, go to That Place…There’s Queer Things Goes on There: Jamaica Inn (1939)