Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Terrifying Tuesdays: The Birds (1963)

Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds"(1963) is a horror classic that scarcely needs an introduction, especially to those who enjoy the genre!  Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), a wealthy San Francisco socialite with a penchant for practical jokes, impulsively follows lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) to his family home in Bodega Bay after he turns the tables on her and plays a practical joke of his own at a pet shop.  Almost as soon as she arrives, though, the local birds begin behaving very strangely.  Melanie is hit on the head by a large gull, Mitch's mother Lydia (Jessica Tandy) worries because her chickens are off their feed, and another gull dies slamming into the door of Annie Hayworth's (Suzanne Pleshette) house where Melanie is staying for the night.  As the weekend progresses, the birds become more and more aggressive, and several people are killed as a result.  Melanie finally ends up barricaded in the Brenner family home with Mitch, Lydia, and Mitch's sister Cathy (Veronica Cartwright) as they attempt to survive yet another bird attack.  Melanie ends up seriously wounded, and in the final scene of the movie the four pile into Melanie's car and start to drive out of town, literally surrounded by crowds of menacing birds.

The ending of the movie resolves nothing, and we are left to wonder if these people will survive, and also if the rest of the world will face the same menace.  We are also given no explanation as to why the birds are behaving so badly, and it is this feeling of unsettled dread and uncertainty which makes this movie so effective.  The use of eerie sound effects rather than music throughout most of the movie also promotes a feeling of vague terror.  I feel the need to give this movie a Gore Guide rating of "2" because there are several rather gruesome attacks and death scenes, in particular the one with the close-up of the farmer (and those who have seen the movie know which scene I am talking about).  However, in spite of this rating "The Birds", which is based upon a 1952 novella of the same name by Daphne du Maurier, is an Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece and a must-see for all who have an interest in scary movies.

Interesting Fact: Alfred Hitchcock, who liked to appear in cameos in his films, can be seen walking two dogs past the pet shop at the beginning of the movie (the dogs were his own).

Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 2

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