…And remember, the next scream you hear could be your own
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Release Date: 1963
Recently I came across the surprisingly well-stocked DVD section in a well-known UK value retailer, thus giving me an idea for a new feature in which at least twice a month I will pick up one of their £1 films and review right here if they are a bargain or a waste, starting tonight with The Birds.
Beautiful socialite Melanie Daniels (Hedren) travels to the seaside home town of lawyer Michaell “Mitch” Brenner (Taylor) with the hope of getting him back for a prank he played on her in a San Francisco pet shop, things, however, take a turn when the once peaceful birds start to wage war on the townsfolk of Bodega Bay in ever-increasing numbers.
Hitchcock waited three years to produce the follow-up to arguably his most famous film Psycho, this time turning a loose adaptation of a Daphne du Maurier short story into The Birds, a masterpiece of suspense and horror that to this day is regarded as the auteur’s last great movie.
The first thing to say about The Birds is just how much Hitchcock builds on the master of suspense title that he gained when releasing films such as Rear Window and Vertigo, the first 50 minutes or so are almost incident-free but you the audience know that something is coming, so when the first attack happens there is no warning and it’s only very minor, meaning you don’t get that release that you would normally expect, in fact as the film goes on you along with the characters start to realise that escape from the mounting fear is going to be very difficult if not impossible to escape.
Another of the things that strikes you when viewing the film is just how well the scares hold up even to this day, the scene was Lynda Brenner (Tandy) slowly makes her way around a farmhouse only to come across the dead body of her neighbour will stick with me forever, mainly down to Hitchcock’s excellent use of fast zooms to show just what the birds had done to the victim and his use of silence rather than hinting at what’s to come with a score.
Following on from this you get quite possibly the more famous scene in the film in which Melanie enjoys a cigarette to the sound of the children singing in the nearby schoolhouse and as the song get louder the camera flips from close up shots of her face and the metal climbing frame behind her, where an increasing number of crows are gathering ready to attack at any minute. This scene is a masterclass of suspense build-up that has influenced a lot of directors and filmmakers since, if you only watch one scene from The Birds, this one is the one to choose, even if you’re not a horror fan.
As you can tell, I really enjoyed The Birds and consider it to be one of Hitchcock’s best films and will continue to be an inspiration to potential filmmakers all over the world, the fact that you can pick it up on DVD for as little as £1 is quite frankly a bargain and should take up pride of place in every film fans collection.
If you liked: Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo