The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963, USA)


               Arriving on the heels of a cinematic hot streak that included Vertigo, North By Northwest, and Psycho, The Birds is arguably Alfred Hitchcock’s last great film. While the film was negatively received by many critics upon its release in 1963, it has grown with time to be considered one of Hitchcock’s finest. It is easy to see why critics dismissed the film at the time. With its absurd man versus nature theme, on the service The Birds feels like a B-movie. Of course, as with most Hitchcock films, there is something much deeper going on beneath the service.

               While the allegorical nature of The Birds has been examined, it is clear that the central themes of the film lie within the tensions between Melanie Daniels – a San Francisco socialite – and the mother of her love interest – Lydia Brenner. Before the arrival of the birds, the film in some ways plays like a romantic comedy. After a brief encounter with lawyer Mitch Brenner at a pet store (Brenner played excellently by Rod Taylor), Melanie (Tippi Hedren) does a bit of stalking and finds him living with his mother and younger sister and the scenic Bodega Bay. Melanie’s intrusion into the Brenners’ life and their sleepy community signals the first onset of the bird attacks.

               Mitch Brenner is arguably a friendly Norman Bates, and the thematic parallels that exist between The Birds and Psycho are strong. There are also notable departures from Psycho – for example, the extensive use of special effects for the birds. Additionally, Bernard Herrmann’s music is nowhere to be found in the film. Hitchcock decided to use only natural sound, apparently to create the feeling that the film’s events are taking place in reality. While The Birds is not my favorite Hitchcock film, it is still one of his best efforts.



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