Monday, 14 February 2011

The Birds movie review

The Birds - (1963)
Director - Alfred Hitchcock

1) The Birds poster

Plot summary / review:
Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) get's what she wants. Socialite and daughter of a wealthy newspaper owner, she encounters a lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) in pet shop whilst buying a bird for her aunt. Mitch recognizes Melanie from a previous court hearing, but proceeds to ask her where the 'lovebirds' are, also as a gift for his younger sister. Melanie pretends she works at the shop, Mitch goes along with the prank but finally reveals that he knows her. Taken back, Melanie uses her fathers contacts to trace his number plate, tracking Mitch down at his family home in Bodega Bay.

2) Melanie and Mitch

To settle the score she purchases two lovebirds and drives out of town to find Mitch.Whilst investigating the Brenner family, Melanie meets Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette), the local school teacher in Bodega bay, who informs her that Mitch's little sister is called Cathy. Annie recognizes that Melanie's intentions for Mitch are more than meets the eye. Melanie uses a boat to cross the river and sneaks the love birds into Mitch's home. On her way back she is the victim of a swooping seagull causing a gash to her head.

Mitch races back to the dock after discovering the birds and tends to Melanie's wounds. Here she meets Mitch's mother Lydia (Jessica Tandy), who doesn't take kindly to Melanie, especially when Mitch invites her to dinner that evening. Not intending to stay, Melanie accepts the invitation and goes back to Annie's and rents a room for the night. That night it becomes clear that Annie and Mitch have a history together and he also teases her about a story published about her in the paper. Angrily she drives off.

Back at Annie's home, Melanie receives a call from Mitch, apologizing for his behaviour and invites her back for Cathy's birthday the following day. Annie reveals she and Mitch were lovers and were driven apart by his dominating mother when they are interrupted by a bird flying into the front door, killing itself.

At Cathy's birthday, Melanie begins to open up to Mitch, explaining how her mother ran out on her and her father. She is jealous of the close relationship Mitch shares with his, then all of a sudden, the children are attacked by seagulls but are saved by the adults without much incident. That night, multiple swifts fly down the chimney and attack the house again.

Lydia takes Cathy to school, afterwards she drops round to her neighbour to check on him as they both are having problems with their chickens. To her horror, she finds him dead, victim of a bird attack with his body bloodied and his eyes pecked out. Distraught she drives home to Mitch and Melanie. Mitch and the authorities investigate the murder whilst Melanie comforts Lydia in bed. Lydia reveals her biggest fear is Mitch abandoning her after her husband died. Fearing another bird attack, Melanie offers to pick up Cathy from school.

Melanie arrives at the school and sits on the bench outside to smoke a cigarette instead of disturbing their lesson. Menacingly, crows begin to gather on the children's climbing frame behind her. Melanie realizes another attack is imminent and rushes into the school to save the children. As they make their escape, the birds attack in a flurry, separating Melanie from Cathy and Annie.

3) Crow suspense

4) School attack

Melanie heads into town to the local cafe and is joined by Mitch, she calls her father to report the strange attacks. Locals overhear her conversation but dismiss it when all of a sudden the birds attack again, causing havoc. Cars crash off the road, people are pecked to death and the local petrol station blows up in the chaos. When the attack subsides, the locals begin to panic and one even blames Melanie for the attacks.

Mitch and Melanie go to Annie's to pick up Cathy, only to find Annie's body dead on the porch. Cathy is safe in the house and explains Cathy saved her before she was pecked to death. They return to the Brenner home and Mitch boards up the windows and doors. That night, they are attacked again, trapped in their home, the birds manically smash into the doors and windows, Mitch rushes around to strengthen the doors and windows. Later that night, Melanie hears a disturbance upstairs. She discovers a hole in the roof and numerous birds roosting in the loft. She is subsequently attacked and injured but pulled to safety by Mitch. Badly wounded and in shock, Mitch decides to try and take her to hospital. He opens the front door to see roosting birds as far as the eye can see. He gathers the family in the back of Melanie's car and drives through the birds.

5) Escaping

6) Curious ending

The Birds is one of Hitchcock's stranger films with a deliberate open ended close to the film. Advertised as a horror, it's more like a character study with bits of unexplained attacks from birds bolted on. Compared with 'Psycho', 'The Birds' is much more allegorical and open to many interpretations. "Whether Mr. Hitchcock intended this picture of how a plague of birds almost ruins a peaceful community to be symbolic of how the world might be destroyed (or perilously menaced) by a sudden disorder of nature's machinery is not apparent in the picture. Nor is it made readily clear whether he meant the birds to represent the classical Furies that were supposed to pursue the wicked on this earth." (Crowther, 1963). Hitchcock explores complex relations with Freudian undertones between Mitch and his mother, love triangles with Mitch, Melanie and Annie and particularly the relationship between Melanie and Lydia. Lydia, throughout the film is threatened by Melanie, she only embraces Melanie literally and metaphorically after she is viscously attacked and weakened.

The Birds is filled with classic Hitchcock suspense, particularly with the gathering crows before the school attack. The pace of the film is dictated by this suspense, gradually increasing the length and severity of each attack, climaxing in the town frenzy. "These bird raids are captivatingly bizarre and terrifying." (Variety, 2007). Although the visual effects look a little dated now, the camera work and unique editing capture in exquisite detail the horror besieged on the town of Bodega. "...the film yields some of the director's most unsettling images: Hedren sitting innocently on a park bench, oblivious to the avian menace amassing on the playground climbing frame behind her; a seagull leisurely drifting into shot above a burning gas station; the camera homing in on the pecked-out eyes of a farmer in a series of nauseous rapid-fire edits." (Film4, 2007).

Bibliography

Crowther, Bosley. New York Times review 1st April 1963
http://www.nytimes.com/library/film/040163hitch-birds-review.html Accessed 13/02/11

Film4 review. 21st September 2007
http://www.film4.com/reviews/1963/the-birds Accessed 13/02/11

Variety Staff review. 21st September 2007
http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117789283?refcatid=31 Accessed 13/02/11

Illustrations

1) The Birds poster. http://simoncpage.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/the-birds.jpg Accessed 13/02/11

2) Melanie and Mitch. http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/birds/birds_shot1l.jpg Accessed 13/02/11

3) Crow Suspense. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_ii9Fqsnc1yE/TSYMA04SvKI/AAAAAAAAAQ4/7dFFvEQwzK0/s1600/birds+2.jpg Accessed 13/02/11

4) Attack. http://selectedreviews.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/hitchthebirds.jpg Accessed

5) Escaping. http://martinseay.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/mitch-melanie-lydia-thebirds.jpg Accessed 13/02/11

6) Curious Ending. http://www.fimdalinha.com/wp-content/uploads//birds28.jpg Accessed 13/02/11

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