2018 Blind Spot Series: The Birds


What I knew going in: Quite a bit about the story, and all the behind the scenes drama between Hitchcock and Hedren.

After an encounter in a pet shop, socialite Melanie (Tippi Hedren) follows Mitch (Rod Taylor) to the quiet town he retreats to every weekend. Upon her arrivle, the birds in the town start to behave erratically and things drastically escalate.

Hitch apparently terrorizing Hedren during this film is pretty well known, and now I believe it even more because no director that has your best interests in mind directs you into this performance. 

This movie is glorious in how bad it is. I'm sure in theory this film isn't as incompetently directed as it seems, there are some nice shots here and there, but the fact that it's about killer birds in a time when special effects were so limited pretty much gives it zero leeway. I mean, they did this...


Did this movie actually scare people back then? It couldn't possibly have, right? Nothing about this film looked natural. Not the birds, not the back drops, definitely not the performances. The only actor that I thought showed some emotional range was Veronica Cartwright, who played young Cathy. She genuinely looked terrified throughout, even with the clunky editing. 

I found this entire film unintentionally hilarious and that alone makes me so glad I watched it. It's just so spectacularly bad on every level. It's like it was the inspiration for all campy 80's horror movies. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "She pushed me inside!" - Cathy (Veronica Cartwright)


20 comments:

  1. Believe it or not this movie was pushing the envelope a bit with the special fx. They look absolutely horrible by today's standards, but for the time, they weren't bad. As a whole, I found it solid, except for the ending. With Hitchcock, in general, and this movie in particular, it's more about what is being proposed by the movie rather than what's shown. And the idea of flicks of killer birds was terrifying to a lot of people. But yeah, it's badly dated because those visuals no longer support the story and the main character is just a scream queen. So I totally get where you're coming from. You are right about it's influence. Combined with Jaws, this inspired a ton of bad and/or campy creature features. Honestly, after reading your thoughts I was shocked to see something greater than a D grade.

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    1. I suppose it was pushing the envelope a bit but man...so bad. lol. I enjoyed the hell out of watching this though. I actually really liked the final shot of the movie as they're slowly driving away. I thought that looked gorgeous.

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  2. I watched this myself for the first time a few years ago and it was such a disappointment. I didn't hate it but it just wasn't as good as I thought it'd be.

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    1. It's pretty hyped up, isn't it? Had I been in a terrible mood or something during it I might not have enjoyed it so much.

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  3. Nice review! This is actually one of my favorite Hitchcock films. I saw it in theaters, and after two hours of screeching birds and that scene where Tippi is locked in the bedroom, it was actually quite scary. If it was remade today with CGI birds, it'd be Sharknado bad. So I don't mind the special effects they had to work with back then. But I'd love for someone to remake this closer to the Daphne DuMaurier short story though.

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    1. I've never read the short story, I'll have to go look for that.

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  4. I do think it's one of Hitchcock's finest films as I love the sense of terror in what he does as it's also my mother's favorite Hitchcock film.

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    1. I've got another Hitchcock movie (Rear Window) as my next Blind Spot so I'll have another to compare it to.

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  5. I'm obsessed with The Birds. I've actually been to the filming location in California. They had the coolest gift shop.

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  6. I LOVE The Birds!!! That's not to say it doesn't have it flaws but it’s so entertaining in so many ways and it’s so beautifully shot.

    As Dell said the effects might be dated today but they were the best available when the film was made so taking that into consideration I can see them being scary especially magnified on a giant screen in the darkness of a theatre. There are shots which still startle today, in particular when Melanie is trapped in the phone booth besieged on all sides by the attacking birds with the firehoses shooting wildly. Hitch shoots her from all sides including above so you sense how surrounded and helpless she is.

    As far as the performances I can’t say that Veronica Cartwright stands alone as the only person doing good work on the screen, though she’s fantastic. The leads are probably the weakest though they fill their necessary spots well enough. Tippi is very shiny and sleek to begin with and slowly unravels, a sort of mysterious blank but then since the attacks seemed to follow her without explanation there should be some distance and unknowability to Melanie. Rod Taylor is called on to simply be a handsome rugged object of desire (for Melanie) and stability (for Lydia) so his stolidness fits both.

    It’s the supporting characters who add so much flavor to the film. I adore Suzanne Pleshette as schoolteacher Annie Hayworth, with her great growl of a voice and no-nonsense attitude. Jessica Tandy also makes the most of her rather thankless role of Lydia, she’s very powerful in her silent shock at the Fawcett farm. And every single person at the diner, the frantic mother, the sea captain, Mrs. Bundy the amateur bird watcher, the waitress, etc., just rock it. Hitchcock said that he was looking to unsettle people so he didn’t focus on going deep within character and the film made a mint on its release so he achieved what he was going for.

    I have a story that relates to the film. Quite a few years ago now I was managing a Blockbuster in Washington DC. For a few weeks there was a spate of random bird attacks at various points in the District but mostly centered around Dupont Circle which my store was relatively near. I never witnessed an actual attack but passed though the Circle shortly after an occurrence and there was a palpable sense of if not fear a disquieting anxiety and a great hurry to get the hell out of there. Fortunately, it wasn’t a case of different species flocking together and the injuries weren’t severe (though often numerous scratches) and they stopped as suddenly as they started but for that period when it was happening we couldn’t keep enough copies of The Birds in the store to meet the demand, and we were getting between 50 and 100 copies a day!

    Glad to hear you have Rear Window up next. Its themes are much more complex and the performances top flight. It’s my second favorite Hitchcock film after Saboteur. Anxious to read your thoughts on it!

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    1. Oh man that's wild that you had so many copies during that time. Suzanne Pleshette was really good, I liked her a lot and was a bit annoyed when she was killed off screen.

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  7. Oh I really like The Birds. It's hard not to chuckle at some of its stunts but I've always had fun with it. The phone booth/gas station scene remains my favorite.

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    1. It is so fun. Those birds smacking the glass and still flying afterwards....lol

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  8. Ugh, I posted here but it didn’t take...new issue with my tablet but now I downloaded chrome so that should be aok now. I really like The Birds and cho what he says about the special effects. Those bird attacks Joel speaks of...I wonder if it was not redwing blackbirds. I was attacked by one when I was young and the damn bird drew blood on the top of my head. Years later, there was an issue near the court building in Toronto and, sure enough, it was a redwing blackbird. They are very territorial especially if they have a nest nearby. Ok, I love Suzanne Pleashette in the film and hated it when she was killed off. Tippi always seemed like she was made of wax although I applaud her love of animals. In the one scene when she stupidly goes to the attic, real birds were thrown at her and she did get many cuts as a result. I agree that I hated the ending.

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    1. I liked the ambiguity of the ending. Other than them all perishing, which would have been too much for the audience of the time-and quite frankly changed the entire tenor of the picture, the group's departure into the unknown with the birds holding sway over the land left behind seems like the only feasible one. As Mrs. Bundy said in the diner if the birds flocked together we wouldn't have a chance.

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    2. The final shot of them driving away is easily the best shot of the entire film.

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    3. Birgit - ouch! I've been swooped at by birds but never actually pecked. The off screen death bothered me too because she was a good character. Tippi really can't emote. She's beautiful, but I get the "made of wax" comment.

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  9. Of all the Hitchcock films I've seen, this is one of my least favorite. I've only seen it once, years ago, when I first started getting into film, and was just bored. And I HATED the ending - if the film can't be bothered to answer the question of why the birds were doing this, I couldn't be bothered to watch it lol. It doesn't help that Tippi is... not a great actress. I do think that the bird attacks are filmed pretty well, though, particularly the one in the phone booth. But... yeah. Not my favorite, not by a long shot.

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    1. ALSO: you should see Mario Cantone's stand-up bit about this movie, because it's HILARIOUS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtNeAVVmn8E

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