Friday, June 10, 2011

The Birds (1963)

Winged Annihilation

- One of the great things about an Alfred Hitchcock film is how it will turn the viewers' expectations upside down – and Hitchcock's 1963 horror picture The Birds is a great example of this.

One might walk into The Birds expecting two hours of dive-bombing feather-flying destruction and suspense; and any other director may have limited the film to just that. But The Birds, like most films by Hitchcock, busts open the boundaries of its genre. Hitchcock could have stacked the film reel to reel with evil birds and special effects – but he does not. Hitchcock delivers the kind of high-quality suspense and destruction that one might expect of him in this film but he first develops likable characters to follow and sets up a real story to set this bird attack into. This allows the viewer to actually care about the characters when the birds actually do attack, rather than just be entertained by some special effects.

The cast, not exactly an all-star lineup, do a good job in propelling the story forward and drawing the viewer in. The film's foremost emotional component, actress Tippi Hedren (a then-newcomer), is absolutely wonderful in this movie as Melanie Daniels – a woman who makes a trip to Bodega Bay to see a man she just met only to wind up stuck in a bizarre bird attack that brings the two closer together.

Of course the actual birds themselves are done just about as well as one could expect from 1963. The deadly birds might seem dated and sometimes cheesy by 21st Century standards – but I am not positive that a modern film with CGI birds would have been any more or any less convincing than what Hitchcock and company accomplished with real birds, yellow screens, and props.

Overall, The Birds is indeed a great horror film - but it is more than that. The film is high-quality Hitchcock-style suspenseful and entertaining movie, yes; but it is also a heartfelt, interesting, and high-quality picture.

CBC Rating: 9/10

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