The Birds (1963)

the birds poster 1963 movie alfred hitchcock
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great creepy horror with Hitchcock flare


Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Birds

Studio:  Universal Pictures

Genre(s):  Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  March 28, 1963

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

birds tippi hedren school attack

It is nice to get away for the weekend

Something is wrong with the birds.  Attorney Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) has caught the attention of socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) who Mitch disapproves of her very public and controversial behavior.  As part of a prank to push him, Melanie finds herself travelling to the small coastal town of Bodega Bay with a pair of love birds for Mitch’s sister Cathy (Veronica Cartwright).  Melanie discovers she is disliked by Mitch’s mother (Jessica Tandy) and is staying with one of Mitch’s former girlfriends Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette), but she’s determined to play her cat-and-mouse game with Mitch.  When birds begin to behave strangely in the area, the terror starts to grow.  What started out as a trip for fun and games has turned into a fight for survival.

birds mans eyes pecked out

Nope…not terrifying for a kid at all

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, The Birds is a suspense horror thriller.  Following Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1960, the movie adapts the short story “The Birds” by Daphne du Maurier which was published in The Apple Tree in 1952.  Initially the film received mixed reviews from critics but had strong box office return and gained more fans as the years passed.  It received an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects.  The film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2016.

The Birds is kind of one of those “intro to horror” films you saw as a kid.  Movies like Dracula and Frankenstein represented the classic horror, but The Birds stepped up the game to a different and more modern style of horror film.  I remember seeing The Birds as a child and along with Psycho assumed that Hitchcock was a maker of horror films…I’d be really confused when one of his suspense films would air…The Birds might have been my first introduction to “Hitch”.

birds alfred hitchcock cameo

Hitch makes his cameo

The movie can be enjoyed on a few levels.  It is a man-vs-nature story that became even more popular after the release of Jaws, but The Birds feels like a precursor to that film.  Diving below the surface horror, there are ideas of “caged animals” (here the people are trapped in the cages of their home by the creatures they normally cage) and the film also features an extremely complex Mother-Son-Girlfriend-Sister-Ex-Girlfriend relationship with Rod Taylor playing a rather old “mother’s boy” not too far off from Norman Bates in many ways.  The movie is enjoyable as a whole, but it is kind of fun to dive into the drama outside of the birds.  The movie also had an infamously un-shot ending which featured the birds attacking the car as the characters try to escape in the end.

birds tippi hedren phone booth

This is why cellphones were invented

Tippi Hedren was recruited as Hitchcock’s new “It Girl” and does fine here, but the relationship between Hitchcock and Hedren was contentious.  While she did end up starring in Hitchcock’s Marnie after this film, the tension on the set was legendary (her version of the events was told in The Girl in 2012).  Rod Taylor (as mentioned) feels a bit too old for the movie, and as a result of his age, Jessica Tandy feels like she was aged to an unrealistic age to be the mother of both Rod Taylor and Veronica Cartwright.  Suzanne Pleshette is of course the tragic victim that never had a chance of making it out alive.

birds ending review

Y’all come back now…y’hear?

The movie did some very interesting things with the special effects which even if they don’t always look real, the novelty of the bird attacks hold up.  The weird screeching of the birds and the fluttering of their wings are combined with a strange overlay of bird images and mechanical birds (which often do look real).  This is combined with classic Hitchcock visuals and gags like the love birds leaning as Hedren rips around the PCH in her car.

The Birds is a classic, and it is classic Hitchcock.  Oddly enough the core of the story (aka the bird attacks) don’t necessarily feel as Hitchcock as some of the other aspects of the story, and I don’t think the film is very indicative of his work as a whole.  Both The Birds and Psycho have their own niche in the work of a director who really did manage to change things up a lot…like it or not.  Hitchcock followed The Birds with Marnie in 1964The Birds was followed by a made-for-TV sequel The Birds II:  Land’s End in 1994 with Hedren returning as an unrelated character.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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