Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Birds

When ordinary people in isolated circumstances find themselves being inexplicable terrorized by tens of thousands of birds, pecked to death while pumping gas, scratched to death in their beds, flapped to death on the way home from school, then what you have is either a gawd-awful travesty or a brilliant exercise in the use of suspense and visual storytelling. Of course Hitchcock’s, The Birds ends up being closer to the latter that the former, but I can’t tell you why, not definitively. Yet I’d watch it again.

Considering its age (it's 49 years old now), this thriller holds up. Even the special effects still play well—I mean, obviously the technique is dated, but you can look past the flaws—and any aesthetic shortcomings are not glaring enough to draw you out of the action. However, as is the case with most Hitchcock films, this one isn’t really about the action. It’s about the myriad ominous allusions and all the unsettling idiosyncrasies; it’s about the long buildup and the inescapable momentum that grows out of his inspired use of the camera, and it’s about all the weird places that you allow it to take you long before the feathers begin to fly.

My favorite scene is near the beginning; Tippi Hedren goes to great lengths to sneak into a man’s house so that she can do something truly bizarre—it’s an inspired moment of characterization and its success depends almost entirely upon Hitchcock’s masterful technique. His camera convinces.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Tippi Hedren, Suzanne Pleshette, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Veronica Cartwright, Ethel Griffies, Charles McGraw, Doreen Lang, Ruth McDevitt, Malcolm Atterbury