Horror movies throughout history have gone through a slight arch. At first monster movies seemed to revolve solely around the unknown parts of the worlds we have yet to discover. Soon after we dropped the big one on Japan, monster movies focused on the unknown of what can happen to creatures when exposed to a nuclear disaster. Remember the film Them? Sandwiched between the nuclear creatures and today’s evolved alien monsters, director Alfred Hitchcock surprised everyone when he took a creature and didn’t mutate it, or give a bigger brain to work with. The film The Birds takes the simple premise of birds attacking humans in a small coastal town and turns it into a suspenseful gem.
The movie introduced the world to a young actress who would soon become a favorite of Hitchcock. Tippi Hedren stars as the young woman who may or may not have anything to do with the birds suddenly attacking. It’s unclear one way or another about that, although it is suggested the birds have never attacked until she entered the town. The San-Francisco girl travels up the coastline to find a man she randomly bumped into at a pet store. Pay close enough attention to this scene and someone can spot a very familiar looking round man walking out of the shop with a pair of dogs. Soon after Hedren arrives in the city, the attacks begin. It starts with a simple enough dive-bombing from a bird high in the sky as Hedren is sitting in a boat, and it continues with some of the creepiest scenes in movie history.
One of the best scenes that shows Hitchcock’s brilliance is where Hedren visits the local elementary school. While sitting on the bench, waiting for the teacher to finish up with class, the birds start to congregate around her. Soon the entire schoolyard is filled with birds perched on the equipment.
Personally I believe the film is one of Hitchcock’s better pieces. He uses the camera so efficiently and creatively that it should be studied in film classes these days.
It takes a special director to be able to turn such a simple and harmless creature into something of terror. He never explains why the birds suddenly begin to attack, unlike in the short story, which takes place overseas, and the birds begin attacking because of a lack of food.
I think the mystery of the birds and the city, as well as the overall background mystery of Hedren, furthers the suspense of the movie.
It’s clear from the first scene of the flick that Hedren would become a star. She plays the role of the spoiled princess perfectly without going overboard and becoming a Paris Hilton.
In a supporting role, Rod Taylor plays Mitch Brenner, the man that Hedren follows to the Northern California town. He has a daughter, whose birthday party is severely interrupted by a flock of deranged birds, and a mother who is suspicious of Hedren from the start.
What Hitchcock created with his film is what horror movie directors tried recreating for years to come. Most take simple creatures and try to make them deadly, but end up making them bigger or smarter. It’s been a while since someone has taken an everyday creature and made it scary, which is why The Birds will always be a true classic.