Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) travels to the fishing town of Bodega Bay to deliver a pair of lovebirds to Mitch Brenner. The two only met each other the day before in a bird store, and right away there was friction. But Melanie arrives by boat, and is immediately attacked by a seagull, deliberately, Mitch observes. There is no explanation for the bird’s behavior, and similar incidents follow. A seagull crashes into the door of teacher Annie Hayworth’s house, and gulls also attack the children at Mitch’s younger sister’s birthday party. Birds invade the Brenner home by flying en masse through the chimney, and they even kill a man. And soon the entire town is under attack by these avian predators, resulting in wholesale destruction.
Birds are not to be messed with. They are actually dinosaurs. Those beady eyes, the claws and talons…they truly are frightening creatures. Seagulls should be harmless, but they attack Bodega Bay in large numbers too. Leave it to Hitchcock to make these sea birds literal monsters. Joining the gulls are crows, and a gathering of crows is referred to as a murder of crows. I wonder if Hitchcock was aware of that.
The Birds functions as both horror and monster movie. It’s even more unsettling because there’s no reason for the attacks. During the film’s apocalyptic climax, blame falls directly onto Melanie’s shoulders. A woman accuses her of being the cause. She’s evil. The birds began to attack when she arrived in town. Is there some faint misogyny here? Melanie is fond of pranks but she’s hardly evil. There’s nothing about her character that suggests she should be held responsible. Unless it’s the fact that she’s not a saintly woman.
Tippi Hedren gives such a fantastic performance, which is no small feat considering the film’s campy potential. (And the treatment she was subject to offscreen by Hitchcock). It’s amazing to me that The Birds has held up so well after all these years. The special effects are laughable, yet the film is downright gruesome. I’m ambiguous about the ending, however. It ends quietly, ominously, as the Brenners and Melanie make an escape from the house even as hundreds of birds surround the house. Maybe it’s the only ending fitting such a mysterious and bizarre film.
This is my entry for the 2017 Blind Spot series. Click the banner below for more film discoveries.