The Birds is Coming!
10 August 2011
This would be the third time I’d watch this nature-gone-berserk thriller from the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock in my entire lifetime. Written by mystery-crime novelist Evan Hunter (if you’d notice in the opening credits, his name too gets 50% credit, same as Hitchcock’s. That’s ’cause according to Evan Hunters short biography about this film and his work experience with Hitchcock entitled ‘Me and Hitch’, Hitchcock had asked the projectionist to place Evan’s name to 50% in the opening credits, right before Hitchcock’s credits would come in at 50% as well of course.) who worked on the screenplay in September 1961. The film was released in the Museum of Modern Art Theatre on 27 March 1963.
The movie is based on the novella of the same name by suspense writer Daphne Du Maurier. The book however is about a farmer and his wife whose crops are being attacked by massive flock of birds until they too were attacked. When Hitchcock approached Hunter about the story, he said that he didn’t want to work on a farm in Britain and most certainly would not use an inarticulate farmer and his dreary wife as main characters.
And so, a couple of brainstorming after, they came up with famous characters such as glossy blonde beauty Melanie Daniels (played by then unknown Tippi Hedren, who ironically had her then infant child named Melanie. Yes, she turned out to be Melanie Griffith. Who knew.), the brunette school teacher Annie Hayworth (played by a low-voiced Suzanne Pleshette), the bachelor criminal lawyer Mitch Brenner, his mother Lydia played by Jessica Tandy, Cathy Brenner, and of course Hitchcock’s feathered friends who brought terror to Bodega Bay —- a total of 3,407 pieces of birds.
The story apparently begins as a screwball comedy between Melanie and Mitch when they both meet in a bird store in San Francisco. Mitch mistakens her for a saleslady when he recognizes her face as the daughter of a big newspaper company as well as for her being in court recently for something she did in a fountain in Rome. Melanie plays along as Mitch asks if he can buy some lovebirds for his sister’s birthday this weekend. Later on when they both uncover that they were only fooling each other, Melanie gets his plate number and rings up one of her friends to locate his address. She too buys lovebirds and sends this to his address only to find out he’s gone to Bodega Bay for the weekend. She leaves in her convertible, wearing a mink and a green dress very much looking like the grand socialite that she is. She rents a boat and travels to the Brenners’ home to drop off the lovebirds and leaves a note for Mitch’s younger sister. As she travels back to the other end of the dock Mitch sees her and drives all the way to the other side to fetch her. It would have convinced me that this would be the start of an icky love story. But as soon as Melanie gets to the other dock a seagull attacks her for no reason. Suddenly thousands of birds begin to flock the town, which had caused in burning a local gas station, creating massive frenzy while several school kids attempt to do a fire drill “silently”, and attack homes by simply pecking and coming into chimneys and crashing into windows.
Forty-eight years later, we still don’t know why the birds attacked Bodega Bay. Many speculate that this may have been a real story that happened in California which Hitchcock may have been inspired from apart from the Du Maurier story. This remains a true classic in which cinephiles and movie-lovers must see above any other suspense film on their list.