The Birds

Grace Lee was not on the KPIX morning news yesterday.  Elizabeth Wenger was in her place, wearing a blue dress.  She was that at the time of the Loma Prieta earthquake 22 years ago, she was studying for a junior high science test.  That would mean that she was probably born in 1976 or 1977.  Erica Hill was wearing eyeglasses during the CBS Early Show, although when she did the preview segment, she wasn’t wearing them.  She had a coughing fit in the middle of the program and had to drink some water.  She and Jeff Glor interviewed Andy Borowitz about “The 50 Funniest American Writers.”  I listened to Robert Hilburn’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Times show.  The episode was part of a KCSN pledge drive.  Hilburn played records by Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, and Elvis Presley, along with the Five Keys’ “The Glory of Love” and the Drifters’ “Money Honey.”  Checking my messages, I saw that my brother was suffering from nausea after eating, still feeling side effects from the chemotherapy.  Because I went to the Cal-USC game instead of going to the Flashback Feature last Thursday, I decided to catch up on it yesterday.  It was Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”  I always liked this movie, with its mysterious quality and its fateful sense.  I liked how Hitchcock made his cameo appearance within the first few minutes.  Tippi
Hedren was a good replacement for the likes of Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, and Janet Leigh.  The movie starts off like a romantic comedy, but seems to become something different after the sea gull attacks Melanie.  If it weren’t for the scary opening title sequence, we’d be shocked at the turn of events.  The movie seems to be about human emotions and conflicts, and the bird attacks are those stormy emotions taking life form, like in a science fiction or animation film.  It seems so very odd that Melanie is attracted to this man who played a joke on her.  She goes to great lengths to pursue him, in a kind of sex role reversal.  I thought the funniest visual joke in the film was the shot of the lovebirds swaying as Melanie is driving towards Bodega Bay.  Rod Taylor, who is the lawyer Mitch Brenner, is surrounded by female characters: Tippi Hedren as Melanie Daniels, Jessica
Tandy as his mother Lydia, Veronica Cartwright as his sister Cathy, and Suzanne
Pleshette as his former lover Annie Hayworth.  They’re all very strange.  Melanie seems to have a lot of time to waste.  She is taking a semantics class at Berkeley, although I didn’t notice any special interest in language on her part.  She was involved in a tabloid scandal that took place in a fountain in Rome, rather like a scene out of “La Dolce Vita.”  Lydia is a jealous and possessive mother who is only slightly less frightening than the mother in “Psycho.”  I kept thinking of how much younger Jessica Tandy here than in “Driving Miss Daisy.”  Cathy sure seems young to be Mitch’s sister.  Is there something going on here?  Annie talks about her loneliness, and is spending years pining away for this Mitch.  Why does she continue to live in this small town, just to be close to this man?  He has some sort of magnetism that attracts both women and trouble.  Maybe this is very unusual, but I interpreted the bird attack during Cathy’s birthday party as a bit of sadistic comedy.  The
birds spoiled the party and put a scare into those bratty kids.  I blame Melanie for the incident at the school.  If she hadn’t been so wrapped him in herself, smoking her cigarette and all, and just turned around sooner, she would have seen the birds gathering in the playground, and the children wouldn’t have been injured.  Melanie makes other bad decisions.  She leaves the café to go into a phone booth, and eventually Mitch comes to her aid and helps her back into the café.  What was the purpose of going outside just to go into that phone booth?  She also foolishly goes alone to the attic when others are asleep.  One of the basic principles of horror movies is that you never go anywhere alone.  Melanie’s wears her hair up, and it appears to be as tightly wound as an animal trap.  One of the central scenes was inside the Tides Café, where the townspeople discuss what is happening.  One of the people is an old woman ornithologist, who claims that aggressive behavior from the birds is impossible.  Like a lot of people who think they’re smart and observant, she has become rigid in her beliefs and won’t listen to anything else.  By the end of the scene, her world has been decimated.  I think Hitchcock took a special pleasure in doing this.  I
would have liked to have heard more from her, but the film leaves her behind.  Significantly, another person who wouldn’t acknowledge what was going on was a police officer, who thought the birds were attracted to light or were provoked.  One woman claimed that Melanie was evil, and that she was the cause of the disaster, because it all began when she came to town.  In terms of the movie, this woman had a point.  She did bring unhappiness to Lydia and Annie.  She seemed to fall in love with Mitch too quickly, like Shakespeare’s Juliet Capulet.  She brought an emotional storm with her.  I wondered how those people could be so oblivious to the gasoline spilling out across the street, and the guy with the cigarette didn’t notice, either.  I don’t know why Mitch decided to keep everyone in the house over night when everyone else left.  They were the last few who
hung around.  I couldn’t imagine the birds allowing them to reach San Francisco.  They were quicker than the zombies in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”  Some of the scenes I liked most were the early ones when Melanie first arrives in Bodega Bay and rents the boat.  I thought the special effects were pretty good for 1963, although some moments in the school scene were not convincing.  “The Birds” is a movie I like watching once every year or two. I haven’t gotten tired of it yet.  Mitch’s license plate was WJH 003.  The color of the license plate was not as I remember it from my youth.

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1 Response to The Birds

  1. Carlis says:

    The Movie is dope. The brunette Trump’s Tippi in the looks department

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