The Birds


The story focuses on beautiful young Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), a wealthy socialite whose father is an owner of a large newspaper. Melanie visits a San Francisco pet shop to pick up a mynah bird she has ordered for her aunt. There she meets Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), a lawyer who is looking for a pair of lovebirds to give to his sister. Mitch sees Melanie and pretends to mistake her for a salesperson. Melanie acts the role, believing that she is fooling Mitch, until he reveals that he has known all along that she did not work in the shop. Melanie, infuriated, inquires as to the reason for Mitch’s behavior. He mentions a previous encounter that he had with her in court.

Intrigued by Mitch, Melanie buys the lovebirds and finds the address of Mitch’s home in Bodega Bay, a small village up the Pacific coast. She drives to Bodega Bay and delivers the birds by sneaking across the small harbor in a motor boat. Melanie walks into the Brenner residence and leaves the birds on a footstool, with a note. As she is heading back across the bay, Mitch observes her through a pair of binoculars, then circles around the bay in his car to meet her — but just as she is about to pull up to the dock, a seagull swoops down and inflicts a cut on her head.

Over the next few days, the avian attacks continue, as Melanie’s relationship with Mitch, his clinging mother, Lydia (Jessica Tandy), his 11-year-old sister, Cathy (Veronica Cartwright), and Cathy’s teacher (who is also Mitch’s former lover) Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette) develops. The second strange bird incident occurs when Melanie stays for the night at Hayworth’s house and a gull kills itself upon hitting the front door. The next attack occurs at Cathy’s party. Avian violence escalates when Lydia discovers a friend dead in his bedroom.

After another attack by crows at the local school, Melanie calls her father, a newspaper publisher in San Francisco, from a bar. The conversation rivets the interest of others, who listen in. A fisherman (Charles McGraw) tells her that the gulls have been following his boats. An old woman (Ethel Griffies), an amateur ornithologist, insists that calling birds’ behavior attacks is an exaggeration, and no bird species flocks and attacks, and birds of different avian species would never flock together and attack, as they do not possess the intelligence. Despite her words, right outside the window, a motorist is attacked while filling his automobile with gasoline; he is knocked unconscious, the hose lands on the ground, and the gasoline continues to pump out onto the street, until it meets a man lighting a cigar. An explosion and fire result. More deaths occur. Melanie is attacked and takes refuge in a telephone booth, but the attack continues as birds crash into the thick glass, and cause it to fracture. Melanie is rescued by Mitch.

After this attack subsides, Melanie and Mitch seek to collect Cathy at Annie’s house. Noticing that crows are gathering at the school, they tread quietly to Annie’s home. They find Annie dead on her front porch and Cathy crying at the window.

Melanie and Mitch’s family ultimately take refuge in Mitch’s house, boarding up the doors and windows. The house is subsequently attacked by the birds and they almost manage to break through the doors, with Mitch getting injured trying to keep them out. Eventually this attack subsides as well. In the evening, when everyone else is asleep, Melanie hears noises from the upper floor. She investigates a closed door only to find that the birds have broken through the roof. They attack her, sealing her in the room until Mitch comes to her rescue. Lydia and Mitch bandage Melanie’s wounds, but determine she must get to a hospital. A sea of landed birds ripples menacingly around them as they leave the house but do not attack, aside from a few isolated pecks. The radio reports several smaller bird attacks in nearby Sebastopol and Santa Rosa. Mitch drives the car slowly towards the road before picking up speed, and the sea of birds parts. The film concludes with the car driving away, down the coast road and out of sight, as thousands of birds watch.


For some reason I seem to remember seeing this in black and white a few years ago, but that could just be my imagination, or me thinking of some of Hitchcock’s other works.

Any fan of classic horror/suspense is more than familiar with the work of Alfred Hitchcock, especially The Birds. This film has probably been more than responsible for scaring people away from buying birds as pets.

Now, this isn’t your typical blood and gore type horror film, it’s more cerebral, but there are a couple of scenes where the handiwork of the birds is clear.

Released in the 60s, you know that the effects are not going to look that realistic. Having said that, I half expected to see strings from the birds, but didn’t see any. The birds, for the most part, looked real.

I would have liked to have had creepier music during the bird attacks. Maybe its just me, but when killing or attacks happen, you expect to hear something to set the mood, such as in Jaws or my personal favorite Hitchcock film, Psycho. I may be alone in thinking that, though. It just seemed to not give the mood to the killings and attacks that there could have been.

Acting here isn’t the greatest, but obviously, one doesn’t watch this expecting Gone With the Wind.

One thing that does bother me, and many that have seen this picture is that it is never revealed why the birds are attacking. Normally, I’d say, whatever, but they don’t even seem to try to figure it out. If I was all of a sudden getting attacked by birds out of nowhere, I’d be trying to figure out what was going on, wouldn’t you?

As a fan of classic cinema, I thoroughly enjoyed this film, though, as with most suspense films, the first 30 min or so didn’t really do anything but drag on, where the last 30 min tried to cram too much in. They could have done a better job with the balance, if you ask me. Still, this is one of the films you should watch before you die, unless you’re already afraid of birds, especially seagulls and crows.

4 out of 5 stars

2 Responses to “The Birds”

  1. […] Along with parodying Psycho, Vertigo, and The Birds, this film makes reference to other works of Hitchcock’s. For instance, late in the film, […]

  2. […] The other day i was at the beach and this couple threw some bread to the seagulls. Next thing i know, they were all over the place. The scene reminded me of the trailer i wish to share with you, The Birds […]

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