|Figure 1: Theatrical Poster (Angela, 2012)|
- Native Title: Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds
- Primary Language: English
- Format: Technicolour
- Year of Release: 1963
- Budget: est. $2,500,000
- Film Length: 119 minutes
- Production Company: Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions
Another of Hitchcock's signature films The Birds is a horror-thriller that plays on connotation, symbolism and is one of the most recognisable films for it's use of the MacGuffin - In this film an attack on Bodega Bay, California by birds of all kinds.
The film starts off in downtown San Francisco where Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) encounters Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) in a pet shop. The two of them banter before Mitch drops the illusion where he thought Melanie was the store clerk but this is our first MacGuffin is introduced: The lovebirds. Although they are not in shot until the next day they act as the catalyst that takes Melanie to the small fishing village of Bodega Bay 60 miles outside San Francisco.
Melanie is introduced as a headstrong and rebellious character with a huge streak for deception: When fist in the pet shop she plays the game that she works there until Mitch calls her out and after he leaves the shop she notes down his license plate, calls a contact at her father's newspaper to find out who on the state DMV registrar owns the plate then pretends to half-remember Mitch's apartment number at the apartment block's reception desk. At every point from the apartment to Bodega Bay's post office, fishing wharf and even when speaking with, Annie Hayworth (The teacher of Mitch's younger sister Cathy) she pretends to be someone she isn't while still gaining information and, apparently, not rousing suspicion from the townsfolk.
|Figure 2: Is this woman hysterically shouting at Melanie? Hitchcock?...or the audience?|
Not long after the lovebirds are delivered (by way of sneaking into Mitch's house while he's tending the nearby barn, no less), the second MacGuffin comes into play in the form of a seagull that swoops down and scratches Melanie in the temple. "Why are the birds attacking?" is the question on many peoples' minds, but the film gives no factual explanation. In one scene midway a woman hysterically accuses Melanie (the camera positioned so she looks directly at the audience) of being the cause. "The Accusation points not simply to a supernatural cause, but an authorial one, as well. If there is no scientifically plausible reason for the attack of the birds, we are nonetheless constantly reminded that there is at least a reason for Hitchcock's staging of the attack" (Goldsmith, 2012). What's more, by looking directly at the viewer her words are in some respect directed towards the audience, perhaps the woman is not only shouting at Melanie, but perhaps Hitchcock himself for making the town suffer like this (this was right after a severe attack by the birds which led to a large fire in the town centre) and maybe, at a stretch, also condemning the audience for being willing to sit though this disaster for the sake of entertainment and to enjoy another classic choreographed by their tormentor to the detriment of the well-being of these fictional characters.
Another thing that happens several times is the camera acts either as Mealie's eyes, or as an indicator of a danger she may be oblivious to and there are several key scenes that use this to promote shock value. During her return from the inflitration of Mich' house, we see him get into his car and drive around the lake. But "we see only only what she can see from the rowboat. Suddenly, near shore, the camera picks up a sea gull swooping down on our heroine. For just a second, the point of view is shifted, and we are permitted to see the bird before its victim does" (Sarris, 1963). The latter idea is then used again in a later and more iconic scene where crows cover the school playground. Melanie doesn't see any of them, too busy waiting and occupying herself, So the crows gather gradually in the playground and then, the audience itself gets treated the same way as after a number of crows gather the camera joins Melanie in following one flying for a while before it finally lands...on a climbing frame packed with crows. This time the shock value comes from simply how many birds have gathered. The audience saw the numbers building and building to practically ludicrous levels, as well as building the dread that these things are amassing for an inevitable attack.
|Figure 3: Surely when filming this Hitchcock descended into rabidly|
shouting "More birds! More birds!" (MrDisgusting, 2013)
|Figure 4: Car drives away, birds stare on. The end. (Godwyn, 2012)|
- Godwyn, K., 2012; Entering Other Worlds Part 2; Cagey Films; available at http://www.cageyfilms.com/2012/06/entering-other-worlds-part-2/ (last accessed 24th February 2015)
- Goldsmith, L., 2012; The Birds; Not Coming To A Theater Near You; available at http://www.notcoming.com/reviews/the-birds/ (last accessed 23rd February 2015)
- IMDb, unknown; The Birds (1963); Internet Movie Database; available at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056869/ (last accessed 23rd February 2015)
- The Village Voice, 2005; The Birth Of The 'Voice' 1955-1965; The Village Voice; available at http://www.villagevoice.com/2005-10-18/specials/the-birth-of-the-voice-1955-1965/5/ (last accessed 23rd February 2015)
- Figure 1: Angela, 2012; [Theatrical poster]; Full The Birds Poster; available at http://la-screenwriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/936full-the-birds-poster.jpg (last accessed 24th January 2015)
- Figure 2: MovieClips, 2011; [Is this woman hysterically shouting at Melanie? Hitchcock...Or the audience?]; The Birds (film) I think you're Evil - 0:51; available at http://www.metacafe.com/watch/mv-4iSN/the_birds_film_i_think_youre_evil/ (last accessed 23rd February 2015)
- Figure 3: MrDisgusting, 2011; [Surely when filming this Hitchcock descended into rabidly shouting "More birds! More birds!"] Birds-1; available at http://bloody-disgusting.com/news/3219579/omfg-kentucky-experiences-real-life-birds-terror-as-millions-flock-to-small-city/ (last accessed 23rd February 2015)
- Figure 4: Godwyn, K., 2012; [Car drives away, birds stare on. The end.]; Birds 13; available at http://www.cageyfilms.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/birds_13.jpg (last accessed 24th February 2015)