The Birds (film): Wikis


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The Birds

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Daphne du Maurier (story)
Evan Hunter (screenplay)
Starring Tippi Hedren
Rod Taylor
Jessica Tandy
Suzanne Pleshette
Veronica Cartwright
Music by Oskar Sala
Remi Gassmann
Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography Robert Burks, ASC
Editing by George Tomasini
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) March 28 1963
Running time 119 min.
Country USA
Language English
Budget $2.5 million
Gross revenue $11,403,529
Followed by The Birds II: Land's End

The Birds (1963) is a suspense/horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock based on the 1952 novella The Birds by Daphne du Maurier. It depicts Bodega Bay, California which is, suddenly and for unexplained reasons, the subject of a series of widespread and violent bird attacks over the course of a few days.

The screenplay was written by Evan Hunter, who also wrote novels under that name and penned the 87th Precinct novels using the pseudonym Ed McBain.



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, California, 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 out-of-town man abruptly tells the patrons he hates birds and thinks they're filthy creatures. A resident believe the attacks are a sign of the apocalypse, quoting Bible verses. An out-of-town woman yells at them for scaring her children. 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 the bird-hater 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. While hiding inside the bar, the scared mother believes Melanie is the cause of these attacks, as they didn't start until her first arrival at Bodega Bay.

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.

Originally Hitchcock wanted to end the film with a shot of the birds covering the Golden Gate Bridge. Ultimately, this proved far too expensive.

The question "why are the birds doing this?" is asked but never answered in the film. The premise is clearly open to interpretation, though Hitchcock himself said the film is about "complacency."


The Birds lacks a conventional incidental score but rather uses sound effects and sparse source music in counterpoint to calculated silences. Oskar Sala and Remi Gassmann [1] are credited with "electronic sound production and composition," and Hitchcock's previous musical collaborator Bernard Herrmann has a credit as "sound consultant." Some of the bird sounds were created by Sala and Gassmann on the Mixtur-Trautonium. Source music includes Claude Debussy's Deux arabesques, which Tippi Hedren's character plays on piano, and Risseldy Rosseldy, an Americanized version of the Scottish folk song Wee Cooper O'Fife, which is sung by the schoolchildren.

Premiere and awards

The film debuted at a prestigious invitational showing at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival[2] with Hitchcock and Hedren in attendance. In March 1963, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City also had an invitation-only screening of The Birds as part of a 50-film retrospective of Hitchcock's film work. The MOMA series had a booklet with a monograph on Hitchcock written by Peter Bogdanovich.

The Birds was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Special Effects. The effect of the flapping of the birds' wings was done in the Disney Studios by animator Ub Iwerks who used the Disney's sodium vapor process ("yellow screen"). SVP films the subject against a screen lit with narrow-spectrum sodium vapor lights. Unlike most compositing processes, SVP actually shoots two separate elements of the footage simultaneously using a beam-splitter. One reel is regular film stock and the other a film stock with emulsion sensitive only to the sodium vapor wavelength. This results in very precise matte shots compared to blue screen special effects.[3]

However, the 1963 Special Effects award went to Cleopatra. Tippi Hedren received the Golden Globe Award for New Star Of The Year - Actress in 1964, sharing it with Ursula Andress and Elke Sommer. She also received the Photoplay Award as Most Promising Newcomer. The film ranked number one of the top ten foreign films selected by the Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards. The Association also awarded Alfred Hitchcock the Best Director Award for the film.[4]

Factual basis

On 18 August 1961, residents in the town of Capitola, California, awoke to find sooty shearwaters slamming into their rooftops, and their streets covered with dead birds. News reports suggested domoic acid poisoning (amnesic shellfish poisoning) as the cause. According to a local newspaper, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Alfred Hitchcock requested news copy in 1961 to use as "research material for his latest thriller".[citation needed]

Sequel and remake

A sequel, The Birds II: Land's End, was released in 1994 starring a different cast of characters. The movie was a direct-to-television film and met very negative reviews. The film's director, Rick Rosenthal, took his name off of it, opting instead to use the infamous Hollywood pseudonym Alan Smithee.[5] It featured co-star Tippi Hedren in a different role from the one in the original film.

In 2007, Variety reported that Naomi Watts would star in Universal's remake of the film. The remake would also star George Clooney and would be directed by Casino Royale director Martin Campbell. The production would be a joint venture by Platinum Dunes and Mandalay Pictures.[6] Later in 2007, original star Tippi Hedren publicly stated her opposition to the remake, saying "Why would you do that? Why? I mean, can’t we find new stories, new things to do?".[7]

Development has been stalled since the original announcement in 2007. On June 16, 2009, Brad Fuller of Dimension Films stated that no further developments had taken place, commenting "We keep trying, but I don't know."[8] Martin Campbell was eventually replaced as director by Platinum Dunes host Dennis Iliades in December 2009.[9][10]


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