Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds Review
I’m going to take some heat for this review, probably… I didn’t like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.
*Covers head to block thrown objects*
Wait! Let me explain. I totally get why a lot of people like it; it’s a well crafted film. Hitchcock is widely regarded as a master of suspense, and it is well-deserved. I just regard The Birds as one of Hitchcock’s lesser works, and I don’t think it deserves to be on the same level as movies like Psycho, North By Northwest, or Vertigo.
From what I’ve read, The Birds wasn’t universally loved when it first came out, and the moviegoing audiences had to warm up to it. Maybe I’ll rewatch it again in a few years and re-evaluate, but for now I didn’t care for it.
This film has many positives, it’s not a bad film; I’ll discuss a couple of my favorite aspects.
- The directing. As I mentioned, Hitchcock is a master of suspense, and one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. The pacing and the performances are perfect. (Well, mostly perfect. I’ll get to that.) In my film/video class in college, we dissected the scene in which Jessica Tandy finds the farmer’s dead body (52 year old spoiler). The purpose was to show us how changing lenses can influence the intimacy of the scene and how framing can give sequences symmetry. It’s stuck in my head after all these years and is an example of the master and his craft.
- The suspense. The suspense largely holds up, even fifty years later. The scene in which the birds start amassing on the jungle gym outside of the school is a nailbiter. (I just wish the payoff was more fulfilling.)
- The acting. The leads (Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor) are mostly fantastic, and their interplay has several levels, not an easy job for an actor. Jessica Tandy’s more subtle performance is also endlessly interesting.
For me, the cons outweigh the pros and ruined my enjoyment of this movie. (All movies have both; there’s no such thing as a perfect movie or a purely terrible movie.) For me, the deciding factor on whether I enjoy a movie or not is if there are enough pros to outweigh the cons.
- The payoff. I’m sorry, birds just aren’t scary. Played as a campy B movie, I think I may have enjoyed it more than I did. As discussed above, the scene at the school is very tense. Immediately afterwards, however, I was laughing at the attack on the kids. (That sounds horrible… Not because I hate kids, but because it’s ridiculous.)
- The story. I didn’t buy Hedren’s character Melanie driving for hours just for a gag. I didn’t buy Taylor’s Mitch being okay with her breaking and entering his house. I didn’t buy the diner scene at all: There just happens to be an ornithologist in a small bay town while it just so happens to be attacked by birds? The townspeople all acted like morons when the birds attacked, too. In the image above, a motorist lights his cigar while there is clearly gasoline not 5 feet away. (I should cut some slack, though. Characters acting stupid is a problem in almost all horror movies.)
- The effects. The effects are dated, I get it. They haven’t held up. By comparison, Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey came out just five years later and those effects have withstood the test of time.
Final verdict: I didn’t like The Birds. It’s NOT a bad movie, don’t get me wrong. I think maybe all the hype surrounding it made my expectations too high and ruined it for me. I think it’s probably worth a revisit in a few years.
Story: ★★½ of 5
Suspense: ★★★★ of 5
Acting: ★★★½ of 5
Overall: ★★★ of 5
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