harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,
harsens_rob
harsens_rob

"The Birds" reviewed





The Birds

1963

Starring: Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, Tippi Hedren, Veronica Cartwright


Teaser: Nothing equals THE BIRDS for sheer terror (*cough - Jaws, Alien) when Alfred Hitchcock unleashes his foul friends in one of his most shocking and memorable masterpieces. As beautiful blonde Melanie Daniels rolls into Bodega Bay in pursuit of eligible bachelor Mitch Brenner, she is inexplicably attacked by a seagull. Suddenly thousands of birds are flocking into town, preying on school children and residents in a terrifying series of attacks. Soon Mitch and Melanie are fighting for their lives against a deadly force that can't be explained and can't be stopped in one of Hollywood's most horrific films of nature gone berserk.


Commentary: Before we even reach scene 01, I feel the need to mention the lack of incidental music in the film. Not only does this help to keep an audience used to subconscious prompts about what to feel at any particular moment off guard, but helps to enhance the bird attack sequences later. I also haven't read the original story this is based on, so I don't know how the characters stack up, but one of the pleasures of the movie is the lack of a "bad guy" per se (other than the title menace, but there isn't any hateful human characters). Lydia rubs one the wrong way because of the way she treats Melanie as an intruder into her life, at first, but she isn't 'black-hat' about it. We'll talk about her more later....



Scene 01: We open on a crowded San Francisco street following Melanie as she crosses over. As she walks down the street, someone 'wolf-whistles' at her.

Commentary: Melanie is impeccably dressed in early 60's style and will remain quite stubborn about dressing up in a skirt, suit jacket and heels even when doing something as mundane as driving a motor boat. It's both ridiculous and wonderful all at once.

Anyway, the sounds of birds distracts her for a moment and we see a huge flock of the darlings whirling about in the sky. She goes into a nearby pet shop - passing Director Hitchcock walking a pair of dogs as she does so (Alfred has a penchant for cameo appearances).

Scene 02: Melanie proceeds to the second floor, where she chats with the store proprietor, Mrs. MacGruder. She mentions the swarm of gulls that she's seen massing around the city all day, and the propietress tells her that storms at sea will often drive them in. Melanie is there to pick up a Myna bird, which she was promised will be there by 3pm, but the delivery man hasn't arrived, yet.

Melanie asks that the store deliver it when it arrives (they used to do those types of things), but the woman is sure that the delivery man will be arriving at any moment. She goes to give the company a call, as Melanie jots down her address.

Commentary: You may wonder why we need to see all of this - and it's a fair enough question. It's an extended set up for the cute meet between socialite Melanie Daniels and hot-shot defense attorney, Mitch Brennen.... Oh, look, there he is now:

Below, on the first floor we see Rod come into the store. He comes up to the second storey and asks Melanie for assistance. Now, she could have just said that she isn't an employee, but instead she offers to assist him.

Commentary: I believe this is due to her instant attraction to him and we'll learn later that she has made a habit of pranks....

So, Melanie is offering to help this dashing man with finding Lovebirds. Mitch explains the birds are for his young sister. He asks Melanie if it is true that there are different varieties of Lovebirds on the market, to which she answers yes, but it's clear she is faking her knowlege. He tells her that since the birds are for a child, they shouldn't be too demonstrative, but at the same time they shouldn't be aloof with one another, either.

She readily agrees they can help him find something....

Commentary: Pay attention to Mitch here. Things aren't quite what they appear, as he is clearly pulling her leg and she doesn't realize it... just look at the expression on his face as she goes off to locate these 'just friendly, but not too friendly' variety of Lovebirds....



Mitch points out a cage of birds that in no way look like lovebirds and asks after them - she tells him those would be, uh, Red Birds. He says that he thought they were called 'Strawberry Finches' and she says, yes - they call them that, too.

Commentary: As you might have caught, Mitch already knew they weren't Lovebirds, but Melanie didn't catch this slip.

She leads him to another cage of birds - again, very clearly not Lovebirds. She presents them, but he tells her that those are canaries. He then questions if she feels awful for keeping them caged up like that, putting her on the spot, unexpectedly.

He continues to lead her on with particularly silly questions and observations as she continues her act of trying to pass herself off as a store clerk.

Commentary: And, again, one could ask why she's engaging in this ruse....

She next 'convinces' him to try out a canary, instead and he agrees, but wants to hold one. In order to continue her ruse of being a 'working woman', she's forced to attempt to handle one of the birds from a cage and it gets loose, of course.

Mitch captures the bird, and places it back much to the relief of the shop woman - he also exposes Melanie's game with a:

"Back in your gilded cage, Melanie Daniels."

Mitch reveals that he recognized her when he came in because he saw her in court once, where she was being prosecuted for one of her gags that resulted in a plate glass window being broken. He tells her that he doesn't particularly like practical jokers and wanted her to be on the receiving end of one (guess it was just fortunate that she didn't say, 'Oh, sorry, I don't work here'). She and he trade barbs, but the attraction seems a little too obvious on both of their parts.

Melanie gets a thoughtful look on her face as Mitch leaves the shop and dashes off after him....

Scene 03: Ms. Daniels jots down Mitch's plate number and immediately calls the 'city desk' of the newspaper, where she apparently knows the staff. She gets someone to look up the plate number for her to find out the owner of the car. In addition, we find out that her daddy runs the paper.

Melanie asks Mrs. MacGruder is she happens to have Lovebirds....

Scene 04: Having discovered where Mitch's apartment is, she arrives the next day to leave him a note and a pair of love birds. A neighbor, who followed her out of the elevator with his eyes askance at the Lovebirds, informs her that Mitch is gone for the weekend. The birds obviously cannot stay in the hallway unattended.

She's at first a little disappointed that her prank has been aborted, but the man is able to point her in the direction of Bodega Bay.

Scene 05: Gaining further insight into the type of woman Melanie is, she decides to take off for the Bay to deliver the birds there. As she zips along the coast highway, we see the Lovebirds leaning one way and then the other, as she swerves around the curves in her little coupe. It's mildly amusing....

Scene 06: She arrives in Bodega Bay, being a bit out of place with her mink coat and hair expensively coiffed. But she goes into the general store of the little hamlet.

The general store clerk/mailman (it's a small enough 'burg for the post office to operate out of the general store) is helpful with exposition about where Mitch can be found, the fact that he lives across the bay with his mother and sister and that he has no idea that Mitch's sister is named Cathy - not Alice.

When Melanie informs him that her arrival is meant to be a surprise, he suggests that she could take a boat across the bay to the dock rather than the only road (which leads up to their front door). He says this jokingly and is surprised when Melanie immediately asks where she can get a boat.

Commentary: The implication by the looks she gets is that the people of Bodega Bay aren't used to visitors of Melanie's obvious social class and the clerk wasn't expecting her to do blue collar things, like rent her own little boat to take into the bay. This tells us a few things: (1) it lets us know how far Melanie is willing to go to get 'her own' back when she's been pranked and (2) the fact that she is a stranger who doesn't fit in there will play directly into her treatment in the restaurant later....

Actually, Melanie is very down to earth, despite her being wealthy and well-heeled. It is others who make the assumptions about what type of 'society girl' she must be, including Mitch himself. We'll also find out that the reason she pulls pranks on others is probably mostly due to the fact that she is so often stereotyped - as we'll find out a bit later during an argument with Mitch about Rome. We'll also find out that Melanie is relatively bored because of her 'station' and goes out of her way to keep busy and active.


Melanie asks after Cathy's name (which is when we hear it's almost assuredly Alice, or possibly Lois) and when met with the fact that the store clerk seems less than sure tells him that it's important that she know the exact name. He directs her to Annie Hayworth, the town's school teacher to get the Brenner girl's name - although he also tells her she could save a lot of time, it's Alice....

Scene 07: Melanie arrives at Annie's house to find out Cathy's name (hint: it's Cathy). With Melanie's style of dress and hair and her coyness in her reasons for wanting to know Cathy's name, Annie immediately wonders if she's a friend of Mitch's.

The way she asks is very laden with subtext... as is the look on her face.

The conversation from Annie's side is full of meaning, especially when she tells Melanie that she's "an open book... or rather, a closed one". She also tells Melanie that everyone seems to meet Mitch in San Francisco - painting a picture of Mitch as someone who has never settled down, and her as more than likely one of his past failed relationships. When she sees that Melanie is carrying Lovebirds, she reacts by wishing Melanie luck.

Scene 08: Melanie, back in town, addresses a new note to Cathy. She drives down to the dock, and looking a little silly and a lot fabulous gets into the motor boat to tool her way across the Bay....

Commentary: 'Hitch' uses the scenes in Bodega Bay to reinforce that Melanie is a stranger here who doesn't quite fit in, though she seems either unconscious or unconcerned with that fact. But, if you watch the villagers with dialog or pay attention to the extras around her - you'll see a lot of curious looks being thrown her way. In addition, we she pulls up in her little sportscar at the docks, we see a sea of family sedans and 'practical' cars and trucks. She's the only one who is driving a little coupe (this is even true of Mitch, himself, as you can note now that you've noticed).

And, also, just as a little observation - the guy who she speaks to and hands off the cage to as she's going down the ladder to the boat? He looks so much like a guy that I was seeing for a short bit during me and the honey's break, that I always get a 'holy crap, is that... no' moment during this scene.


Scene 09: Anyway, back from my personal digression: Melanie slips across the bay.



Commentary: And, now that I know it, I can see it clearly, but until I listened to the DVD commentary, I had no idea that a lot of these scenes are faked. Not the back projection - that's pretty obvious when we get close ups of Ms. Daniels. I'm talking about the clouds over Bodega Bay and a lot of the distant shots looking at the town - they're actually paintings on glass panes! The huge cloud bank that hangs heavily over town, of course, is a signal that there is a storm on the horizon closing in on the hamlet... a storm in the shape of a killer flock of birds.... (Peter Benchley, eat your heart out, scene 39).

Scene 10: From the Bay, Melanie sees Mitch and his family outside and immediately cuts the engine. She watches as Lydia and Cathy leave in the family truck and then paddles her way to shore when Mitch heads to the barn.

She excitedly sneaks up to the house with a nervous grin and slips inside with the birds....

Scene 11: She leaves the Lovebirds sitting in the middle of the den with the birthday card for Cathy. She also has the note she wrote to Mitch in her purse, but tears it up and keeps it - rather than leaving it for him.

Once she's sure that Mitch is still in the barn, she rushes back to the boat and paddles her way back into the Bay, watching the house as she goes. Mitch returns from the barn to the house and moments later runs out the front door, looking for her.

She starts to try to crank the motor as Mitch runs back into the house to grab a pair of binoculars. He spots her making a getaway -

Commentary: But as a sign of things to come, notice the amount of gull cries we hear in the scene. Also, notice how birds swoop in between Mitch and Melanie unnoticed, but they seem to be checking her out, specifically....



Mitch grins at the notion that Melanie came all of that way to leave the birds he told her he was going to get for Cathy, while she is smugly satisfied that she was able to pull off the harmless prank on him... she finally gets the motor started....

Scene 12: As she motors back toward the town docks, she sees Mitch get into his car and take off down the only road, racing her back to town.

As she arrives, she sees Mitch run onto the dock she needs to tie to and gives him a "What?"-style smug grin. As Mitch watches her though, a gull swoops down and nails Melanie in the head to both of their shocks.

She isn't seriously injured, but it leaves a cut on her head.

Scene 13: He helps Melanie to the dockside restaurant to take care of the cut on her head. This is where Melanie finds out that Mitch is a lawyer thanks to a comment by the diner owner. As Mitch cleans out her wound with peroxide, they banter about her having travelled all that way to drop off Lovebirds for Cathy and absolutely not to see him.



Although, how you could resist Rod Steiger in a neckerchief, I'm sure I have no... wait... actually I think I could resist that.



Melanie claims she was coming up anyway, to visit someone, which Mitch tries to trip her up into admitting she's lying. But she deftly responds that she knows Annie Hayworth and that's who she was coming up to visit, certainly not him....

As Mitch and Melanie banter, Lydia (Mitch's mother) comes in having seen the car at the docks. When Mitch introduces Melanie, Lydia gets this look on her face that I'm not sure I can quite describe... discomfited, maybe. But when she learns that Melanie brought up "Lovebirds", she gets the same "Oh, I see" as Annie Hayworth... same tone and everything.

Mitch tells his mother he's already invited Ms. Daniels to dinner (he hadn't) and this causes Lydia to look even harder at Melanie. Though she stays civil, it becomes apparent that she isn't happy to see girls following Mitch to town from San Francisco.

Commentary: We'll find out so much more about Lydia's hang-ups with Mitch's interests when it comes to women, but I want to say here that she's actually quite sympathetic, if neurotic. Jessica Tandy is also a strong actress, so we can get a clear picture of what is going through her mind even as she's politely conversing.

It's amusing here how Mitch basically traps Melanie using her own attempts at trickery. She was supposed to come up, drop off the birds, and then get back to the city, self-satisfied that she's repaid for the prank in the birdshop. Now, she's been forced to use the unknowing Annie as an excuse for coming to town, she's lied about already coming up for the weekend to see her, so now she has to stay days longer than planned and when he asks where she's staying, she tells him with Annie, of course. So, now she'll have to go back to Annie's and see if the woman (who's history with Mitch should've been obvious to her by her earlier reception) will take her in for a weekend, so that her whole story doesn't fall apart....


Scene 14: Back at Annie's, Melanie asks for a room for the weekend. Annie asks if something unexpected came up to make her stay the night, and the question is loaded with meaning, as most of Annie's dialog is - but she's also amused and amusing, so she never comes across as hateful. And, she does take Melanie in, even suspecting that she's now seeing Mitch, so that says a lot of good things about her, if you asks me.

Annie notes the migrating gulls, and the swarm of them looks very much like the very first scene in the movie when Melanie noticed a similar thing.

Scene 15: Fading to later that evening, Melanie arrives to an excited hug by Cathy. She, Mitch and Lydia are returning from the barn, where Mitch reports that the chickens have stopped eating. Lydia complains about the feed being bad and goes to call the Feed Store to complain.

The Feed seller tells her that another chicken owner reported the same thing, but he was sold an entirely different brand of food. Lydia worries that the chickens may be becoming ill and resolves to visit Dan Fawcett in the following days to talk to him.

Scene 16: Later after dinner, Melanie is playing the piano as Lydia and Mitch clean up. Cathy bubbles on excitedly about Mitch and his practice in San Francisco. Once her mother is out of the room, Cathy tells her about the surprise party she isn't supposed to know about and begs Melanie to come. At first she tries to resist, but it is Cathy's birthday, and she did bring her a gift, and Cathy so wants her to come to the party....

Scene 17: In the kitchen, Lydia tells Mitch that Melanie seems a charming girl... before then passive-aggressively mentioning that she's always in the gossip column doing wild things that she doesn't understand... being an old-fashioned woman and all.

Mitch sees through this (as if he's been through it before? With Annie, maybe?) and tells her that he knows what he's doing....



Scene 18: At Melanie's car, Mitch brings up the story his mother just told him about Melanie being in the gossip columns for jumping naked into the fountains. She disputes this, telling him what actually happened, as well as mentioning that the paper that ran the story was a rival to her father's. He cross examines her making her angry, as she admits that she'd never met Annie before arriving there.

He tells her he'd like to see her in 'Frisco, but he implies it's just to have a good time, to which she haughtily replies that that isn't good enough... she ends up leaving in another huff.

As Mitch watches her drive off with an amused grin, he notices that black birds have gathered in droves along the phone lines near the house....

Scene 19: Melanie arrives back at Annie and has obviously had a rough evening of it. They bond, though Melanie insists that there isn't anything between her and Mitch, Annie says maybe there is and maybe there isn't... she admits that she came to Bodega Bay originally to be with Mitch. She further reports that things just died between them after she met Lydia.

She tells Melanie that Lydia lives in such fear of losing her son, that she turns Mitch away from any woman who looks like he may be getting too serious with. She tells her that the funny thing is that now that she and Mitch aren't seeing one another, Lydia considers her a good friend of the family.

Commentary: I really like Annie Hayworth's character here mostly for the viewpoint that the film takes on her, but she's also helped out immensely by Suzanne's work. Annie could so easily (and would in modern movies) be a bitter bitch who you can't stand to be around - instead, she's sardonic and obviously still struggling with her conflicted feelings over Mitch's possibly seeing someone new, but she's warm, gracious and funny, too. And, instead of sabotaging Melanie's possible interest in Mitch, or playing on her doubts about getting involved, she's encouraging of her to ignore Lydia and do what she wants to do.

Annie and Melanie are interrupted by a call from Mitch, and Annie wistfully hands the phone to Melanie. When she reports, after hanging up, that Mitch really wants her to go to Cathy's party the following day, this is where Annie tells her to go if she wants to - and throws in she'll be there also as a chaperone for the kids.



Melanie decides to call it a night to sleep on what she's going to do when there's a bang from the front door - when Annie goes to see who's there, she finds a dead bird... it had smacked right into the front door, even though it's a clear night with a full, bright moon....

Scene 20: It's the following day and Cathy's party is going on. Mitch and Melanie have broken free of the gaggle of kids to walk up the dune and talk, while Annie watches with conflicting feelings about it. Lydia also notices as Mitch and Mel return from their outing on the sand dune as Annie notices Lydia noticing Melanie with her son... it's a very rich emotional tapestry that has been created between these adults - and that's what is so great about the character work - we're dealing with adults who act like it....

Commentary: I like this character scene for Tippi's acting and Melanie's basically admitting that she's trying to avoid being the sort of woman who ends up in gossip rags by keeping herself busy. She revisits the story in Rome, admitting that she basically lost who she was during the summer there. We also find out here that she doesn't know her mother, she having abandoned the family when she was still a child. But... that leads to the part of the script I don't like as I find it to be the only clumsy scene in the movie... I can't really describe why without you seeing the dialog so....

Mitch: You need a mother's care, my child....

Mel: Not my mother's.

Mitch: Oh, I'm sorry.

Mel: What have you got to be sorry about. My mother? Don't waste your time. She ditched us when I was 11 and ran off with some hotel man in the East. You know what a mother's love is?

Mitch: Yes, I do.

Mel: You mean it's better to be ditched?

WHAT?? I'm not sure where this came from... nothing in Rod's delivery suggests that he's suggesting that Lydia's love has been burdensome, but I get the feeling that Melanie is reacting to what Annie told her about Lydia. Now, all of this ALMOST works, except the way that the dialog is delivered just makes it seem forced and awkward. The idea here is to set it up later when Lydia and Melanie set aside their differences under their shared duress and come to an understanding with one another, but trying to squeeze Melanie's mother's history into here just doesn't really work because it doesn't make much difference either way. The problem is Lydia's not Melanie's and we never get anything that suggests that Melanie is resentful of Lydia for reminding her of her own absent mother or anything like that.... It feels like there is a plot point lost somewhere along the way....

Scene 19: As one of the kids calls attention to the birds now getting close, a gull swoops down and hits Cathy. Suddenly, the gulls attack en masse, diving at the children.

As the adults rush the kids into the house, the gulls just as mysteriously fly off... Annie points out that this makes three incidents with gulls.

Mel wanders up to Mitch and asks what is happening with the birds.... Mitch convinces Melanie to hold off on leaving for a few hours until after dinner.

Scene 20: That night, after eating during coffee and desert, Lydia practically pushes Melanie to hurry up and leave. Cathy and Mitch suggest she stay the evening instead. Cathy because they have a guest room, and it's already late and Mitch because the twisty coastal road can be dangerous. When Melanie says she can just take the main highway instead of the coastal road, Lydia is very fast to point out that it will get her back to the city much faster, too.

In the meanwhile, the Lovebirds are chirping up a racket. Melanie looks up to spot a sparrow in the empty hearth of the fireplace and tries to point it out to Mitch. Suddenly, before anyone can get up, the room is inundated with sparrows flooding in from the chimney!

Through the incredible racket, Melanie herds Cathy and Lydia out of the room through a set of decorative doors that can be closed behind them as Mitch fights with the flock of birds that have invaded the house.



Scene 21: After the latest incident is over, with dead sparrows littering the parlor, Lydia cleans up the broken remnants of her china. It's obvious to Melanie watching that she's lost something precious. Mitch is busy arguing with the sherriff that the sparrows didn't get 'lost' and end up in the house, they attacked. He brings up the gulls hitting Melanie and the children's birthday party, but Al isn't buying the suggestion of an attack, though he'll admit it's peculiar behavior. Seeing the state that Lydia is in, Melanie offers to stay overnight to help see to Cathy, and though Lydia looks like she isn't happy with that suggestion, she doesn't say anything when Mitch agrees that he'd like for Melanie to stay over in the guest room.

Scene 22: The next morning as Melanie is applying her lipstick (even before changing out of her sleepware!), Mitch is burning dead sparrow bodies. Lydia's voice is heard calling to her son.

With it being Monday, Mel sees Lydia take Cathy off to school and she hears her call out to Mitch that she'll probably swing over to the Fawcett farm, as well.

Scene 23: We fade a short time later to the farm and Lydia's pick up....

She sees a farmhand and asks after Mr. Fawcett, but the hand tells her he hasn't seen him yet that morning. Lydia goes into the house and calls for him. As she goes, we notice before she does that there is something wrong. She does notice pretty quickly though, the teacups have been smashed - very much like her set after the sparrow invasion the night before.

As everyone in every horror movie ever does, she proceeds cautiously further into the house, calling for Dan. As she looks through the partially open bedroom door, she sees a smashed terrarium and ripped up chair. A dead seagull is smashed against the broken pane of the window....

Commentary: The lack of incidental music and only the natural sounds of her footsteps really does wonders for this scene. We want her to get the hell out of there. We want her to not go further into that room... we've been given more than enough information by now to know that the birds are attacking for whatever reason - and that the gulls, at least, are more than strong enough to draw blood....

Her gaze sweeps around the room and there's a dead gull on the dresser and a huge, dead black bird on the bed. She sees a pair of legs on the floor. They're in torn pajama bottoms and there's blood.

She, alas, takes one step too many into the room and sees Dan....



Lydia takes off from the house, passing the farmhand on the way. She's so horrified, she can't speak to him and can barely stop herself from vomiting as she floors the truck away from there.

Scene 24: Lydia arrives home, and stumbles out of the truck, a wreck. Mitch and Melanie rush over, but she pushes them away and runs into the house in hysterics....

Commentary: There is an interesting dynamic, here, I think. It's subtle and I could be reading something into it that isn't there. But, Lydia and Dan were of the same age, Dan was also living alone. Lydia seemed to be very comfortable with simply walking into and exploring his house. She seemed to want to tell Mitch about what had her so upset, until she saw Melanie was still there, at which point she pushes them both away and takes off. We've heard from Annie that she thinks Lydia is terrified of being left alone and she's been widowed for at least 4 years, now.

Could Lydia and Dan have at least been on the borderline of a relationship? Could Lydia, in the back of her mind, have been seeing Dan as a potential way to not be alone if Mitch ever found someone and left her?

Like I said, if so, it was subtle and it's possible I'm seeing too much into this set piece.


Scene 25: A bit later and Mitch tells Melanie that Al called from the Fawcett farm and he's headed over there. She tells him it will be fine for him to go, she'll take Lydia up some tea (in what's left of her set).

He leans in and kisses the back of her neck. After their mutuals "please be careful", they share their first full on kiss.

Scene 26: Melanie and Lydia have a chance to talk, with Lydia admitting she doesn't know how to feel about Mitch's finding a girlfriend. She tells Melanie that she doesn't even know if she likes her or not, but her attention keeps returning to Cathy in school. She specifically mentions the broken windows in Dan's bedroom and worries about that the school has all of those large windows....

Melanie earns big time brownie points by offering to go and retrieve Cathy from the school for her, to make sure everything is alright there.

Scene 27: Melanie arrives at the school house, where the children are group singing this hideous song that goes on and on and on....

While Melanie waits for the classes to be released, she sits on a bench near the playground in, perhaps, the most famous and tense scene in the film - which is really some trick after the build up to finding Dan's lifeless, no-eyes corpse on the floor....

Commentary: The only part not of the good is that song the kids sing that must have 500 verses....

Melanie smokes her way to an early grave (there is a lot of smoking from Annie and Melanie). Behind her, unnoticed by her, we see crows or black birds gathering in twos and threes behind her.

Shots of Melanie impatiently waiting for Cathy are intercut with shots of the monkey-bars, and everytime we cut back to them we see more and more black birds gathered silently with Melanie completely in the dark. Finally, she sees a black bird flying above her and follows it with a worried gaze - when she turns around, she sees the entire schoolyard filled with black birds... standing with fear, she quietly as she can rushes back to the school building to warn Annie.



Melanie comes in just as Annie opens a side door leading out to the playground and is going to release the children to play. She quickly tells Annie to close the door and then shows her the gathered birds covering all of the equipment. A plan is quickly devised to get the children out (there are large vulnerable windows and after the Fawcett farm, it isn't a surprise for Melanie to not consider staying there an option).

Telling them they're going to practice a fire drill, she tells them that when she says, they're to run down the hill and into town. They're to stay very quiet and run as quickly as they can....

Scene 28: As the children begin running, the black birds swarm and in an extended attack sequence attack the children en masse. One of Cathy's friends falls and is quickly swarmed by them, but Cathy and Melanie respond by getting them off of her and retreating to a car parked nearby.

Commentary: The thing that makes these scenes so effective, is that they've been able to overcome the silliness of birds attacking people by first giving us Dan Fawcett with his eyes messily plucked out and then using sheer numbers to suggest that even usually inoffensive animals can be dangerous when they outnumber us with claws and beaks. The horribly loud sounds of the birds is also put to good use, but especially later in the Brenners home.

Melanie finds herself trapped in the car with the two girls, but like at the party, they just as quickly stop attacking and disperse.

Scene 29: At the restaurant we were introduced to earlier, Melanie is on the phone trying to convince her father that the birds were just responsible for a deliberate attack. As she contacts Mitch at the Fawcett farm, an old lady and amatuer ornithologist insists that they could not possibly have orchestrated an attack as they simply don't have large enough brain pans for that sort of planning.

The people at the bar of the restaurant start discussing Melanie's report, with some insisting its rediculous, while others insist if she says she saw them attack the children, then she did. A mother with her two children ask the waitress to ask them to lower their voices as they're scaring the children - but I can't help but think they're really scaring her.

A fisherman reports that one of his boats were being plagued by gulls earlier in the week, causing some injuries. The ornithologist reports they were just after the fish, but Melanie tells her she believes they were attacking the children deliberately just now in order to kill as many of them as they could.

Mrs. Bundy reports some quick facts about birds and the ship's captain admits they could be starting to get a bit carried away by some anomalous incidents involving birds in the area. In the meanwhile, the high strung mother tries to get her kids to hurry up and eat so they can go. She actually looks near panic, and her behavior makes me wonder if she has a tale to share that she isn't.

Mitch shows up then with Al. He's called in the Santa Rosa police to help in the investigation at the Fawcett farm and reports that they believe it was a felony murder with the birds arriving after Dan Fawcett was dead. The high strung mother believes Melanie and Mitch a little too quickly and easily though, and she's in a near panic to get away from there. She's waiting for some businessman to finish his drink so he can lead her to the freeway (drinking and driving is fine in moderation!).

The mother and the business guy finally leaves, but Mitch stops the fisherman and tries to convince him to help him convince everyone that there is something seriously wrong. But, no one is ready to admit to something as ridiculous as a 'bird war', so he gets little support - for the moment.

Scene 30: As Mitch is arguing with boat captain guy, Melanie calls attention to the gulls who are swooping the town. As everyone watches, a gas station attendant is knocked to the ground, dropping the gas hose in his hand.

The woman with her kids rushes back into the restaurant. At the same time, several men from the restaurant (including Mitch, Al and the bartender) run out to help the gas jockey. The pump is still on and gasoline starts streaming down the hill.

Melanie sees from the window a man lighting a cigar with gasoline running past him. The patrons try to shout a warning, but the guy burns his fingers and drops the match. He's immediately immolated as several cars explode. Worse, the gas catches alight and follows the stream back to the pump. It blows up with everyone standing there barely having time to get out of the way!

We get an aerial view among the birds as we watch the fires rage below. This seems to act as a beacon and the attack on Bodega Bay starts in earnest. Those in the restaurant rush out to try to help where they can, but they're driven back inside by the gull attacks. Melanie is forced to seek shelter in a phone booth.



Firefighters responding to the gas station fire are driven to the ground. A man in a car is attacked and crashes, nearly taking out the phone booth Melanie is cowering in out. Chaos spreads throughout downtown Bodega Bay. The booth is attacked, the glass smashing and showering Melany before Mitch is able to get her out and they rush back to the restaurant interior.



Scene 31: A gull noises continue from outdoors, inside the restaurant it's deathly still. Melanie and Mitch discover the patrons and staff still there crammed into a hallway. They all stare at Melanie accusingly. We learn from the now hysterical, high strung mother that everyone was saying that things started after she showed up and starts asking her who she is, where she came from, what she wants from them... she starts screaming that Melanie is evil, so Mel slaps her in the face (as we know from multiple movies, all hysterical women should be slapped a good one).

The bartender rushes back in and reports that the birds seem to be moving off.

Scene 32: Mitch and Melanie run for Annie's to get Cathy. The school rooftop next door to Annie's is covered in black birds. Also covered in crows, is the schoolyard. Mitch and Melanie slowly and quietly walk past them to get to Annie's.

Mitch and Melanie find Annie lying on the walk leading to her front door. She's very dead. Melanie wonders where Cathy is, but she's alright - at least she's unhurt. She's traumatized as Mitch fetches her from inside the house and carries her to Melanie.

He gets ready to leave with them, but Mel pleads with him not to leave Annie lying there and he first picks her up and takes her into her house. Cathy is crying hysterically, but they have to be as quiet as possible to get to Melanie's car before the next wave of attacks begin. Once they've made it into Melanie's car, Veronica reports through her sobs that they had come out to see what the explosion was in town. The birds suddenly swarmed them and Annie pushed her inside before she was covered and driven to the ground.

Commentary: I would vote this scene as the best in terms of acting by Rod and Tippi both. Veronica has a strong scene here too, and she also does a good job of being so stressed she gets sick when they're hunkered down in the house.

Scene 33: A bit later and Mitch is boarding up the windows. Across the bay, thick black smoke still drifts from the earlier fires. Birds have begun gathering in a huge mass again. Melanie reports that the phone is out, but they still have power. Lydia calls out that she has something coming in on the radio.

Scene 34: In the living room, the radio proves to have a very short blurb about the two attacks on the town earlier, but nothing about help being dispatched. In the fireplace, they've started a fire and begin gathering wood to keep it roaring enough to discourage the birds from using it again to get in (eh, close the flue!). Lydia has a freak out at Mitch's repeated "I don't knows" to her questions and screams at him "if only your father were...." before she stops herself and apologizes profusely.

Mitch tells her to make some coffee for them and goes off with Melanie to collect the firewood.

Scene 35: Back outside, Melanie sees a huge flock of gulls heading inland, suggesting it's possible that this phenomena is spreading beyond Bodega Bay.

Scene 36: Back in the house, everyone is tense and listening for the signs that another attack is beginning. Lydia gets up to clean up the coffee cups and take them back to the kitchen, hesitating as she's seen Cathy's Lovebirds (who never give any indication that they fall under the sway of whatever is causing the mayhem, disappointingly - I mean really, the Lovebirds are the ones to not to murderous - how special).

Anyway, Lydia comes back in and sits down again, but everyone is tense and waiting for the inevitable. Cathy tells Melanie she's going to be sick and she helps her off to the bathroom. They return a minute later with a wet rag and re-sit on the sofa....

Everyone is feeling claustrophobic.

From the kitchen, they hear the Lovebirds begin to tweet, and soon after there is the horrible sounds of the birds surrounding them. As Mitch begins throwing wood onto the fire, Lydia and the others begin dashing from one corner to another trying to find place to feel safe. There's the sound of breaking glass and Mitch finds that one of the shutters has opened and a gull is trying to get in... he fights with it, until he can get it shut and tied close with a lamp cord, but his hand gets cut up by the gulls' beaks.

While this is happening, we see that the rear door is being pecked through....

The sounds of the birds surrounding the house are deafening - so loud and pervasive that we can't hear Cathy crying... only the horrible squawks of the birds....

Just after Mitch deals with the back door by hammering a mirrored armoire into place over it, they lose the electricity and only have a flashlight and the fire's glow. Mitch notices that they're chipping through a side door next, but just as he begins to look for anything that can be placed over it, the birds sounds recede as this attack wave comes to its conclusion.

Scene 37: It is an unspecified time later and Melanie is the only one still awake, the others having succumbed to exhaustion. She watches the firelight burning when she hears an odd noise coming from above her. At first she calls to Mitch quietly so she doesn't wake Cathy and Lydia, but he remains out. She grabs the flashlight and with trepidation, goes upstairs....

When she reaches a bedroom door, she almost goes back to fetch Mitch - you can see her thinking about it - but then she opens the door just enough to get through and shines the light around. At first she sees the morning blue sky through a huge hole in the roof where the mass of bird beaks have punched through and tore it open. Then, she sees the birds in the room, and then they launch themselves right at her!

She struggles to get the door open, but the birds come at her over and over and her own weight keeps it from opening enough for her to back out. Her legs, her face, and her hands are pecked mercilessly by wave after wave of them - both gulls and crows, despite her attempts to beat them back with her flashlight.





Melanie falls, as much as from shock as anything else and we see what probably happened to Dan and Annie. As she slumps to the floor, she weakly calls out, "Get Cathy out of here".

Just then from in the hallway, Mitch yells for her and tries to open the door, that she is lying unconscious in front of. Struggling, he's able to open the door just enough to get to her, but he has trouble dragging her out as the birds attack both him and Lydia behind him.

Finally, he's able to grab her suit enough to yank her through and then to shut the door.

Scene 38: Mitch is able to carry her back downstairs to the sofa, where she revives enough to start throwing her arms around at her attackers. It takes him some struggle to get her calmed down enough to bandage her and he gives her a sip of brandy, but she's clearly badly in shock and barely responsive.

Mitch takes one look at Melanie's current state and realizes she can't stay there - she needs a hospital. He decides they're going to have to try to make an escape, and they're going to have to do it before another organized attack comes and they're trapped again.

He leaves Lydia to finish the bandages, while he goes out to start up her car.

Scene 39: Mitch opens the door to find crows and gulls loitering by the hundreds all over his property. He cautiously makes his way through them to the garage, receiving an indignant peck when he gets too close, but not provoking a mass assault like Mel in the bedroom.

He makes it into the garage where her car is parked and starts it up. He quickly tunes into the radio to try to get news. He learns that Bodega Bay has been identified as the center of the assaults, but that towns nearby have also come under less severe attacks.

Bodega Bay has been largely evacuated and road blocks set up....

He opens up the garage door, and slowly pulls the car out as unaggressively as he can. He returns to the house to fetch the others, his feet and legs being attacked by the occassional bird who takes offense of his walking through the mob.

Melanie is led to the door, but balks when she sees the sea of birds waiting for her. They're able to force her forward and into her back seat with Lydia. Next Cathy comes, but she insists on taking the Lovebirds, because they haven't hurt anyone - to which he says alright and escorts her to the car.

In the rear seat, Lydia holds onto Melanie, and she returns a small squeeze at her wrist. Lydia looks down and Melanie looks at her with gratitude. Lydia pulls her closer with a small smile as Mitch comes around to the driver's seat. Putting the vehicle in drive, the group of survivors slowly move through the army of birds on all sides and toward an uncertain future....




The Good: The acting is really strong by all of the leads, including a very young Veronica.

Atmosphere - Everything starts off pleasantly amusing before turning mysterious and then getting sinister and finally getting and staying tense through the rest of the film, right up to that non-ending.

The Ending - I love that this doesn't end with any clear answers of what humanity is going to do, why this is happening, if Melanie herself is responsible in some way (as suggested by hysterical woman, a lot of things happen surrounding Mel), and best of all - we don't get a "everything has been fixed - or nope! "Shock End" ending. We're told straight up that we don't know if there is an ending.

I like the attack sequences on the school kids, the town, the Brenners and against Melanie herself.

I love the directing and editing - there are no shaky cam, no close-ups that make it impossible to see what is happening, no spastic jump cuts... scenes are allowed to begin, play out and end without being artificially amped by cheap tricks and loud rock music.

In fact, I love that there is no incidental music at all.


The Bad: Well, Melanie's speech about mothers is clumsily written and acted.

I'll admit that some of the bird puppets look exactly like what they are.

Some of the sound design for the bird cries sound more like a damaged cassette (kids, ask your folks!) recording than actual bird sounds.


Other Thoughts: Those who demand a kill in the first five minutes of the movie and then a death every 20 after that will not enjoy the movie. I happen to like films that allow things to breathe instead of being loud, dumb and shiny so I enjoy films exactly like this. Those who demand girls with lots of cleavage jiggling around until it's time to die will not enjoy this movie. By modern standards, it's slow to get started, the attacks are spaced apart and build toward the climax instead of every death being randomly grisly and in the meantime, we don't get sex boobs. This is an adult film starring adults in a tale of understated horror, though it certainly has its blood (and especially the eyeless Dan).

The Score: I love this movie. Tom finds it boring, talky and slow. But then, he thinks the Amityville remake is a good movie, so what does he know? I'm going to give this a solid 4.0 out of 5.




Join us next time when our reviews will be: Buffy Season 8 comic #11, Angel After the Fall comic #11, BTVS: 'Angel' and the movie review for She-Wolf of London (1946 - we return to B & W).

Tags: review the birds
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