Birds, The (1963)

The Birds (1963), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

I was pretty young when I first saw The Birds and I remember the shocking realization -- both a sinking sensation and one of exultation -- that the mystery is not going to be solved! I'd been trying to puzzle it out: is it the love-birds? Are they some sort of avian royalty that the other birds are trying to rescue? (Tell me you aren't yelling "Don't take the love-birds!" in the final scene). Or is it as the hysterical woman in the diner says: Melanie Daniels is evil! Or is Mother Nature responding to the unstable mother-lover-daughter structures we find in Bodega Bay?

We are not to know. Some thrillers shock us by showing us shocking things; Hitchcock moves off our safe center by not giving us what we expect. My father used to complain about his TV shows: "They don't end, they just quit!" It's true; it doesn't end... My best example of another good film that doesn't solve the mystery is Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975).

This is Hitchcock's last great film. I keep it with the best of his post-1954 work: Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), and Psycho (1960). It's not that I don't enjoy To Catch a Thief (1955) and North by Northwest (1959), but those are Hitchcock-genre romantic-comedy-action pictures. The other four are unique, nothing like each other.

I can see how people might not like it as well as I do, even apart from the non-ending ending. It's slow-starting, although this gives us time to study the characters, each mysterious in their own way. This is Tippi Hedren's first film and she doesn't seem like a pro actress yet, although that cool demeanor concealing hidden depths is appropriate for the character. Rod Taylor is manly and stalwart, a good survivalist, but sometimes wooden and impenetrable, perhaps just a male figurehead surrounded by all that female energy?

We have a rich supporting cast, often more fun to watch than the leads. (Suzanne Pleshette Fan Club). And when the action begins (the phone booth, the upper bedroom) it is tremendously well done.

Misc notes:

Available on Blu-ray.

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