Why The Birds Matters

If you asked me what my favorite Alfred Hitchcock film was, the list would be narrow but nowhere complete.  On any given day, it changes.  It could be Shadow of a Doubt or Psycho on one day, Notorious or North by Northwest on the next.  Of course, I also love The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes.  And Foreign Correspondent.  I really love Foreign Correspondent.   Others might name any one of these or substitute Rear Window, Vertigo or Strangers on a Train.  There’s also… well, you get the idea.  With Alfred Hitchcock, there are enough favorite movies to go around for just about anyone.   Ask anyone else and you’ll get different answers than even those, from Rebecca to Marnie.  Now if you asked someone what Alfred Hitchcock’s riskiest movie was, the one where he really went out on a limb, most people would say Psycho.   Given the recent press surrounding Psycho thanks to the excellent book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello (and the upcoming feature film), it’s become more widely known for its risk taking steps outside Hitchcock’s normal mid-century comfort zones of technicolor and movie stars.  And there’s more than a good case to be made for that answer.  But if you ask me, his riskiest, edgiest film is The Birds.   It’s damn near insane.

I’ve written a lot about The Birds over the years and have even brought it up here, last year, in a post on endings.    It’s a film that’s problematic for a lot of audiences, then and now, because it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.  It doesn’t follow any damn rules about story or plot or the proper way to neatly tie everything up with a bow.  I’ve talked to a few people who think the film doesn’t have a good ending when it has the only ending it can, the end of world.  Or does it?

A good place to start is with the short story by Daphne Du Maurier upon which the film is quite loosely based.  It’s a very good short story but one that takes the attack of the birds and turns it into something more symbolic, something more identifiable.  The story begins, “On December the third, the wind changed overnight, and it was winter. Until then the autumn had been mellow, soft. The leaves had lingered on the trees, golden-red, and the hedgerows were still green. The earth was rich where the plow had turned it.”  Soon, the wind turns and blows in cold from the east and Nat, a World War II veteran who works on a farm (the story, written in 1952, is set shortly after the end of the war in Britain) notices the gulls gathering in larger groups than before.  The farmer he works for notices too and remarks, “It will be a hard winter. That’s why the birds are restless.”

Later, as the birds begin to attack, first in small numbers and finally in large, swarming flocks, all of England is under siege and Nat’s neighbors have all been killed.  As we near the end of the story, there is this short passage from Nat’s wife:  ”Won’t America do something?” said his wife. “They’ve always been our allies, haven’t they? Surely America will do something?”

It’s a fine story and one I enjoy very much but it also has a strong cold war undercurrent that’s evident throughout.   It doesn’t seem all that much of a stretch to see the birds as a feared Communist takeover of Europe and America as the last hope against it.   At the same time, the birds are a reminder of the German attacks on London and America’s entry in the war turning the tide.  In the movie, all that’s out the window and everything improves as a result.

If Psycho was Alfred Hitchcock’s break with his technicolor, big budget period, The Birds was the subversion of it.   It has the technicolor and the stars  (not big stars but Rod Taylor was popular enough) but nothing else.  See, The Birds makes you think there’s a story when there really isn’t.  It gives you Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedron in her first lead performance, after a couple of extra roles in the early fifties) chatting up Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) in a San Francisco pet shop before buying his little sister a couple of love birds.   After she’s secreted her way to Mitch’s house in Bodega Bay, she’s attacked by a gull as she heads back across the water.   Mitch takes care of her, introduces her to his clinging mother, Lydia (Jessica Tandy), his ex-girlfriend Annie and his sister and none of it matters.  None of it.

Also, birds attack.  Lots of them.

People in Bodega Bay try to explain the birds attacking:  Maybe they’re at war with people.  Maybe it started when Melanie showed up with those love birds.  Then there’s the local bird expert, hanging out in the diner telling them they’re all crazy and that birds don’t coordinate attacks or flock together in different groups.  And then she’s proven wrong.  Disastrously wrong.

And none of that matters either.

In fact, the whole setup – the domineering mother who won’t let her son go, threatened by the sophisticated newcomer –  is kind of a wild, off-hand joke on Psycho.  Mitch is no Norman and Lydia doesn’t have the gumption to up and stab Melanie to death so the birds become a kind of perverse personification of the Pyscho knife, repeatedly stabbing from the air. And every single plot line resolves into this:  people vs. birds.   That’s the beauty and the risk of this movie.  There is no story going on here.  Alfred Hitchcock and screenwriter Evan Hunter have given us a soap opera power play (mother vs lover vs old girlfriend) and shut everything down before it even starts because the whole point is the world, or nature, or something,  just said, “You know what?  We’re done sharing this planet with you guys.”  Much like Psycho misdirects the audience with a story of intrigue and embezzlement before revealing it’s really about a killer, The Birds turns out to be about nothing more than the end of the world.

There were disaster movies before and after The Birds and there were certainly plenty of horror movies but they all followed a similar formula.  Whether it was The Hurricane or War of the Worlds before or The Towering Inferno or Gremlins after, the formula was the same:  Set up back story for several characters, have them deal with the crisis at hand, resolve conflict with characters through crisis, end story.  But not The Birds.   Its formula is downright devious:  Set up back story for several characters, have them systematically fail at dealing with crisis, resolve nothing, fade to black.

When The Birds ends, there’s nowhere else to go.  Birds cover the landscape and as there is absolutely no explanation for their behavior, there is no hint of relief from it.   As Mitch drives his mother, daughter and Melanie away, he’s driving towards nothing.  Does he really expect to ever get to a point where the birds haven’t taken over?  And the birds could just be the beginning.  After this first stage, other animals could “revolt.”  Then, who knows?

To add to the feeling of utter disquiet and unease, Hitchcock made the important decision to use not a note of music for the score.  There is no lush Vertigo or shrill Psycho score composed by Bernard Herrmann.  There is only the sound of birds.  And not even just the sound of birds, but electronically altered bird sounds and combinations of bird sounds with other sounds to create an even more eerie effect.   One song exists in the film, the children’s song, Risseldy Rosseldy, sung by the schoolchildren while Melanie sits in the playground, oblivious to the gathering murder of crows behind her.

And so, after Hitchcock’s surprise left turn with Psycho, The Birds seemed to be a return to the norm, as in technicolor, lush scores and glamorous leading ladies who don’t die halfway into the picture.   But it wasn’t.  Hitchcock still had one experiment left in him and it was The Birds.   No music, no resolution and unlike even the groundbreaking Psycho before it, no explanation.  Nothing.  Just a back story that becomes meaningless, characters that devolve into empty shells of exhaustion and a town that becomes the center of a losing battle in the war of  humanity vs. nature.  Then it ends.  And that’s ballsier than anything Hitchcock ever did and that’s why The Birds matters.

______________________

* NCM Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies and Universal bring this American classic back to the big screen, newly restored and in celebration of Universal’s 100th Anniversary, for only one day on Wednesday, September 19th at select movie theatres nationwide. Go here to check participating theatres – http://www.fathomevents.com/upcoming/alllocations.aspx?eventid=1104

0 Response Why The Birds Matters
Posted By Pamela : September 12, 2012 11:01 am

Wonderful post! I have never been a fan of the Birds. It didn’t make sense to me. Now I get it. I won’t necessarily be going out of my way to watch it, but I’ll stop being grumbly when the movie is mentioned. Thank you!

idahowildwoman.blogspot.com

Posted By Pamela : September 12, 2012 11:01 am

Wonderful post! I have never been a fan of the Birds. It didn’t make sense to me. Now I get it. I won’t necessarily be going out of my way to watch it, but I’ll stop being grumbly when the movie is mentioned. Thank you!

idahowildwoman.blogspot.com

Posted By Doug : September 12, 2012 11:04 am

A good article-”The Birds” is a puzzle, and you’re right, Greg-all of the back story, all of the front story apart from the birds attacking-none of it matters. I like that there is no ‘resolution’. Can you imagine what “The Birds” would have been like if studio ‘suits’ had cut it to be more commercial?

Posted By Doug : September 12, 2012 11:04 am

A good article-”The Birds” is a puzzle, and you’re right, Greg-all of the back story, all of the front story apart from the birds attacking-none of it matters. I like that there is no ‘resolution’. Can you imagine what “The Birds” would have been like if studio ‘suits’ had cut it to be more commercial?

Posted By Richard L Guinn : September 12, 2012 11:17 am

Great movie and one of my favorite Hitchcock films. I remember watching the TV sequel “The Birds II: Lands End” back in ’94 and it just didn’t live up to the original.

Posted By Richard L Guinn : September 12, 2012 11:17 am

Great movie and one of my favorite Hitchcock films. I remember watching the TV sequel “The Birds II: Lands End” back in ’94 and it just didn’t live up to the original.

Posted By John Maddox Roberts : September 12, 2012 11:39 am

Their brain pans are too small. Sometimes I wonder about our brain pans, too.

Posted By John Maddox Roberts : September 12, 2012 11:39 am

Their brain pans are too small. Sometimes I wonder about our brain pans, too.

Posted By Heidi : September 12, 2012 12:54 pm

I love this movie. It is one of my favorite Hitchcock movies. Well, all of them are one of my favorite Hitchcock movies, but anyway… As a kid seeing this move it scared the daylights out of me. And I didn’t like the ending because, though he was driving into the sunset so to speak, there wasn’t anything that looked happier-ever-after about it. As an adult, I like that. It tells you that you don’t walway know what is going on, but there isn’t anything to do but go forward, and see what happens next. Also, there is just nothing creepier than a very large murder of crows gathering. We would be working in the lab and hear “cawing” lots of it. We would go look out the back window and the grass was black with them, like a carpet. Then they would all at the same time lift off and fly over the roof to the front of the building and sit in the grass there for a while. They would do that, back and forth, back and forth, and then they would be gone. It was very frightening. THey were mostly silent, though, just a few caws here and there. Sends a chill to even think of it! Old Hitch knew how to scar(e) people!

Posted By Heidi : September 12, 2012 12:54 pm

I love this movie. It is one of my favorite Hitchcock movies. Well, all of them are one of my favorite Hitchcock movies, but anyway… As a kid seeing this move it scared the daylights out of me. And I didn’t like the ending because, though he was driving into the sunset so to speak, there wasn’t anything that looked happier-ever-after about it. As an adult, I like that. It tells you that you don’t walway know what is going on, but there isn’t anything to do but go forward, and see what happens next. Also, there is just nothing creepier than a very large murder of crows gathering. We would be working in the lab and hear “cawing” lots of it. We would go look out the back window and the grass was black with them, like a carpet. Then they would all at the same time lift off and fly over the roof to the front of the building and sit in the grass there for a while. They would do that, back and forth, back and forth, and then they would be gone. It was very frightening. THey were mostly silent, though, just a few caws here and there. Sends a chill to even think of it! Old Hitch knew how to scar(e) people!

Posted By toys in the attic : September 12, 2012 1:40 pm

The scariest thing about Alfred’s masterpiece (even better than Psycho I’d dsre say…)), is that there is no answer as to why the birds actually did attack in the first place. When the bird expert was asked wht the birds did it, she didn’t have an answer…that has been bugging me ever since I saw that movie at age 4!!!!!:)

Posted By toys in the attic : September 12, 2012 1:40 pm

The scariest thing about Alfred’s masterpiece (even better than Psycho I’d dsre say…)), is that there is no answer as to why the birds actually did attack in the first place. When the bird expert was asked wht the birds did it, she didn’t have an answer…that has been bugging me ever since I saw that movie at age 4!!!!!:)

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 12, 2012 2:09 pm

It is the only Hitchcock Film i like.
The Risseldy Rosseldy Scene,is the greatest Suspense Scene ever.
I also like the drunken Guy in the corner of the Diner,shouting
“It´s the End of the World”.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 12, 2012 2:09 pm

It is the only Hitchcock Film i like.
The Risseldy Rosseldy Scene,is the greatest Suspense Scene ever.
I also like the drunken Guy in the corner of the Diner,shouting
“It´s the End of the World”.

Posted By Andrew : September 12, 2012 2:16 pm

I always thought of The Birds as a sort of war movie. We had all the character back story stuff (just no guy from NY everyone calls ‘Brooklyn’)then a battle. This battle was won by the birds. The folks in the car were driving to regroup with the rest of the army to fight another day. Kind like the end of Zulu when they let the British live.

Posted By Andrew : September 12, 2012 2:16 pm

I always thought of The Birds as a sort of war movie. We had all the character back story stuff (just no guy from NY everyone calls ‘Brooklyn’)then a battle. This battle was won by the birds. The folks in the car were driving to regroup with the rest of the army to fight another day. Kind like the end of Zulu when they let the British live.

Posted By Kingrat : September 12, 2012 2:28 pm

Greg, thanks for a great post. To me, THE BIRDS is the end of Hitchcock as a major director, though he had a long, great run.

Posted By Kingrat : September 12, 2012 2:28 pm

Greg, thanks for a great post. To me, THE BIRDS is the end of Hitchcock as a major director, though he had a long, great run.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2012 2:42 pm

Doug, the studios let Hitch do what he wanted simply because of his reputation. Any other director on this movie and they would have demanded an end where 1) the birds’ behavior is explained (“it’s a low-level frequency that the military started broadcasting three days ago in an attempt to…” and so on) 2) and they are soundly defeated following which, Melanie and Mitch get married.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2012 2:42 pm

Doug, the studios let Hitch do what he wanted simply because of his reputation. Any other director on this movie and they would have demanded an end where 1) the birds’ behavior is explained (“it’s a low-level frequency that the military started broadcasting three days ago in an attempt to…” and so on) 2) and they are soundly defeated following which, Melanie and Mitch get married.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2012 2:43 pm

Pamela – It’s not everyone’s favorite I know but thanks for high praise.

Richard – I never saw, nor do I ever plan on seeing, that sequel. Can’t even imagine…

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2012 2:43 pm

Pamela – It’s not everyone’s favorite I know but thanks for high praise.

Richard – I never saw, nor do I ever plan on seeing, that sequel. Can’t even imagine…

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2012 2:46 pm

Heidi, every winter, at least once, I see a swarm of black birds in our neighborhood. And I mean, thousands. Every time, I think of The Birds and get a little chill.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2012 2:46 pm

Heidi, every winter, at least once, I see a swarm of black birds in our neighborhood. And I mean, thousands. Every time, I think of The Birds and get a little chill.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2012 2:49 pm

Ghijath, I think this comment – “It is the only Hitchcock Film i like” – is amazing. You really don’t like any of his other movies?

The Risseldy Rosseldy Scene,is the greatest Suspense Scene ever.

Great sequence. Expertly done.

I also like the drunken Guy in the corner of the Diner shouting “It´s the End of the World”

He’s the only character in the movie that explicitly states the story of the movie out loud.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2012 2:49 pm

Ghijath, I think this comment – “It is the only Hitchcock Film i like” – is amazing. You really don’t like any of his other movies?

The Risseldy Rosseldy Scene,is the greatest Suspense Scene ever.

Great sequence. Expertly done.

I also like the drunken Guy in the corner of the Diner shouting “It´s the End of the World”

He’s the only character in the movie that explicitly states the story of the movie out loud.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2012 2:51 pm

Andrew, you’re right, it’s definitely a war-like situation but one without a stated cause or explanation. And they could be regrouping at the end or just fleeing. It’s great that it simply ends there and let’s the viewer decide what’s even going on.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2012 2:51 pm

Andrew, you’re right, it’s definitely a war-like situation but one without a stated cause or explanation. And they could be regrouping at the end or just fleeing. It’s great that it simply ends there and let’s the viewer decide what’s even going on.

Posted By DBenson : September 12, 2012 3:30 pm

At one point there’s an ariel view of the town with the burning gas station; a few gulls fly through the frame. It creeped me out because it felt like a point of view — somebody or something was observing from a distance.

Posted By DBenson : September 12, 2012 3:30 pm

At one point there’s an ariel view of the town with the burning gas station; a few gulls fly through the frame. It creeped me out because it felt like a point of view — somebody or something was observing from a distance.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2012 3:35 pm

DBenson, I love that shot. After the explosion, the camera goes up to a quiet place in the sky until we see a bird or two fly into frame. So many great shot setups in the film.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2012 3:35 pm

DBenson, I love that shot. After the explosion, the camera goes up to a quiet place in the sky until we see a bird or two fly into frame. So many great shot setups in the film.

Posted By Emgee : September 12, 2012 4:05 pm

The sounds were created on the mixtrautonium, an early electronic musical instrument, by Oskar Sala.

Personally, i think after Psycho it all went downhill artistically speaking for Hitchcock. Also a definite chill set in that spoils his post-1960 movies for me. All the humor, charm and warmth were replaced with graphic shock effects. Sorry, Hitch.

Posted By Emgee : September 12, 2012 4:05 pm

The sounds were created on the mixtrautonium, an early electronic musical instrument, by Oskar Sala.

Personally, i think after Psycho it all went downhill artistically speaking for Hitchcock. Also a definite chill set in that spoils his post-1960 movies for me. All the humor, charm and warmth were replaced with graphic shock effects. Sorry, Hitch.

Posted By Gene : September 12, 2012 4:28 pm

It has all the existential angst that was building up in Ingmar Bergman’s body of work that decade. It may sound strange but it was one of my favorite films I saw as a child and may not be Hitchcock’s greatest film but is one of my favorites.

Posted By Gene : September 12, 2012 4:28 pm

It has all the existential angst that was building up in Ingmar Bergman’s body of work that decade. It may sound strange but it was one of my favorite films I saw as a child and may not be Hitchcock’s greatest film but is one of my favorites.

Posted By David : September 12, 2012 8:53 pm

Great post Greg.
Its interesting to read your observations on the plot or ‘non-plot’of this film.
This film was shown on TV in Melbourne in the last 6 months, and I watched it again with my two oldest boys, 12 and 10, who had never seen it before. Despite their exposure to modern CGI, science fiction films and tv shows, and animation, little by little they were completely drawn into what was happening, including being utterly fixed on the screen while the crows are alighting in growing numbers behind Tippi Hedren. They loved it.
A tribute to the storytelling skills of Hitchcock.

Posted By David : September 12, 2012 8:53 pm

Great post Greg.
Its interesting to read your observations on the plot or ‘non-plot’of this film.
This film was shown on TV in Melbourne in the last 6 months, and I watched it again with my two oldest boys, 12 and 10, who had never seen it before. Despite their exposure to modern CGI, science fiction films and tv shows, and animation, little by little they were completely drawn into what was happening, including being utterly fixed on the screen while the crows are alighting in growing numbers behind Tippi Hedren. They loved it.
A tribute to the storytelling skills of Hitchcock.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2012 9:00 pm

Gene and David – Glad you both like it so much. And David, so happy to hear your kids got into it. It’s always a risk showing an older film to kids who have become accustomed to modern editing styles but if the storytelling is good, it usually works.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2012 9:00 pm

Gene and David – Glad you both like it so much. And David, so happy to hear your kids got into it. It’s always a risk showing an older film to kids who have become accustomed to modern editing styles but if the storytelling is good, it usually works.

Posted By MDR : September 12, 2012 9:32 pm

@Emgee, with respect, Frenzy has virtually all of the aspects of the classic Hitchcocks, as well as the shock effects of Psycho, which puts it in my top 10 from the director. You have Barry Foster looking desperately to find his pin, much the same way Robert Walker tried to retrieve the lighter. You have charm and humor between the Scotland Yard inspector and his wife, which beckons Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn in Shadow of a Doubt etc. You have the horrific strangulation scene, but the expression left on Barbara Leigh-Hunt’s face is priceless (and oddly comical).

Posted By MDR : September 12, 2012 9:32 pm

@Emgee, with respect, Frenzy has virtually all of the aspects of the classic Hitchcocks, as well as the shock effects of Psycho, which puts it in my top 10 from the director. You have Barry Foster looking desperately to find his pin, much the same way Robert Walker tried to retrieve the lighter. You have charm and humor between the Scotland Yard inspector and his wife, which beckons Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn in Shadow of a Doubt etc. You have the horrific strangulation scene, but the expression left on Barbara Leigh-Hunt’s face is priceless (and oddly comical).

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2012 9:40 pm

MDR – See my comment below to Emgee and give Ed Howard’s review a read, I think you’ll like it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 12, 2012 9:40 pm

MDR – See my comment below to Emgee and give Ed Howard’s review a read, I think you’ll like it.

Posted By Tom S : September 12, 2012 9:49 pm

Haha, The Birds is one of those movies where it’s so ridiculous I can never tell if people like it straightforwardly, ironically, or some mixture of the two- it really does seem impossible to take it entirely seriously. The leads are irritating (and Taylor is unbearably smug), the plot strands all go nowhere, and the menace is less ‘otherwise mundane object becomes terrifying’ and more ‘utterly crazy stuff starts happening, none of which makes enough sense to be frightening.’ It’s good fun, I suppose, but if the most logical reading of it is essentially that it was Hitch pulling a prank on the audience, I think that justifies my confusion at why it’s so beloved amongst his work.

Posted By Tom S : September 12, 2012 9:49 pm

Haha, The Birds is one of those movies where it’s so ridiculous I can never tell if people like it straightforwardly, ironically, or some mixture of the two- it really does seem impossible to take it entirely seriously. The leads are irritating (and Taylor is unbearably smug), the plot strands all go nowhere, and the menace is less ‘otherwise mundane object becomes terrifying’ and more ‘utterly crazy stuff starts happening, none of which makes enough sense to be frightening.’ It’s good fun, I suppose, but if the most logical reading of it is essentially that it was Hitch pulling a prank on the audience, I think that justifies my confusion at why it’s so beloved amongst his work.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 13, 2012 2:15 am

Well Greg,i liked him a little when he went over the Top,and
risked something.Like in Birds,Psycho and Frenzy.
These were all very brave Films.
But the Man was such a Creep.Ask Tippi Hedren.
That whole oedipal Stuff.I now,we should separate the Man from
the Artist.But even then.All his Heros are Creeps to.
Take one of his most beloved Films,”North by Northwest”.
After Thornhill was thrown into Jail,the first thing he did,
was call his Mommy.Not his Lawyer or a Frind,no Mom.
We dont care that much,because the whole Film is Nonsense,and
it is Gary Grant.And Nobody dislikes Gary Grant.
The same with the Birds.Mitch Brenner is such a Weakling.
He should have married that beautiful Teacher Years ago,but he
can´t,cause Mummy.But because Mitch is played by Mr.Testosteron
Rod Taylor(love that Guy)we dont care.
On a Technical Point of View his Films are maybe great,if you
can oversee the horrible Back Projection´s.but emotional they
leave me cold.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 13, 2012 2:15 am

Well Greg,i liked him a little when he went over the Top,and
risked something.Like in Birds,Psycho and Frenzy.
These were all very brave Films.
But the Man was such a Creep.Ask Tippi Hedren.
That whole oedipal Stuff.I now,we should separate the Man from
the Artist.But even then.All his Heros are Creeps to.
Take one of his most beloved Films,”North by Northwest”.
After Thornhill was thrown into Jail,the first thing he did,
was call his Mommy.Not his Lawyer or a Frind,no Mom.
We dont care that much,because the whole Film is Nonsense,and
it is Gary Grant.And Nobody dislikes Gary Grant.
The same with the Birds.Mitch Brenner is such a Weakling.
He should have married that beautiful Teacher Years ago,but he
can´t,cause Mummy.But because Mitch is played by Mr.Testosteron
Rod Taylor(love that Guy)we dont care.
On a Technical Point of View his Films are maybe great,if you
can oversee the horrible Back Projection´s.but emotional they
leave me cold.

Posted By Tom S : September 13, 2012 3:01 am

Haha if you think it’s breaking new ground to observe that Hitchcock heroes have mommy issues, may I recommend to you ‘every single book written about Hitchcock ever’

Posted By Tom S : September 13, 2012 3:01 am

Haha if you think it’s breaking new ground to observe that Hitchcock heroes have mommy issues, may I recommend to you ‘every single book written about Hitchcock ever’

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 13, 2012 3:22 am

@ The HA HA Guy
Who wants to break new ground.
I just explained one of my reasons.
I also could talk about my dislike for his general Treatment
of Women(also nothing new).
And by the way,why should i read each and every Book about a
Director i dont like.I am past my Fanboy Years.
This is a Discussion Thread after all.
If i want to break new ground,i will writing Posts beginning
with Ha,Ha.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 13, 2012 3:22 am

@ The HA HA Guy
Who wants to break new ground.
I just explained one of my reasons.
I also could talk about my dislike for his general Treatment
of Women(also nothing new).
And by the way,why should i read each and every Book about a
Director i dont like.I am past my Fanboy Years.
This is a Discussion Thread after all.
If i want to break new ground,i will writing Posts beginning
with Ha,Ha.

Posted By Tom S : September 13, 2012 4:00 am

The thing is, you point it out as though it’s inherently a negative thing about his work, and one that goes unnoticed, as opposed to a conscious and much-reported upon theme. It’s as though I said that “I don’t care for Scorsese because some of his protagonists have Madonna/whore complexes”, or “I don’t like Christopher Nolan because his lead men are obsessive about things”- it’s part of the text of the work, and explaining what you don’t like about something generally compels you to do more than the most banal imaginable observations about the surface level qualities of it.

And though it should probably be obvious, my comment was not to demand that you read every book about Hitch, it’s to observe that the Mommy fixation is such a known quantity in his work that anyone who discusses him discusses that aspect of him.

Good job calling me out on starting posts by saying ‘ha ha’, though, that’s the kind of substantial critique I’ve come to expect from the Ghijath Naddaf brand.

Posted By Tom S : September 13, 2012 4:00 am

The thing is, you point it out as though it’s inherently a negative thing about his work, and one that goes unnoticed, as opposed to a conscious and much-reported upon theme. It’s as though I said that “I don’t care for Scorsese because some of his protagonists have Madonna/whore complexes”, or “I don’t like Christopher Nolan because his lead men are obsessive about things”- it’s part of the text of the work, and explaining what you don’t like about something generally compels you to do more than the most banal imaginable observations about the surface level qualities of it.

And though it should probably be obvious, my comment was not to demand that you read every book about Hitch, it’s to observe that the Mommy fixation is such a known quantity in his work that anyone who discusses him discusses that aspect of him.

Good job calling me out on starting posts by saying ‘ha ha’, though, that’s the kind of substantial critique I’ve come to expect from the Ghijath Naddaf brand.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 13, 2012 5:08 am

I still dont know what is not to understand.
I dont say the Man´s Films are bad,because this or that.
I have try to explain to Greg why i(just me)do not like them.
At least ,i have a personal Opinion.
I also dont care for Kubrick,Bergman,Bresson or(oh my God)Nolan.
But i love Ford,Hawks,Huston,Fuller,Peckinpah,late Aldrich,
early Scorsese etc.etc. But you dont have too.
A lot of serious People say Ford is overly Sentimental and
Pathetic,and makes fun of Alcoholism.They are right,but i love
him anyway.Feel free to disagree.
I am not pretend to be an Intellectual.And i am no Film Scholar.
I feel free to like and dislike what i want.
For all the wrong reasons.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 13, 2012 5:08 am

I still dont know what is not to understand.
I dont say the Man´s Films are bad,because this or that.
I have try to explain to Greg why i(just me)do not like them.
At least ,i have a personal Opinion.
I also dont care for Kubrick,Bergman,Bresson or(oh my God)Nolan.
But i love Ford,Hawks,Huston,Fuller,Peckinpah,late Aldrich,
early Scorsese etc.etc. But you dont have too.
A lot of serious People say Ford is overly Sentimental and
Pathetic,and makes fun of Alcoholism.They are right,but i love
him anyway.Feel free to disagree.
I am not pretend to be an Intellectual.And i am no Film Scholar.
I feel free to like and dislike what i want.
For all the wrong reasons.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 13, 2012 5:40 am

But back to “The Birds”.I just found the Name of the Drunkyard
at the Diner.It´s Karl Swenson.One of those great faces, but
till today i did not knew his Name.
Now that i saw his face again,i remember he was “The Swede”
in El Dorado.The Gunsmith,who gave James Caan that crazy
Shotgun.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 13, 2012 5:40 am

But back to “The Birds”.I just found the Name of the Drunkyard
at the Diner.It´s Karl Swenson.One of those great faces, but
till today i did not knew his Name.
Now that i saw his face again,i remember he was “The Swede”
in El Dorado.The Gunsmith,who gave James Caan that crazy
Shotgun.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 13, 2012 5:52 am

Ups,sorry i was wrong.The Swede was Olaf Wieghorst.
But after all,they are all Swedes.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 13, 2012 5:52 am

Ups,sorry i was wrong.The Swede was Olaf Wieghorst.
But after all,they are all Swedes.

Posted By Pam : September 13, 2012 6:59 am

This movie scared me to death when I was a child. I grew up in the 1960′s and loved old movies still do. The Birds just freaked me out it kind of paved the way for the movie Jaws in my mind. Never have been a fan of birds since seeing this movie nor sharks since seeing Jaws. Interesting how films we see in our childhood stick with us. I have seen this film many times and I am drawn to it because of the characters in this town filled with BIRDS! I even bought tickets for the special screening on Sept.19th so I can see all these birds again on the big screen for the first time-Ha! I like this film and am taking my parents to see it they like it too. It’s a treat for us I rarely go to a theater to see a movie it has been years. It’s The Birds of all films getting us to go!

Posted By Pam : September 13, 2012 6:59 am

This movie scared me to death when I was a child. I grew up in the 1960′s and loved old movies still do. The Birds just freaked me out it kind of paved the way for the movie Jaws in my mind. Never have been a fan of birds since seeing this movie nor sharks since seeing Jaws. Interesting how films we see in our childhood stick with us. I have seen this film many times and I am drawn to it because of the characters in this town filled with BIRDS! I even bought tickets for the special screening on Sept.19th so I can see all these birds again on the big screen for the first time-Ha! I like this film and am taking my parents to see it they like it too. It’s a treat for us I rarely go to a theater to see a movie it has been years. It’s The Birds of all films getting us to go!

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 13, 2012 8:02 am

Thanks for the helpful info on the sound, Emgee.

And for Emgee and anyone else interested, here’s a very good write-up of Frenzy by my friend Ed Howard who writes for Slant (does a great series over there with Jason Bellamy called The Conversations) when not writing for his personal blog.

I, too, find Hitch’s later works a little stale but with The Birds being the last great work. If you scroll down the comments on Ed’s review you’ll find my comment where I talk about Hitch’s later tendencies that put me off.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 13, 2012 8:02 am

Thanks for the helpful info on the sound, Emgee.

And for Emgee and anyone else interested, here’s a very good write-up of Frenzy by my friend Ed Howard who writes for Slant (does a great series over there with Jason Bellamy called The Conversations) when not writing for his personal blog.

I, too, find Hitch’s later works a little stale but with The Birds being the last great work. If you scroll down the comments on Ed’s review you’ll find my comment where I talk about Hitch’s later tendencies that put me off.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 13, 2012 8:24 am

About Tom and Ghijath – Tom, with all due respect, when you start off a comment with “Ha, ha” it’s kind of condescending and you have to expect it might get some backs up.

Also, your comment that “it’s so ridiculous I can never tell if people like it straightforwardly, ironically, or some mixture of the two- it really does seem impossible to take it entirely seriously” sounds like a classic genre-dissing stance. “Oh, I only like serious dramas, that other stuff isn’t truly art. I mean, come on, a horror movie? Art? Jeeves, my brandy.”

And then this: “the plot strands all go nowhere”

Either you didn’t read the post or missed that part. The plot strands indeed go nowhere. As they don’t in Psycho. I kind of made a big point of that in the post. It’s misdirection and obviously intentional. As such, it seems a strange thing to complain about. And not just here but in much horror, initial plot strands are there simply to establish character, not necessarily be played out. We never see a final resolution to Thomas Jane and Andre Braugher’s neighborly tension in The Mist (Braugher leaves the supermarket and, we can assume, is killed shortly thereafter) but it would be odd to say, “And another thing, that plot line went nowhere.” Well, no, it didn’t but it established character before the inter-dimensional bugs started attacking.

And I have to agree with Ghijath that I didn’t think he was under the assumption he was the first person to bring up the mother issues in Hitch’s films, he was just explaining why he doesn’t like them very much.

Now obviously, I like The Birds but I’ve talked to far more people who don’t than do, another thing I allude to in the post so I wouldn’t call it one of his most beloved works (maybe we should switch who we talk to about it). I think people like the bird attack scenes and little else. I think they expect a big battle at the end that is decisively won by the humans and don’t get it. And since the strands don’t get resolved, I think they find the movie kind of aimless, which I can totally understand. And I totally understand you and Emgee not liking it, too because, no, I don’t think it holds up to Hitch’s finest work in the forties, like Shadow of a Doubt and Notorious.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 13, 2012 8:24 am

About Tom and Ghijath – Tom, with all due respect, when you start off a comment with “Ha, ha” it’s kind of condescending and you have to expect it might get some backs up.

Also, your comment that “it’s so ridiculous I can never tell if people like it straightforwardly, ironically, or some mixture of the two- it really does seem impossible to take it entirely seriously” sounds like a classic genre-dissing stance. “Oh, I only like serious dramas, that other stuff isn’t truly art. I mean, come on, a horror movie? Art? Jeeves, my brandy.”

And then this: “the plot strands all go nowhere”

Either you didn’t read the post or missed that part. The plot strands indeed go nowhere. As they don’t in Psycho. I kind of made a big point of that in the post. It’s misdirection and obviously intentional. As such, it seems a strange thing to complain about. And not just here but in much horror, initial plot strands are there simply to establish character, not necessarily be played out. We never see a final resolution to Thomas Jane and Andre Braugher’s neighborly tension in The Mist (Braugher leaves the supermarket and, we can assume, is killed shortly thereafter) but it would be odd to say, “And another thing, that plot line went nowhere.” Well, no, it didn’t but it established character before the inter-dimensional bugs started attacking.

And I have to agree with Ghijath that I didn’t think he was under the assumption he was the first person to bring up the mother issues in Hitch’s films, he was just explaining why he doesn’t like them very much.

Now obviously, I like The Birds but I’ve talked to far more people who don’t than do, another thing I allude to in the post so I wouldn’t call it one of his most beloved works (maybe we should switch who we talk to about it). I think people like the bird attack scenes and little else. I think they expect a big battle at the end that is decisively won by the humans and don’t get it. And since the strands don’t get resolved, I think they find the movie kind of aimless, which I can totally understand. And I totally understand you and Emgee not liking it, too because, no, I don’t think it holds up to Hitch’s finest work in the forties, like Shadow of a Doubt and Notorious.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 13, 2012 8:35 am

How old was Hitchcock when he made Frenzy ?
I respect that he made such an uncompromising Film at that time
of his life,and career.Such a thing does not happen to often.
From what i heard and read William Friedkin did it with
Killer Joe.He is 77 years old now,and still a Maverick.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 13, 2012 8:35 am

How old was Hitchcock when he made Frenzy ?
I respect that he made such an uncompromising Film at that time
of his life,and career.Such a thing does not happen to often.
From what i heard and read William Friedkin did it with
Killer Joe.He is 77 years old now,and still a Maverick.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 13, 2012 9:46 am

Thanks Greg.
I am happy,that you dont get me wrong.
I began to feel like i am Bradley Cooper in that Trailer for
“The Silver Lining Playbook”,throwing the Hemingway Book throught
the closed Window,wake up every one in the House and tell them
why i am so pissed.Being Anti Hitchcock in Cinephile Circles,is
not as much fun one might think.
In fact it is like being the only little Child on the Playground,
no one wants to play with.Just kidding,i am fine.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 13, 2012 9:46 am

Thanks Greg.
I am happy,that you dont get me wrong.
I began to feel like i am Bradley Cooper in that Trailer for
“The Silver Lining Playbook”,throwing the Hemingway Book throught
the closed Window,wake up every one in the House and tell them
why i am so pissed.Being Anti Hitchcock in Cinephile Circles,is
not as much fun one might think.
In fact it is like being the only little Child on the Playground,
no one wants to play with.Just kidding,i am fine.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 13, 2012 10:44 am

I even bought tickets for the special screening on Sept.19th so I can see all these birds again on the big screen for the first time

Pam, definitely report back here on how it went. Very curious to know.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 13, 2012 10:44 am

I even bought tickets for the special screening on Sept.19th so I can see all these birds again on the big screen for the first time

Pam, definitely report back here on how it went. Very curious to know.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 13, 2012 10:45 am

How old was Hitchcock when he made Frenzy?

Depending on when he was actually in the process of making it, he was either 72 or 73.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 13, 2012 10:45 am

How old was Hitchcock when he made Frenzy?

Depending on when he was actually in the process of making it, he was either 72 or 73.

Posted By tdraicer : September 13, 2012 10:53 am

I tend to think in terms of actors, composers, and writers rather than directors, but Hitch is the exception. Perhaps because he went out of his way to make himself a public figure, but I think mostly because I love so damn many of his films. Looking forward to seeing The Birds on a movie screen for the first time on Wednesday.

Posted By tdraicer : September 13, 2012 10:53 am

I tend to think in terms of actors, composers, and writers rather than directors, but Hitch is the exception. Perhaps because he went out of his way to make himself a public figure, but I think mostly because I love so damn many of his films. Looking forward to seeing The Birds on a movie screen for the first time on Wednesday.

Posted By Emgee : September 13, 2012 3:31 pm

@MDR, i’m sorry but i really loathe Frenzy, proof for me that Hithcock’s sadistic and misogynistic tendencies got out of hand in his old age. Where before censorship and public tastes kept a leash on them, after Psycho anything went. And Hitchcock’s artistry with it.So Greg, i agree with your comment on the blog you linked to.
One of the reasons i can enjoy Family Plot, flawed though it is, is that it’s lighthearted. ( and yes, lightweight, too).

Posted By Emgee : September 13, 2012 3:31 pm

@MDR, i’m sorry but i really loathe Frenzy, proof for me that Hithcock’s sadistic and misogynistic tendencies got out of hand in his old age. Where before censorship and public tastes kept a leash on them, after Psycho anything went. And Hitchcock’s artistry with it.So Greg, i agree with your comment on the blog you linked to.
One of the reasons i can enjoy Family Plot, flawed though it is, is that it’s lighthearted. ( and yes, lightweight, too).

Posted By florizel : September 13, 2012 8:16 pm

Well-done analysis of “The Birds”. It’s not one of my favorite Hitchcock films(I tend to gravitate toward his early Hollywood films, like “Spellbound” and “Notorious”, though “North By Northwest” and “Vertigo” also rank up there), but it does have some amazing moments; I’m thinking of the schoolhouse scene and the ending.

The note on the Du Maurier story is also intriguing; it actually ties in with “Foreign Correspondent” with the British appeals to America–though obviously the time frame and context are different–.

Posted By florizel : September 13, 2012 8:16 pm

Well-done analysis of “The Birds”. It’s not one of my favorite Hitchcock films(I tend to gravitate toward his early Hollywood films, like “Spellbound” and “Notorious”, though “North By Northwest” and “Vertigo” also rank up there), but it does have some amazing moments; I’m thinking of the schoolhouse scene and the ending.

The note on the Du Maurier story is also intriguing; it actually ties in with “Foreign Correspondent” with the British appeals to America–though obviously the time frame and context are different–.

Posted By robbushblog : September 15, 2012 1:14 pm

I love The Birds, for the reasons that so many have stated they don’t like it. Sometimes disastrous things happen in life and other things come to a standstill. The building story of Tippi and Rod’s relationship takes a backseat once the birds attack the house. It doesn’t matter. I like that.

Frenzy is great.

My favorite Hitchcock movie is Rear Window, followed in second by Shadow of a Doubt.

Isn’t Tippi all sorts of gorgeous in The Birds? If all it takes to get a woman like that is to be seriously smug as hell, that’s what I would do. I think it helps that Rod Taylor is a good looking, uber-macho S.O.B. too.

Posted By robbushblog : September 15, 2012 1:14 pm

I love The Birds, for the reasons that so many have stated they don’t like it. Sometimes disastrous things happen in life and other things come to a standstill. The building story of Tippi and Rod’s relationship takes a backseat once the birds attack the house. It doesn’t matter. I like that.

Frenzy is great.

My favorite Hitchcock movie is Rear Window, followed in second by Shadow of a Doubt.

Isn’t Tippi all sorts of gorgeous in The Birds? If all it takes to get a woman like that is to be seriously smug as hell, that’s what I would do. I think it helps that Rod Taylor is a good looking, uber-macho S.O.B. too.

Posted By dementia13 : September 17, 2012 12:03 am

@MDR, I’m with you on Frenzy, it brings home the brutality of the killer’s actions with sickening impact. Yes, @emgee, the killer’s sadistic, but it’s not as though we’re supposed to identify with him or cheer him on, he’s supposed to induce loathing.

Anyway, The Birds. The way I’m reading this is not so much that the “plot” elements are diversions, it’s that the characters are faced with the end of the world, but they’re still wrapped up in their petty, soap opera stuff. Brilliant, and so difficult to do in such a subtle way.

Posted By dementia13 : September 17, 2012 12:03 am

@MDR, I’m with you on Frenzy, it brings home the brutality of the killer’s actions with sickening impact. Yes, @emgee, the killer’s sadistic, but it’s not as though we’re supposed to identify with him or cheer him on, he’s supposed to induce loathing.

Anyway, The Birds. The way I’m reading this is not so much that the “plot” elements are diversions, it’s that the characters are faced with the end of the world, but they’re still wrapped up in their petty, soap opera stuff. Brilliant, and so difficult to do in such a subtle way.

Posted By Khyron : September 17, 2012 3:37 pm

Amazingly enough, in an interview in the now-defunct Starlog magazine, Rod Taylor stated that he detested The Birds, calling his character a ‘square, repressed idiot’ because his character wouldn’t go all the way with Tippi Hendren’s character in the film, and also because it was just a way to show how Hitch felt about humanity. Despite all of this, The Birds is still a classic (and I want a remake!)

Posted By Khyron : September 17, 2012 3:37 pm

Amazingly enough, in an interview in the now-defunct Starlog magazine, Rod Taylor stated that he detested The Birds, calling his character a ‘square, repressed idiot’ because his character wouldn’t go all the way with Tippi Hendren’s character in the film, and also because it was just a way to show how Hitch felt about humanity. Despite all of this, The Birds is still a classic (and I want a remake!)

Posted By fumanchu32 : September 17, 2012 9:32 pm

Splendid piece; I agree that THE BIRDS is Hitchcock’s most nihilistic film.

Posted By fumanchu32 : September 17, 2012 9:32 pm

Splendid piece; I agree that THE BIRDS is Hitchcock’s most nihilistic film.

Posted By themutt : September 25, 2012 11:35 pm

No story? I beg to differ.

The birds are the wrath of Mom.

Notice that from the moment Mom accepts Melanie and puts her arm around her, you never see a bird in the air. They all just sit there and watch the people escape.

Posted By themutt : September 25, 2012 11:35 pm

No story? I beg to differ.

The birds are the wrath of Mom.

Notice that from the moment Mom accepts Melanie and puts her arm around her, you never see a bird in the air. They all just sit there and watch the people escape.

Leave a Reply

Current day month ye@r *

MovieMorlocks.com is the official blog for TCM. No topic is too obscure or niche to be excluded from our film discussions. And we welcome your comments on our blogs and bloggers.
See more: facebook.com/tcmtv
See more: twitter.com/tcm
3-D  Action Films  Actors  Actors' Endorsements  Actresses  animal stars  Animation  Anime  Anthology Films  Art in Movies  Autobiography  Avant-Garde  Aviation  Awards  B-movies  Beer in Film  Behind the Scenes  Best of the Year lists  Biography  Biopics  Blu-Ray  Books on Film  Boxing films  British Cinema  Canadian Cinema  Character Actors  Chicago Film History  Cinematography  Classic Films  College Life on Film  Comedy  Comic Book Movies  Crime  Czech Film  Dance on Film  Digital Cinema  Directors  Disaster Films  Documentary  Drama  DVD  Early Talkies  Editing  Educational Films  European Influence on American Cinema  Experimental  Exploitation  Fairy Tales on Film  Faith or Christian-based Films  Family Films  Film Composers  Film Criticism  film festivals  Film History in Florida  Film Noir  Film Scholars  Film titles  Filmmaking Techniques  Films of the 1980s  Food in Film  Foreign Film  French Film  Gangster films  Genre  Genre spoofs  HD & Blu-Ray  Holiday Movies  Hollywood history  Hollywood lifestyles  Horror  Horror Movies  Icons  independent film  Italian Film  Japanese Film  Korean Film  Literary Adaptations  Martial Arts  Melodramas  Method Acting  Mexican Cinema  Moguls  Monster Movies  Movie Books  Movie Costumes  movie flops  Movie locations  Movie lovers  Movie Reviewers  Movie settings  Movie Stars  Movies about movies  Music in Film  Musicals  Outdoor Cinema  Paranoid Thrillers  Parenting on film  Pirate movies  Polish film industry  political thrillers  Politics in Film  Pornography  Pre-Code  Producers  Race in American Film  Remakes  Revenge  Road Movies  Romance  Romantic Comedies  Satire  Scandals  Science Fiction  Screenwriters  Semi-documentaries  Serials  Short Films  Silent Film  silent films  Social Problem Film  Sports  Sports on Film  Stereotypes  Straight-to-DVD  Studio Politics  Stunts and stuntmen  Suspense thriller  TCM Classic Film Festival  TCM Underground  Television  The British in Hollywood  The Germans in Hollywood  The Hungarians in Hollywood  The Irish in Hollywood  Theaters  Thriller  Trains in movies  Underground Cinema  VOD  War film  Westerns  Women in the Film Industry  Women's Weepies