tek's rating:

The Birds (PG-13)
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This Hitchcock film came out in 1963, 12 years before I was born. Well... it starts out kind of like a screwball comedy. A woman named Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) goes to a pet store in San Francisco, to pick up a bird she had ordered, but it hasn't arrived yet. Meanwhile, a man named Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) comes into the store, to buy a pair of lovebirds for his 11-year-old sister's birthday. Mitch pretends to think she works in the store, and at first it seems like an honest mistake. But Melanie plays along, and it seemed that Mitch must have quickly realized she was pretending, so he plays along. But eventually it turns out he actually knew all along that she didn't work there. Anyway, they have the sort of petty banter where they seem to dislike each other, such as is common in screwball comedies.

Later, because she's a prankster, Melanie obtains a pair of lovebirds, finds out where Mitch lives, and is about to leave them outside his apartment door, but a neighbor tells her he's gone for the weekend. So she finds out where he's gone to, which is his family's home in a small town up the coast. When she gets there, she finds out where his house is from a local merchant, but she also wants to find out the name of Mitch's sister. The merchant tells her to ask the local schoolteacher, Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette). When Melanie meets Annie, it seems like she must have some history with Mitch, and we eventually learn that she does, but that's over, and... I dunno, it seems to me like she has mixed feelings about the possibility that Mitch could now be romantically involved with Melanie. (Honestly, I don't understand why anyone in this movie jumps to that conclusion. I know this is before my time, but I'm quite sure even in the ancient 1960s, men and women could have platonic relationships. Besides which, at this point there was not only nothing romantic between Mitch and Melanie, but there was no reason for the viewer to think they still genuinely didn't like each other. Even if it's obvious that will change, just because that's how movies typically work.) Anyway, Mitch's sister's name is Cathy (Veronica Cartwright), and she lives with her mother, Lydia (Jessica Tandy) on some land out in the middle of a bay. (It's not an island, because there is a road that goes there, so I guess it's more of a peninsula or something.) Rather than take the road, Melanie decides to rent a boat so she can sneak up on the house and leave the lovebirds for Cathy without anyone seeing her. She was also going to leave a letter for Mitch, apparently telling him exactly how much she didn't like him, but she decided not to.

After leaving the birds, she waits in the boat a short distance away, to spy on Mitch finding the birds. When he spots her, Melanie starts motoring back to the mainland, while Mitch starts driving there. Just before she gets to the docks, Melanie is attacked by a seagull, but it only leaves a minor scratch. Mitch takes her to a diner to clean the wound, and later invites her to dinner at his mother and sister's house. She doesn't want to go, but ends up doing so anyway. And Cathy quickly comes to like her, though Lydia is more standoffish. Later still, Mitch invites Melanie to come to Cathy's birthday party the next day. Again, she doesn't want to, but does anyway... and ends up spending the night renting a room at Annie's house. The next day, at the party, a whole bunch of birds attack the kids. And um... there are other bird attacks throughout the film, so it finally goes from comedy to horror. Although in between attacks, there's a scene at the diner where Melanie is discussing the incidents with various townsfolk, who have differing opinions on the whole situation; one woman in particular doesn't believe birds have been attacking people. That was my favorite scene in the movie, and it felt to me at once both the most screwball comedy-ish scene and kind of like a scene from The Twilight Zone (one of the more normal scenes, which you might not think of being representative of that show, but which are often necessary to ground the more surreal scenes in a bit of reality).

Well... I don't know what else to say. I don't want to reveal more of the plot. I'll just say I found the birds (of various species) genuinely frightening, but it bugs me that, while the question of why the birds have suddenly started behaving so aggressively, there's never the slightest hint of an answer. And at one point, I had this feeling that the movie was just going to end, even though I thought it would be a weird place to end it. There was a fade-out, but for a second I told myself it was just a fade-out between scenes, not an ending fade-out. And then... it turned out I was right in the first place, the movie was over. ...In any event, I'm glad I've finally seen the movie, and in some ways I probably liked it more than I really expected to, but still less than I hoped to.

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