Saturday, April 18, 2015

My 100 Favorite Films of All Time #82: The Birds

1963.  Hitchcock.  The Birds.  Really, that is all one needs to write.  Anyone who has seen it knows how powerful a film it is.  Anyone who hasn’t seen it has avoided it simply because they are afraid.  It is a scary, scary film, and that’s something sorely missing from today’s theatres.  That fear doesn’t come from a masked, unstoppable killing machine; a puppet on a tricycle; or even a ghost in a television.  It comes from nature, it seems to have thought behind it, and it comes without warning.  That’s what makes it terrifying.

Tippi Hedren plays the lead female, Melanie.  While visiting Bodega Bay, California she is attacked by a seagull and it is all downhill from there.  Soon hundreds of birds of all sorts are attacking people in the town.  Attacking.  Stopping.  Attacking again.  Without reason.  Without a pattern.  It is nerve destroying and Hitchcock knows it. 

Yes, the special effects aren’t special to modern audiences.  You kind of forget that, though, while you experience it.  The film is just that engrossing.  Watching it, you understand why the director was a master of his craft, and you hate him for it.  How many people left the theatre after seeing this and felt their pulse race at the sight of a crow?

I can watch Psycho with no problem.  The movie doesn’t freak me out in the slightest.  This film, however, does the job.  Nature gone wild with no explanation (horror without an explanation is some of the most jarring horror of all).  Paranoid townspeople who manifest reasons for the attacks in what amounts to little more than symbolic magic.  Tension increased by actions and not a film score.  Hitchcock’s work of art has it all, and it is relentless.  Yes, he takes time building the story, but that’s what makes the film work.  It is not for the easily distracted. 

There have been other attempts to capture the magic that is The Birds.   I can’t think of any movie that really succeeded in doing it, however.  Hitchcock created a classic here, and it is one that I think is his best film.  I know purists would disagree with me, but nothing else he has done put me on the edge of my seat like this one did.  This is simply a masterpiece in all the right ways.

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