Saturday, September 13, 2003

At Home With The Birds

One of the plus points of my recent confinement has been the opportunity to delve into my DVD collection. The other night I watched The Birds (1963) which is generally not considered to be one of Hitchcock's finest efforts, but is I believe a very under-rated film which gets better each time I watch it.

It's not just that the suspense techniques and special effects still stand up some forty years on (which they do) but the fact that so much is going on underneath the surface of the plot that I find endlessly fascinating. The masterstroke of the film is that there's never an explanation offered for why the birds behave the way do, giving it the feel of a surreal and symbolic dream.

And while I'm not (obviously, I hope) the type to get aroused by violence to women I find the scene where Tippi Hedren is attacked by the birds up in the bedroom toward the end of the film weirdly sensual. Knowing what we now know about Hitch's pervy obsession with Ms Hedren this was almost certainly intentional. The film also has one of the great (anti-)climaxes in cinematic history.

The DVD has a decent clutch of extras for such a relatively old film, including some footage of screen tests Hedren did for earlier Hitchcock films such as To Catch A Chief (the part eventually went to the luminous Grace Kelly). You see Tippi explaining her strange name while Hitchcock is heard hectoring offscreen and a lugubrious Martin Balsam shamelessly flirts away. And then the screentest begins.

Related link: Tippi Hedren presents: The Roar Foundation/Shambala Preserve.


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