The Birds: The Christian Hipster’s Summer Guide to Hitchcock

The Hipster Hitchcock summer draws to a close with a fearful phone booth, blondes, and, you guessed it….The_Birds_original_poster

The Birds (1963). With Tippi Hedron, Robert Taylor, Jessica Tandy, and Suzanne Pleshette. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Things for Hipsters to Note:

-Tippi (Hedron) as Melanie.hitchcock-sizzle

She eats the screen alive wearing that green Edith Head suit. And she’s yet another blonde tortured by Hitch. This is the movie that made her famous. Incidentally, her daughter’s name is Melanie. You know, her daughter Melanie Griffith? Yep. Weird, right? (Incidentally, another minor character, a fisherman, is played by Doodles Weaver, father of Sigourney Weaver. So, the cast of Working Girl was hanging out on the set of The Birds. Oh Hollywood, such a quaint small town…)

-Tandy (Jessica).Jessica Tandy The Birds

She’s suspicious, judgmental, and completely delicious. Can you imagine her and Agnes Moorehead in a fistfight? (My money is on Tandy, in 8 rounds.)

-The Tides.bodega-bay-town-of-bodega-the-tides-wharf-restaurant-7d12412-wingsdomain-art-and-photography

A real restaurant in Bodega Bay, CA. When Hitch uses a real location, he gives it a creepy creepy backstory. So vacationing hipsters can take selfies there.

-Titles?birds

There’s no “The End” in the final shot. The opening tiles are “pecked away” by seagulls. Also, there is no music, just some electronically generated sounds to accompany the real bird sounds. All of this was intended by Hitch (reportedly B. Herrmann suggested no music; he’s credited as “sound consultant”) to be jarring, and leave the audience with no emotional context nor closure. Brilliant again, Hitch.

-The Screamimages

Robert Boyle, production designer, said Evard Munch’s famous painting The Scream was an icon for the whole film’s design.

Reasons for Hipsters to Like This Movie:

  •  Potential for pop culture jokes.images-1

It’s a movie about people being attacked by birds. And it’s one of Hitchcock’s most iconic films. Which is why it’s referenced in pop culture as much or more than Psycho. So hipsters can find:

 

 

The Birds inspired Barbie Doll.

the-birds-barbieOr create a The Birds Halloween outfit, like Darlene (Sara Gilbert) in a classic Roseanne episode.tumblr_ku6x3nGU1Q1qzpq8b

  • Hitch horror style + animal psychosis = crazy frightening.  It’s just bizarre enough to be fascinating.  And the shots. Oh my gosh the shots. Birds have never been so creepy. Especially when Melanie (Tippi Hedron) goes upstairs in the final scene. Hedron was apparently so traumatized by the week spent shooting the ultimate bird attack that she had to take a week off to recover both physically and emotionally.
  • Suzanne Pleshette as Annie Hayworth.birds4

She’s the only clued in person in clueless Bodega Bay. (Her mailbox is red, by the way. This probably means she’s a communist…or something.) Doubtless, she’s the kind, chain-smoking, sweater-wearing, moody, sarcastic, misfit hipsters would love. Eat your Bob Newhart out.

  • Incredible cinematography and special effects.It’s a good thing Hitch loved to painstakingly plan production and storyboard every single shot (he once reportedly said that shooting a film was boring, the exciting work was figuring it all out on paper). The Birds required meticulous planning, as it utilized a cumbersome sodium vapor matting process (the “blue screen” process popular at the time left a “blue fire” halo around silhouetted objects, and blurred the birds’ wings too badly). Ub Iwerks was hired from Disney to utilize the same effect that made Haley Mills twins in The Parent Trap.

imgres-1All the effects are seamless, even using optical printing wipes to move from location shot to studio shot it what looks like one seamless take (like when Melanie crosses the street and goes into the pet store at the beginning of the film. While she is behind the newsstand the shot wipes from exterior (the street) to studio (the storefront). Also of note is the iconicity of the shots: long vistas of the gorgeous California coast, the classic black crows multiplying on the playground, the gull crashing into the phone booth, countless striking shots of birds birds birds.

  • Postmodern storytelling.

The film has tons of self reference, but never explains much–like why Melanie follows Mitch (Robert Taylor) to Bodega Bay (Really? Just to deliver some birds?), why (Jessica Tandy) has such a controlling personality (Mother, much?), why Annie (Suzanne Pleshette) lives in the town anyway (since she seems so out of place there) or the biggest unanswered question of all: why do the birds attack? It seems to ask tons of questions, but come to few clear answers.

Lots of things are given significance–lovebirds, the color green, lots of female characters (lots of birds?) and only one male–but what they signify? Filmsite.org‘s review points out Freudian and natural symbolism:

“On an allegorical level, the birds in the film are the physical embodiment and exteriorization of unleashed, disturbing, shattering forces that threaten all of humanity (those threatened in the film include schoolchildren, a defenseless farmer, bystanders, a schoolteacher, etc.) when relationships have become insubstantial, unsupportive, or hurtful. In a broader, more universal sense, the stability of the home and natural world environment, symbolized by broken teacups at the domestic level, is in jeopardy and becoming disordered when people cannot ‘see’ the dangers gathering nearby, and cannot adequately protect themselves from violence behind transparent windows, telephone booths, eyeglasses, or facades.”

Or maybe too much of any animal is creepy, and Hitch just liked the idea…

 

Creepy Things That Hipsters Would Express With Emojis:
0777
The schoolhouse in Bodega Bay is really haunted. While it is now a residence, it was known in local lore that there was a creepy presence about the place. Which is why Hitch used it, of course.We-think-Tired-yawning-surprised

Daphne Du Maurier wrote the original short story “The Birds.” Hitch took the initial scenario, about birds terrorizing a cottage in Cornwall (UK), and threw out everything but bizarre attacking birds. Hitch also collected articles about real bird attacks. In May 2001, the son of Du Maurier reported that he and his wife were being terrorized by seagulls nesting outside their cottage in Cornwall…url

 

 

 

 

Things Hipsters Will Do After Watching This Movie:

  • Send someone they dislike a pair of lovebirds. But not deliver them in person.
  • Sing their favorite childhood songs in haunted schoolhouses. (I dare you!)
  • Wear green 60’s dresses and practice the blonde beehive swirl. Or for guys, wear Rob Taylor’s turtlenecks or scarf/sweater combos. When getting attacked by unexplainable and unnatural forces of nature, there’s no excuse not to look classy.
  • Freak out any and every time they see a seagull or a crow.sir_alfred_hitchcock_the_world_of_birds
  • Try to freak out people around them when they see a crow or seagull, saying things like, ”Why are they doing this? Why are they doing this? They said when you got here, the whole thing started. Who are you? What are you? Where did you come from? I think you’re the cause of all this. I think you’re evil! EVIL!”
  • Plan their children’s birthday parties for inside. With the windows nailed shut.
  • Avoid any phone booth that’s not a Tardis.

The Birdshbirds

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About jenletherer

BA, Theater and Speech Communication; English:Creative Writing. Siena Heights University, 2002. MFA, Film Production. Boston University, 2005
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