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'The Birds 1963' Look! Is it a bird? Yeah, its a bird alright... 31/01/2016

Figure 1: The Birds 1963 Poster 

This film review will focus on the film 'The Birds 1963', the film was made in 1963 and is another one of Alfred Hitchcock’s films. The film was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, the screenplay was done by Evan Hunter, cinematography was done by Robert Burks and the soundtrack was done by Bernard Herrmann. The film is very detailed in its design, having the special effects that it did were very complex and took a while to make. However some scenes do look a little dodgy, even now it is slightly amusing watching gulls fly head first into homes almost as if they don’t know how to fly. The pacing for the film is also slightly odd, there is a sense of these birds having some sort of significance but the build-up is so weirdly paced and sudden that it makes the introduction of the birds almost unexplainable. However despite this the film is widely regarded as a really good film, showing that the effects and story do have quite a lot of backbone. "The Birds is one of the best "creature features" ever made, possibly only rivaled by Jaws for best ever, though the latter does owe a debt of style to this film. Though not entirely realistic, the visual effects are still reasonably workable even by today's more discriminating special effects crowd, and it still manages to deliver a good deal of suspense and hair-raising tension. While most people probably won't view birds as scary before seeing this film, by the end, you will forever be reminded of this film when you find yourself surrounded by a large flock of our "feathered friends"." (V Leo. 2007)

Figure 2: Melanie Daniels
Lets start with the special effects, for it time these effects were very complex, birds had not really been done up until now, but despite the effects in some places looking very fake there are some scenes that stand out more than others, two in particular. “The bird-attack sequences are tremendously complex (the movie contains more than 370 trick shots), and the absence of a score renders the horror more immediate: Hitch's long-time composer Bernard Herrmann fashioned an eerie soundtrack from caws, strident screeches and rustling wings.” (A Sooke. 2015) The first is when Lydia Brenner drives down to a barn only to discover a dead body that has had it eyes plucked out, almost nightmarishly? Its odd, and actually quite scary, there is almost no sound played in this scene so there is nothing else to focus on but his eyes, you would almost expect the Psycho music to start playing at that moment. However the more noticeable sound however is the scene where the whole family is taking refuge inside the house, then almost like a swarm of bees thousands of birds come shooting out the fireplace. Two things go through your head at this moment, the first being, are they going to drown due to the sheer amount of birds in the room or are they going to end up like the dead man from earlier? All birds have beaks but some have very small pointy beaks, almost like needles, so anyone who would have a fear of sharp, pointy object would probably be covering their eyes by now. There is one last shot in the film that really can send chills from your spine, at the start of the film we see a world where everyone is happy and free, there is even a small love story going on! However by the end of the film it turns from ‘Romeo and Juliet’ into ‘The Walking Dead: With Birds’. Honestly that is no joke, as humorous as it sounds it’s actually quite terrifying, having this lifeless, barren wasteland with nothing but birds to see everywhere is a scene no-one should miss. The outside world is dead silent apart from the small whistle of a bird every now and then, usually the air would be filled with life but in the ending scene the entire world appears dead. You can really feel the tension rising in this scene just because birds are easily startled, and once startled they could attack.

Figure 3: Dead Body
The cinematography and story are stronger in some scenes but not throughout the entire film. Some of the most incredible designs in the film cinematography are near the end where the invasion of the birds is almost like WWII. In WWII when the bombs were dropped there was a command issued that everyone turn out their lights and have no bright colours in case they were spotted. Then there is the anxious waiting in the houses, waiting to see if that bomb does drop, in this case though will the house be able to withstand the sheer force of the bird flood. Even in the café, people are lined up almost like some sort of infirmary, giving a feeling of people trying to survive. The narrative does have some strong elements as well, despite the way it is paced. There is one consistent clash going between two characters, and even though they do not exclaim their opinions for each other we can definitely get a vibe that there is something going on between these two. These two being Lydia Brenner (Jessica Tandy) and Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) , without saying anything but using their body language in order to set some sort of story up with no vocals is something to behold. However this ‘Mini Story’ does have somewhat of a role reversal in it, when Melanie shows up on Lydia’s doorstep its almost a competition of who is better. Lydia is Mitchell "Mitch" Brenner (Rod Taylor) mother but this new woman has more to offer than her, being frailer, gentler and not as strong as Melanie. However by the end of the film the two characters have almost completely swapped, (Main Girl) being delicate and afraid whilst Lydia being strong and stern. "The Birds is a textbook exercise in taking a simple story and creating a devastating film. These days the special effects may look shoddy and some of the complexities of character and period may be lost on younger viewers, but it's still a powerful film” (J Kermode. 2009). Another piece of excellent of cinematography, in one shot in the film Melanie is waiting outside the school for Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette). She sits down outside to have a cigarette and behind here is a climbing frame, slowly, one by one, birds land on it so quietly almost stealthily. We can see the birds landing but Melanie cant; it’s almost like a pantomime moment where you want to say “Look behind you!” and you can feel the anticipation rising.

Figure 4: The Birds
The most noticeable asset to this film though is its sound design, not is soundtrack. The bird noises are made up of electronic, generated sounds, giving off very sharp noises with harsh, high pitch clicking sound to give a very uneasy effect to the viewer. Some of the sound effects for the birds on their own can sound a bit dodgy, but when they are in mass numbers you can immediately hear what Bernard Herrmann was going for and he nails it. Even in the end of the film where the entire world has been taken over by birds you can hear the echoed cracks in the distance, really making it seem like there is no life left. These kinds of sounds had never really been heard before or not in bulk for films at least. “Glassmann, who is credited on the film as being behind the electronic production and composition, had created what is now probably more recognisable as an early sampler. The machine could take a recorded sound and transfer it to a keyboard in order to modulate it to musical keys and notes. It is this machine that allows the crossover of sound into music or perhaps it is the other way around. The detail and layering of the sound in the film seems almost built of counterpoint; whilst the sounds of the birds attacking seems engulfing, they’re never less than controlled in the same style as their coordinated attacks on the humans.” (A Scovell. 2014)

Biblography

Kermode, J. (2009) 
The birds (1963) movie review from eye for film. 
At: 
 (Accessed on 31.1.16)

Leo, V. (2007)
The birds review (1963) Hitchcock, Hedren - Qwipster’s movie reviews. 
At: 
(Accessed on 31.1.16)

Scovell, A. (2014)
Sounds of the birds (1963) - Alfred Hitchcock. 
At: 
(Accessed on 31.1.16)

Sooke, A. (2015)
'The birds, review: ‘Disturbing’' In: The Telegraph 9 January 2015 
(Accessed on 31.1.16)

Image Biblography

Figure 1: The Birds 1963 Poster

Figure 2: Melanie Daniels
http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/1249*675/THe+Birds+Banner+tippie.jpg

Figure 3:

Figure 4:

Other Sources

Actors

Jessica Tandy

Tippi Hedren

Rod Taylor

Suzanne Pleshette

Film Team

Alfred Hitchcock

Evan Hunter

Robert Burks

Bernarm Herrman

Comments

  1. Interesting review Tom.

    Try and keep your language academic in tone, as it makes your review a more credible piece of writing. For example, you say 'a bit dodgy' which is quite informal and chatty...try and find a more serious alternative.

    On a technical note, could you please not highlight and italicise the actor's/character's names...it is unnecessary and somewhat breaks the flow. Saying that, the film names should still be italicised (but not highlighted).

    You should also try and break your writing into shorter paragraphs, as it makes it easier for your reader to focus - those great big chunks of text are quite tiring on the eyes :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh! The highlighted names are actually hyperlinks, if you click on them it should send you to a wiki according to the appropriate topic :)

    ReplyDelete

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