The mark of a great horror film is its ability to make the imaginary seem threatening, the fanciful seem plausible. Hitchcock did just that with The Birds, his only full-on fright flick. The birds contained therein are so damn creepy, and there is nothing supernatural about them. They're birds. Crows, sparrows, seagulls...y'know, birds. I guess that's why Alf is called the master of suspense. This is a terribly suspenseful motion picture. It's hard to breathe during some scenes, especially the "chute scare" and the whist, unruffled climax. By unruffled, I mean silent. The Birds doesn't have a score. Hitchcock uses the shrill screaming of our feathered assailants and the occasional thwack of a 2X4 to heighten the tension. Let me tell you, it works. I can't imagine this film with a soundtrack.
If you couple quiet audio channels with a very deliberate pace, you get a movie that a lot of people aren't going to sit through. Many cinephiles feel that The Birds is overrated because of its slow first half. While I agree that the first 30-45 minutes are trying (and even illogical), the rest of the film is too enjoyable for me to say that The Birds is overrated. Once the title peckers take flight, it's a stupendous watch. Hitchcock even throws in a shot of unexpected gore. Moreover, the cast is full of veteran a-listers. Suzanne Pleshette and Tippi Hedren turn in multi-faceted performances as a jaded schoolteacher and a heady flirt, respectively. Jessica Tandy is convincing as an overprotective mother to Mitch Brenner, the town playboy. Rod Taylor plays Brenner with a mature edge that gives his role a spectrum of shades to pull from.
Everyone is three-dimensional. As per usual, Hitchcock fully develops his characters before he puts them in harm's way. The Birds could have been a tasteless cult oddity, but instead, it's a legitimate classic. Perfect? I'm afraid not. Overrated? Hell no. Memorable? Most definitely. Check the bottom of the page to view a few cool Hitchcock trailers.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 4:50 PM