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Monday, January 30, 2017

The Birds (1963)

Starring Tippi Hedren, Suzanne Pleshette, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Veronica Cartwright
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
(actor & director credits courtesy

A wealthy socialite trails a man who plays a trick on her to the seaside community of Bodega Bay, where she finds herself at the center of inexplicable attacks by the birds on the residents. 

One of Alfred Hitchcock's most visually impressive and unnerving films, the picture still makes me feel tense every time I watch it, and even after several decades since its release, continues to have the power to shock.  A key component to the uneasiness the film engenders is its lack of a music score, and although I think music could have heightened tension in certain scenes, the complete absence of music, other than a few ambient sources, makes the viewer uncomfortable- a fact which Hitchcock and his composer Bernard Herrmann (who still serves as a sound consultant) expertly used to manipulate the audience.  Much has been written about the stories of Hitchcock's cruelty to Hedren on set, and the effect this had on a scene where she's mercilessly attacked late in the film, which is difficult to watch in that light.  However I still think it's a key sequence in the film, building on the escalating shocks laid down in Evan Hunter's screenplay, but it's not surprising the actress only made one more film for Hitchcock.  Hunter, who's better known as a crime novelist under his Ed McBain pseudonym, adapts the short story by Daphne Du Maurier, but should be credited for fleshing it out into a very gripping tale, with Robert Burks' roving camera capturing many key moments from the characters' perspectives.

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