The Birds

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

The Birds (1963) is a suspense/horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based on the short story of the same name by Daphne du Maurier. The film's innovative special effects, soundtrack, and apocalyptic theme influenced later "revenge of nature" disaster films.

Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) is a young San Francisco socialite. She decides to follow lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) to his home in Bodega Bay, California. She apparently picks the wrong time to visit. The birds of Bodega Bay are becoming increasingly aggressive and soon every human being around comes under attack. Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette), a close friend of the Brenners, becomes one of the early casualties.

Unlike most other films of its era, The Birds does not have a music score or an ending in the conventional sense. The soundtrack was supervised by Bernard Herrmann; bird cries and wingflaps were played on an expanded Trautonium (called the Mixtur Trautonium) by Oskar Sala, assisted by German composer Remi Gassmann.

The screenplay was written by Evan Hunter. Ub Iwerks helped out with the special effects involving the birds. The movie was named to the National Film Registry in 2016.

There was a sequel, "The Birds II: Land's End" (1994) with a new cast of characters. It fared poorly.

Not to be confused with the play by Aristophanes.

Tropes used in The Birds include:
  • Attack of the Killer Whatever: In this case, birds.
  • Big Bad: The birds
  • Big No: Well, how would you react if you were attacked by birds in a small room, sending you into a catatonic state, and then your friends tried to guide you outside into a landscape of staring birds to get to the car? Naturally Melanie flat-out refuses, at first.
  • Cassandra Truth: It takes a very long time for the main characters convince the law enforcement that birds are attacking, them chalking it up to coincidence. Not until the largest attack on the town occurs do they start investigating, which leads to...
    • Cassandra Did It: Melanie is the one who argued against the ornithologist who said birds lack the ability to flock together and attack, and immediately after an attack is blamed because the attacks started after she arrived.
  • Creator Cameo: Hitchcock appears at the beginning, walking his dogs.
  • Daylight Horror: Most of the birds attack during the day.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: The movie opens with a romantic-flirtation plot.
  • Eye Scream / Staggered Zoom: A brief shot of one of the victims, with his eyes pecked out.
  • Feathered Fiend: Type B.
  • Grudging Thank You: Lydia thanks Melanie in this way for taking care of her after a nervous breakdown.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: It starts off feeling like a romance film, and takes its time getting to the real point.
  • Harmful to Minors: The school scene, among others.
  • Heroic BSOD: Melanie enters a catatonic state after the final attack in the attic.
  • In Name Only: Well, technically it's based on the du Maurier short story...
    • The screenwriter actually had read the short story, but Hitchcock specifically told him not to bother with it, as all he wanted to use was the core premise of birds attacking people.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: Sung by the schoolchildren as crows gather on the jungle gym.
  • It Got Worse: Oh yeah.
  • It's Quiet... Too Quiet: There is no music at all in the soundtrack, not counting the singing children.
  • Malignant Plot Tumor: Romance happens. Then lots and lots and lots of angry birds happen.
  • Meaningful Background Event
  • Momma's Boy: Mitch
  • No Ending: The birds enter their resting phase and allow the characters to leave the besieged house. You never find why they started, or if they'll start attacking again.
    • An expanded ending was in the planning stages, with two additional scenes that were never filmed, but it was just as open to interpretation. After a drive through the town, which is now in ruins and has bodies of the unlucky locals lying in its streets, the characters head down to San Francisco...where they find the Golden Gate Bridge completely covered in birds, silently watching them.
    • The book explains that the attack patterns are somehow connected to the tides, meaning that there are guaranteed breaks when one can go outside to get food and rebuild defenses. The birds of prey do join in, but the narrator makes plans to attach barbed wire to the windows and chimney to keep them from getting in.
  • Noodle Incident: Melanie's mischievous character is established by reference to a prank she pulled that resulted in the shattering of a plate-glass window. Though she supposedly had to appear in court because of it, the nature of the prank is never explained.
  • Oh Crap: Melanie's face after seeing a massive flock of birds gathered next to the school.
  • Phone Booth: Hiding inside one saves Melanie's life.
  • Ravens and Crows: A fair segment of nature's battalion here, and are strongly associated with this movie.
  • San Francisco: The opening scenes take place here, before the action moves up the coast to Bodega Bay.
  • Sure Why Not: Subverted in classic Hitch style. Suzanne Pleshette, who played Annie, suggested for her character's death that her ear should be found half torn off and bloody. Hitchcock sent her to the makeup department to let them make her ear look like that, but when filming the actual scene placed her body with her other side facing the camera so that the viewer never sees the torn off ear.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Why does Melanie enter a room filled with angry birds? Because Hitchcock says so. His specific response when Tippi Hedren questioned her motivation was "Your salary."
  • Zerg Rush: Once the birds get wound up in large numbers, this becomes their favorite tactic.