Coming at a unique moment in cinema history, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1962) is like nothing else on film: a mesmerizing mixture of suburban sheen, suspense and terror that all but abandons any notion of plot completely, made by an artist who had at that point risen to the very top of his profession and yet had to overcome multiple disappointments and obstacles to complete the project.
Having begun his lengthy, legendary career in England during the Silent Era almost four decades earlier, Hitchcock was riding high by the 1960s, enjoying a string of successes and, more importantly, unprecedented control over his work. In addition to supervising and contributing to his television program Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the filmmaker closed out the 1950s with the masterful, moody Vertigo (1958) and the comic thriller North By Northwest (1959), following them with a small-budget movie that went on to become one of the most famous, analyzed and imitated in history: Psycho (1960). Playfully and radically thwarting expectations and bringing a new level of intensity and violence to the silver screen, Psycho anticipated (some would say invented) an entire genre: the slasher film. Never one to rest on his laurels, Hitchcock’s next movie would again push the storytelling envelope and presage yet another genre that would soon come to dominate the cinematic world: the disaster film.