Tag: The Birds

It’s hard to deny it: The Birds is funny.

Hitchcock’s 1963 masterpiece certainly does not seem like a comedy on paper. A horrific polemic on the end of humanity, the film ought to draw screams, not giggles. And yet something about it is simply hilarious. Rather than feeling sympathy towards Melanie Daniels and company as they fight their way through hordes of monstrous birds, modern audiences can often be found laughing at their feeble attempts at survival.

April 11, 2019 / / Main Slate Archive

It was the great Alfred Hitchcock himself who coined the term MacGuffin. Simply put, a MacGuffin is a plot trigger used to propel a movie’s storyline along. It is why a movie’s characters do what they do, go where they go, but apart from this, it holds little or no importance. It exists to create an engine for sending characters on their movie mission. In North by Northwest, for example, the MacGuffin is Cary Grant’s James Mason. In Notorious, characters keep making reference to “secret papers” and to some sort of “sand” hidden in a wine bottle. Is it plutonium? We are never told and Hitchcock assures us that a MacGuffin is “the thing that the characters on the screen worry about, but the audience don’t care.”

May 8, 2017 / / Main Slate Archive

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.

September 9, 2010 / / Main Slate Archive

The Birds – 1963 – dir. Alfred Hitchcock

The peerless Alfred Hitchcock once again commands the screen of the Brattle Theater with his coruscatingly brilliant ode to mayhem and chaos in The Birds (1963).

Just as audiences were afraid to take a shower for weeks after watching Anthony Perkins make hamburger out of Janet Leigh in 1960’s Psycho three years before, people, after seeing The Birds, bit their nails and quickened their step every time they saw so much as a city pigeon.

August 17, 2006 / / Film Notes


Donald Spoto, in The Art of Alfred Hitchcock, traces the director’s long bird fixation, culminating in 1960’s Psycho (“You eat like a bird,” Norman tells future prey Marion Crane as they sit in a room full of taxidermized owls): that film marked the Master of Suspense’s first venture into outright horror, and his greatest popular success. Add to that two previous Daphne du Maurier adaptations–Jamaica Inn and his first American film (and only Best Picture Oscar) Rebecca–and it is hardly surprising that he would base his next project on du Maurier’s nightmarish short story “The Birds.” What is remarkable is that out of these familiar elements, Hitchcock would come up with the most experimental film of his career, both artistically and technically.

July 28, 2006 / / Film Notes

USA, 1963, 119 min. Cast: Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Plushette, Veronica Cartwright; Produced by: Alfred Hitchcock; Original Music: Bernard Herrmann; Written by: Daphne Du Maurier; Screenplay by: Evan Hunter; Cinematography: Robert Burks; Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock.

One of the most striking reoccurring figures in the films of Alfred Hitchcock is that of the overbearing mother who seeks to control her grown son. Overbearing mothers appear as supporting characters in both Notorious and North by Northwest, while Psycho takes the characterization to a shocking extreme. Another Hitchcock horror film, The Birds, also features a conflict between mother and son that should not be overlooked. There is a good reason why discussion of mother Lydia Brenner’s possessiveness regarding her son Mitch dominates as much of the film’s dialogue as the titular birds do. A close examination of the mother-son relationship in The Birds reveals Lydia’s fear of abandonment as a central source of conflict in the film; one that lends even the mysterious behavior of the birds a greater meaning.