“Nothing you have ever witnessed before has prepared you for the sheer stabbing shock,” so declared a poster for Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic movie, “The Birds”. Strong words for cinema that would now seem tame compared to recent fare. And yet, there is something about nature gone awry that still strikes deep.
On March 23, 2013 the city of Bodega Bay, California--where Hitchcock’s movie was filmed-- is getting ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary screening of “The Birds” at their Grange Hall. No doubt, it will be the biggest event in town! Based on a recent trip to this area, I can attest that Bodega Bay, a sleepy little hamlet on the Northern California Coast, does have plenty of birds, flocks of them in fact. However, I didn’t worry about being attacked. My closest encounter arose when an intrepid gull gingerly walked towards me to try and snatch some crumbs during a roadside snack.
“The Birds” is loosely based on Daphne Du Maurier’s classic suspense story of the same name, which also features flocks of restless, English birds behaving strangely. As the story progresses, the birds’ curious behavior escalates, until massive flocks begin to attack and a national emergency is declared. By the end of the book it is clear that all of England is under aerial assault and then everything goes up in flames.
Hitchcock’s movie also features widespread and violent bird attacks over the course of several days. Without giving away the plot to those who haven’t seen the movie, if you have, no doubt you remember the scenes of children being attacked by a wreck of seagulls at a birthday party or a host of sparrows suddenly invading a home through its chimney. Then, as the film develops, a flight of birds attacking a man filling his car with gasoline, which inevitably spills, only to ignite and everything goes up in flames. Or Tippi Hedren, portraying the young socialite Melanie Daniels, trapped in a phone booth as birds viciously attack, then dive-bombing her incessantly as she runs down a country road. Even Hitchcock declared “The Birds” is “the most terrifying motion picture I have ever made.”
Back in 1963, moviegoers flocked to this iconic film. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. If you have, watch it again and I think you’ll agree, this movie withstands the test of time. Check out the photo trailer to view some movie paraphernalia from days gone by that are on display in Bodega Bay. And remember the words of Mrs. Bundy, an elderly ornithologist in the film: “I have never known birds of different species to flock together. The very concept is unimaginable. Why, if that happened, we wouldn’t stand a chance! How could we possibly hope to fight them?” Yes, birds behaving badly, indeed.