Homage to Hitchcock - The Birds (1963)
Tippi Hedren, Hitchcock’s last ice-cool blonde, was just that. Physically she embodied everything that Hitch had put forth with the likes of Nova Pilbeam, Anne Francis, Madeleine Carroll, Ingrid Bergman (Really? A blonde?), Kim Novak, Janet Leigh, and, of course, Grace Kelly. But emotionally? No direct knock on Ms. Hedren (Mother of Melanie Griffith), but the woman made her living as a model, and given how beautiful she was, Tippi was probably an exceptional one. An actress of depth? Perhaps not.
But Hitch was reaching by this point in his long and illustrious career. Grace had no only left him, but his attempts at replacing her had led to some total whiffs such as Vera Miles, Shirley MacLaine, Doris Day, and Eva Marie Saint. He would try Ms. Hedren once more in the mediocre Marnie (1964), and then bring in Julie Andrews to play the wife of an American physicist, Paul Newman in Torn Curtain.
I guess there are only so many ice cool blondes in Hollywood?
Regrettably, The Birds would be Hitch’s last truly very good and very memorable movie. He would make five more from 1964 through 1976, but the arc of his career finished its ascent with this chilling horror movie.
The Birds had the same effect on people taking a walk in the park that Psycho had on anyone who ventured into a shower with a thin plastic liner as the only protection between you and Tony Perkins. A flock of anything in your vicinity for the next couple years leveled more fear than an incoming ICBM with Cyrillic writing on the side.
The movie features an attack on a diner in Bodega Bay, replete with eyes being pecked out and an exploding gas pump; a literal flock of seagulls ending a grade school party; and the gruesome death of Suzanne Pleshette by a collection of Cormorants.
In addition Ms. Hedren gets trapped in an attic with a particularly virulent bunch of flying razor blades. Movie legend has it that Hitch tormented Ms. Hedren by shooting that scene endlessly AFTER she repulsed his advances in the back seat of a limousine. I guess Harvey Weinstein needed a warm-up act.
The final scene of the movie seals that fear of flying in the minds of everyone. Rod Taylor takes Ms. Hedren and the other survivors of the relentless attacks into a car and drives carefully out of Bodega Bay. Along the power lines strung out on the road ahead of them, and as far as the eye can see is an endless collection of birds perched above. Waiting.
There’s a good shudder to end with.
However, a post-script on this is that Hitch shot a plate of the Golden Gate Bridge and tried to convince the studio to fill the famous arches of it with CG birds as Rod, Tippi, and the rest of
the human prey drive into the seemingly safe confines of San Francisco.
Not sure about that.
Next up, for those of you playing along at home, I’m going to pick my Top Twenty Woody Allen films. I will begin that exercise after a week or two off from this blog. Woody was a man as prolific, but not nearly as fat as Sir Alfred.