Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
The Birds is half love story, half nightmare, and something that is really hard to get away with nowadays. It is a story of many layers, open to the most outlandish of interpretation, and has subtext oozing out of its ears. I've seen this movie a total of three times -- once when I was 7 or 8, and twice in the last week. Between those last two times, it didn't even seem like I was watching the same movie.
So here's the rundown -- Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) is in a bird shop, of all places. There, she is mistaken for an employee by this bumbling egotist Mitch (Rod Taylor), and they talk about lovebirds, of all things. Seems he wants to get some for his sister, but there are none to be found. Melanie, possibly smitten with Mitch or maybe just eager to escape the dullness of her rich life, puts a special order in. Next thing you know, she's on a boat (a little one), cruising across the bay after a two-hour drive, to deliver them to Mitch's house personally. I won't get into the details of whom she's actually bringing the lovebirds for, or anything that she finds out about the family on the way.
This would be because by the time you've reached the hour mark, The Birds have already started to make an impact. It starts with a single seagull attacking Melanie. Then, one flies right into the front door of Mitch's house. Next thing you know, the chickens aren't eating. Then crows are gathering by the dozens on a set of monkey bars. Why are they doing this?
So is it a love story, or a nightmare? When it's all over, there's no doubt that the nightmare will be what sticks with you, but it wouldn't even be so affecting if not for the fact that you cared about what happened to these individuals. Without bringing the development to too "corny" of a level, Hitchcock gives it enough momentum so that when the feathers do start to get ruffled, and characters stop to have integral conversations about where their lives are headed in spite of all that's starting to happen around them, you're invested.
Make no mistake about it though, the last fifteen minutes are pure horror, and only a half a page's worth of lines are spoken. There is at least one other part of the movie in which ten or more minutes pass without a word and yet much is told. Even more is speculated. Such is the beauty of cinematic language. Incidentally, it is a bird that breaks that silence.
This may not be the CGI we're spoiled on, but for its time (1963), it was nothing short of revolutionary. The bird trainers deserve monster props as well. No matter how scary they make the monsters look nowadays, The Birds still, horrifically speaking, competes, because this could actually happen. And it looks like it is.
Nothing that happens within these two hours is implied, except for what may or may not happen after it's over. Otherwise, you may as well be prepared to see everything. When a flock of crows swoop down over a fleeing bunch of schoolkids, you see it all. When a man goes to light a cigar, not realizing that gas is spilling around him, you see the explosion. Nowadays you know they'd be cutting away to whomever was watching before it happened! But that's the whole genius of it -- when you finally are left to imagine something (what happens next), you're not going to imagine an "offscreen massacre". The pictures up to this point have been nothing but vivid, and they will stay that way as your mind conjures the gruesome vision of your own The Birds 2.
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Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older