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The Birds

“And remember, the next scream you hear may be your own!” 

Year: 1963 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock 
Starring: Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Suzanne Pleshette  
An image from The Birds

One of the most terrifying man versus nature films ever made, The Birds remains one of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpieces.

It begins deceptively, drawing the viewer into the spiky romantic relationship between the feisty Melanie Daniels (Hedren) and the complex Mitch (Taylor). Mitch walks into a San Francisco bird shop intending to buy a bird for his younger sister, but then sees Melanie and recognises her from a previous encounter, but she fails to remember him. Mitch decides to play a prank on her, pretending to mistake her for a salesperson. When Melanie realises the joke she is offended, but nonetheless intrigued. She tracks Mitch down to his home in Bodega Bay, California, where she intends to leave two love birds at his house as a present for his sister. However, while attempting to get away unnoticed, Melanie is attacked by a seagull and Mitch rescues her.

As Melanie gets to know Mitch and his family, his schoolgirl sister and clinging mother, she grows closer to Mitch. Just as things are getting romantic, the bird attacks in the coastal town escalate; first with a crowd of seagulls disrupting a birthday party and then a cloud of crows swarming a group of school children. As they barricade themselves in Mitch’s family home, the protagonists begin to wonder whether these bird attacks are not simply random, but coordinated on a worldwide scale.

Hitchcock builds up the tension masterfully, and with committed performances from a first rate cast and terrifying special effects, this film ranks as one of the great director’s finest.

Charles Eades

After his great success with Psycho, Hitchcock further pushed the boundaries of suspense and his own cinematic techniques with this harrowing nature-gone-awry tale. Tippi Hedren made her film debut as a care-free socialite whose initiation of a practical joke leads her to the small coastal town of Bodega Bay. Rod Taylor is the stoic object of her prank. But nature soon has a joke of it's own when our fine feathered friends begin attacking the townspeople with no apparent motive. Hitchcock takes his time in building the tension, which by the film's end is overwhelming. The series of spectacularly staged attacks is all the more impressive for a crucial missing element: the score. Instead of music, the film has a soundtrack of electronically produced bird screeches and eerie rustles - astounding when you think of the masterful score for the most famous of all Hitch films, Psycho.

The birthday party, the classroom scene and the finale have all assumed legendary status in both the horror genre and the director's body of work. A classic that has stood the test of time, The Birds is terrifying film that makes the everyday frightening - after all, you don't see a blood-hungry vampire everyday. But those cute birdies that sing in your garden everyday - are you sure they're entirely harmless?


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Screenings of this film:

1997/1998 Autumn Term (35mm)
2002/2003 Autumn Term (35mm)
2012/2013 Summer Term (digital)