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The Birds (film)

The Birds (1963) is a horror film by Alfred Hitchcock, based on a short story by Daphne Du Maurier. (Hitchcock also adapted Du Maurier's novel Rebecca into an acclaimed film) about birds mobbing humans.

The screenplay for The Birds was written by Evan Hunter, better known as crime fiction novelist Ed McBain. This film is notable in that it has no music score per se (other than brief source music); instead a montage of assorted bird calls and sound effects put together by perennial Hitchcock composer Bernard Herrmann provides the "incidental music".

In the film, various kinds of birds attack Bodega Bay, California, a seaside village. It may be noted that in Du Maurier's story, the birds attack Britain instead of California.


Synopsis

Spoiler warning: Plot or ending details follow.

A young lady (Hedren) visits a bird shop on a Friday afternoon. There, she meets Mitch (Taylor), a lawyer that is looking for two lovebirds for his little sister. She pretends to be the shopkeeper, showing him various species of birds, until she accidentally lets out a canary. When Mitch reveals after the incident that he knows her as Melanie Daniels, the daughter of a newspaper magnate, and tells her off for being a spoiled prankster, she decides to pay a visit to his house to get back at him and give his sister the lovebirds that he couldn't obtain. Outside, a flock of pigeons menacingly circle the sky.

When she arrives at the town of Bodega Bay, she seeks out Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette), the local teacher, in order to learn the name of Mitch's sister, Cathy (Veronica Cartwright). Then, she travels out by boat and stealthily enters Mitch's house, placing the present in the living room. On the way back, however, a seagull inexplicably swoops down and claws her.

Cleaning up her wounds, Melanie gives Mitch the alibi that Annie was an old friend of hers and she wanted to pay a visit. She then returns to Annie's house, rents out a room for the weekend, and heads over to Mitch's house for dinner. There, his mother, Lydia (Jessica Tandy), argues with someone over the phone that the chicken feed she bought was defective—her chickens wouldn't eat a bite—only to learn that the vendor's own fowl, who had been given a different brand, had the same problem. After dinner, Melanie returns to Annie's house and the two chat about their past, when a thud is heard against the front door. Opening the door, Melanie discovers a dead crow sprawled on the ground.

The next day, Cathy hosts a birthday party. A peaceful flock of birds make their way across the clear blue sky as Melanie and Mitch walk along the beach. As time goes on, however, the sound of bird calls grows louder, and a shadowy cloud appears over the festivities. All of a sudden, a bird swoops down and switches Cathy on the ear, and an attack on the party commences. Terrified guests rush into the house as birds scratch, peck, and bite at them ravenously and without motive.

From then on, things go from bad to worse as bird attacks increase, both in scope and in violence. Lydia drives over to the farmer who sold her the defective chicken feed and discovers a gory corpse with his eyes gouged out. After fleeing the scene in a hysteria, Lydia begs Melanie to keep watch over Cathy during school the next day. A flock of crows gather in the playground, and when Melanie evacuates the school, they viciously tear at the children, nearly killing one of them.

At a pub where a majority of the children have evacuated, Melanie bears witness to the death of a gas clerk across the street after a seagull attacks him. A trail of gasoline makes its way down the road, to where a man is lighting a cigarette. The cries of bystanders are in vain, and a shattering explosion alerts scores of birds, who attack those who rushed out to help the clerk. Melanie runs to assist, but quickly retreats to a phone booth as she is attacked. From that vantage point, she bears witness to the horrific spectacle as birds rush at her from all angles. The local fire department soon arrives to fight the fire and end up fighting the birds instead. A dying man leans against the booth, slowly collapsing and leaving a streak of blood on the glass, which begins to crack as birds endlessly peck and fly at it. Finally, Mitch ventures into the storm and brings her back into the pub, where a woman accuses her of being cursed.

At last, the screeching of the birds comes to an end. Melanie sets out in search of Annie and Cathy. Annie lies dead on her porch, while a terrified Cathy uncontrollably sobs. Melanie comforts Cathy and Mitch brings Annie inside, as the afternoon descends into dusk.

Cathy, Melanie, Mitch, and Lydia hole up in their house, boarding up all the windows, doors, and openings, with the exception of a single fireplace that has a fire going around the clock. In this claustrophobic environment, the four spend hours wondering when the next attack will come. Finally, a clamor erupts, and Mitch quickly checks and repairs openings while the rest look on, terrified out of their wits. The power goes out, and Mitch gets a flashlight from the basement.

Later on, Melanie wakes up with the intuition that something is terribly wrong. She grabs Mitch's flashlight and carefully examines the rooms, then cautiously treads the stairs, opens a door, and goes inside. Birds attack her from all sides as she gazes at a gigantic hole in the ceiling. Unable to fight, she collapses onto the floor, nearly dying before Mitch comes and rescues her. Realizing that she needs to get to a hospital, he tells the others that they have to leave, and daringly ventures outside to get the car. Here, Hitchcock offers one of the most surreal and apocalyptic scenes to appear on film, as a sea of birds move under a cloudy twilight. Mitch quietly enters the garage and turns on the car radio, which reports that bird attacks have occurred further inland, mentioning the town of Santa Rosa, about thirty miles away. He brings the car around front and helps Cathy, Melanie, and Lydia inside, then drives away, parting waves of birds that seem to lie in anticipation of something...

The ending to this movie is purposefully abrupt in order to allow the audience to make their own guesses as to why these birds attacked. One reason could be revenge/uprising. The caged lovebirds brought along throughout the movie serve as a subtle justification to the bird attacks. Could the birds be getting back at mankind for all the abuse, exploiting and hunting they have been through?


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Could the birds be getting back at mankind for all the abuse, exploiting and hunting they have been through?. Charlton Heston was not only the driver, but the camera operator and sound man. The caged lovebirds brought along throughout the movie serve as a subtle justification to the bird attacks. The camera was mounted on the hood of the car. One reason could be revenge/uprising. This was the first film where the driving scene was acutally filmed from the driven vehicle. The ending to this movie is purposefully abrupt in order to allow the audience to make their own guesses as to why these birds attacked. It was Welles' last Hollywood film.

He brings the car around front and helps Cathy, Melanie, and Lydia inside, then drives away, parting waves of birds that seem to lie in anticipation of something... The film is consistently on the Internet Movie Database's top 250 list, was #64 on American Film Institute's 100 Years, 100 Thrills, and has been deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. Mitch quietly enters the garage and turns on the car radio, which reports that bird attacks have occurred further inland, mentioning the town of Santa Rosa, about thirty miles away. It was only later that Welles really got fat. Here, Hitchcock offers one of the most surreal and apocalyptic scenes to appear on film, as a sea of birds move under a cloudy twilight. Welles appeared as grossly fat in the film and is shot from below to emphasize his corpulence, but in fact the fat is mostly padding. Realizing that she needs to get to a hospital, he tells the others that they have to leave, and daringly ventures outside to get the car. It was Welles's first Hollywood film since Macbeth (1948), and he pulled out all the stops, beginning with the three-minute-long continuous tracking shot, as well as many dark litter-strewn streets, ominous oil wells, and deserted desert highways travelled by slick new American cars with huge tailfins.

Unable to fight, she collapses onto the floor, nearly dying before Mitch comes and rescues her. The film went from 96 minutes to 111 minutes. Birds attack her from all sides as she gazes at a gigantic hole in the ceiling. The producer had put the credits over this shot, but Murch moved the credits to the end as Welles had wanted. She grabs Mitch's flashlight and carefully examines the rooms, then cautiously treads the stairs, opens a door, and goes inside. The most striking change was the opening shot, more than three minutes long, all shot from a crane, in one take. Later on, Melanie wakes up with the intuition that something is terribly wrong. Some of these suggestions were accepted at the time, but the release on DVD was made as close to Welles' original idea as possible using the original footage.

The power goes out, and Mitch gets a flashlight from the basement. The DVD includes a 58-page memo written in 1958 by Welles after he had seen the producer's cut of the movie (the memo is also included as an appendix to This Is Orson Welles). Finally, a clamor erupts, and Mitch quickly checks and repairs openings while the rest look on, terrified out of their wits. It had a limited but successful theatrical release (again by Universal International) and was subsequently made available on DVD. In this claustrophobic environment, the four spend hours wondering when the next attack will come. The 1998 version was produced by Rick Schmidlin and edited by Walter Murch. Cathy, Melanie, Mitch, and Lydia hole up in their house, boarding up all the windows, doors, and openings, with the exception of a single fireplace that has a fire going around the clock. Inevitably, Welles's film was given little publicity despite the fame of the director, the sensational subject matter, and the many stars in the cast.

Melanie comforts Cathy and Mitch brings Annie inside, as the afternoon descends into dusk. The two films even had the same cameraman: Russell Metty. Annie lies dead on her porch, while a terrified Cathy uncontrollably sobs. The A-movie, ironically, was The Female Animal, starring Hedy Lamarr, produced by the same Albert Zugsmith and directed by the same Harry Keller whom the studio had hired to direct the re-shot material in Touch of Evil. Melanie sets out in search of Annie and Cathy. The movie was literally a B-movie, released as the lower half of a double feature. At last, the screeching of the birds comes to an end. The producer was Albert Zugsmith, known as the "king of the B's".

Finally, Mitch ventures into the storm and brings her back into the pub, where a woman accuses her of being cursed. Nonetheless, even as originally released it was a film of power and impact, though little commercial success. A dying man leans against the booth, slowly collapsing and leaving a streak of blood on the glass, which begins to crack as birds endlessly peck and fly at it. Universal International acquiesced with bad grace. Welles rewrote the script, but after he completed the movie, it was re-edited (and in part re-shot) by Universal International pictures and it was not until 1998 (and the fourth version) that it was released in something like the original form intended by Welles. The local fire department soon arrives to fight the fire and end up fighting the birds instead. Heston pretended to think that Welles was going to direct and based his acceptance of the part on that. From that vantage point, she bears witness to the horrific spectacle as birds rush at her from all angles. According to Heston, Welles was originally intended to act in the film only, and Heston was highly sought for the lead.

The cries of bystanders are in vain, and a shattering explosion alerts scores of birds, who attack those who rushed out to help the clerk. Melanie runs to assist, but quickly retreats to a phone booth as she is attacked. This was among Mancini's first credited scores. A trail of gasoline makes its way down the road, to where a man is lighting a cigarette. The score by Henry Mancini greatly heightens the atmosphere: the cacophony in the streets of loudspeakers from rival bars, a player piano in Dietrich's parlor that stands in for Quinlan's conscience, a jukebox in the gangster's bar, and the roar of crazy, anonymous Mexican rock and roll in the motel where Janet Leigh is kept prisoner. At a pub where a majority of the children have evacuated, Melanie bears witness to the death of a gas clerk across the street after a seagull attacks him. Marlene Dietrich's role was a surprise to the producers and they raised her fee so they could advertise her involvement. A flock of crows gather in the playground, and when Melanie evacuates the school, they viciously tear at the children, nearly killing one of them. Many of the actors worked for lower wages just to make a film with Welles.

After fleeing the scene in a hysteria, Lydia begs Melanie to keep watch over Cathy during school the next day. Welles's old friend, Joseph Calleia, gives a moving performance as Quinlan's toady, along with other members of the Welles repertory company, Joseph Cotten, Keenan Wynn, Ray Collins (the police detective on Perry Mason), and Mercedes McCambridge as a butch biker chick. Lydia drives over to the farmer who sold her the defective chicken feed and discovers a gory corpse with his eyes gouged out. Zsa Zsa Gabor was a friend of the producer. From then on, things go from bad to worse as bird attacks increase, both in scope and in violence. Welles liked what Weaver did as Chester on TV's Gunsmoke and worked closely with him on his part, which was shot on a three-day hiatus from the TV show. Terrified guests rush into the house as birds scratch, peck, and bite at them ravenously and without motive. Akim Tamiroff plays a border mobster with a madly wandering toupee, Dennis Weaver is a loony night man at a deserted motel, and Zsa Zsa Gabor appears briefly as the impresario of a strip club.

All of a sudden, a bird swoops down and switches Cathy on the ear, and an attack on the party commences. The film is filled with character actors playing their roles with great menace and aplomb. As time goes on, however, the sound of bird calls grows louder, and a shadowy cloud appears over the festivities. The final scene is a stately chase, with Vargas wrestling with a cranky recorder while Quinlan's partner wears a wire and gets him to confess his crimes, with the radio recorder becoming virtually a fourth character. A peaceful flock of birds make their way across the clear blue sky as Melanie and Mitch walk along the beach. The border setting provides Welles with an opportunity to comment on the relations between the United States and Mexico and the treatment of Mexicans by American law enforcement. The next day, Cathy hosts a birthday party. Touch of Evil is rich and ripe with menace and atmosphere as Leigh is abducted by hoodlums and Heston attempts to find her, with the moody border ambiance provided by Venice, California with a two sleazy hotels, a desolate motel, and three or four broken down bars, and strip joints, as well as Dietrich's kitsch-filled parlor.

Opening the door, Melanie discovers a dead crow sprawled on the ground. In fact, Welles was injured during filming and actually needed the cane. After dinner, Melanie returns to Annie's house and the two chat about their past, when a thud is heard against the front door. Quinlan's cane, an allusion to Citizen Kane, plays a major part in the film. There, his mother, Lydia (Jessica Tandy), argues with someone over the phone that the chicken feed she bought was defective—her chickens wouldn't eat a bite—only to learn that the vendor's own fowl, who had been given a different brand, had the same problem. Quinlan is not on the take, but is bitter about the unsolved murder of his wife early in his career and has come to believe he can spot the guilty with his intuition, an aching in his bad leg, and he was willing to frame the guilty to make sure they get their just desserts. She then returns to Annie's house, rents out a room for the weekend, and heads over to Mitch's house for dinner. Capt.

Cleaning up her wounds, Melanie gives Mitch the alibi that Annie was an old friend of hers and she wanted to pay a visit. It is not to be confused with another movie of the same title which aired on Mystery Science Theater 3000 during its later years. On the way back, however, a seagull inexplicably swoops down and claws her. The movie was written in two weeks by Welles based on Whit Masterson's novel Badge of Evil. Then, she travels out by boat and stealthily enters Mitch's house, placing the present in the living room. The black-and-white film also features Charlton Heston as Mike Vargas, a Mexican narcotics agent on his honeymoon, Janet Leigh ("at her most perversely innocent" as one critic put it) as his bride, and Marlene Dietrich as Tanya, a cigar-smoking Mexican gypsy brothel owner with huge beautiful eyes. When she arrives at the town of Bodega Bay, she seeks out Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette), the local teacher, in order to learn the name of Mitch's sister, Cathy (Veronica Cartwright). It was directed by Orson Welles, who also appeared as a strangely corrupt policeman, Captain Hank Quinlan.

Outside, a flock of pigeons menacingly circle the sky. Touch of Evil (1958), was one of the last and one of the greatest examples of film noir ever made. When Mitch reveals after the incident that he knows her as Melanie Daniels, the daughter of a newspaper magnate, and tells her off for being a spoiled prankster, she decides to pay a visit to his house to get back at him and give his sister the lovebirds that he couldn't obtain. I probably learned more about acting from Welles than any other film director I've worked for." Charlton Heston. She pretends to be the shopkeeper, showing him various species of birds, until she accidentally lets out a canary. It was a remarkable experience for me, a great learning experience, one of the most valuable I've had in my whole film career. There, she meets Mitch (Taylor), a lawyer that is looking for two lovebirds for his little sister. If it is not Citizen Kane, it has been listed not far behind Kane in the list of Welles' films.

A young lady (Hedren) visits a bird shop on a Friday afternoon. "Touch of Evil, of course, was made by one of the great directors.
. "Come on, read my future for me." /"You haven't got any." / "What do you mean?" / "Your future is all used up." (Quinlan and Tanya). It may be noted that in Du Maurier's story, the birds attack Britain instead of California. What does it matter what you say about people?...Adios!" (Tanya, as Quinlan's corpse floats face up in a muddy river at the end of the movie). In the film, various kinds of birds attack Bodega Bay, California, a seaside village. "He was some kind of a man.

This film is notable in that it has no music score per se (other than brief source music); instead a montage of assorted bird calls and sound effects put together by perennial Hitchcock composer Bernard Herrmann provides the "incidental music". "A policeman's job is only easy in a police state." (Mike Vargas). The screenplay for The Birds was written by Evan Hunter, better known as crime fiction novelist Ed McBain. "Honey, you're a mess." (Tanya to Quinlan). (Hitchcock also adapted Du Maurier's novel Rebecca into an acclaimed film) about birds mobbing humans. The Birds (1963) is a horror film by Alfred Hitchcock, based on a short story by Daphne Du Maurier.

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