The Birds

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 December, 2010, 12:00am

Starring: Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Year of original release: 1963
Genre: horror thriller


The Birds is a horror classic directed by Alfred Hitchcock, cinema?s master of suspense. The screenplay was adapted from a short novel by English writer Daphne du Maurier, but Hitchcock kept only the basic story in which birds begin attacking people. He changed the plot, characters and setting.

The movie takes place in Bodega Bay, a real-life Californian town north of San Francisco. Over a few days, residents become targets for vicious attacks by birds ? without apparent reason. The film, became a classic of the horror genre. It still sends shivers down your spine, especially when you know the bird attacks were staged with very few special effects and no computer graphics. In one scene, actress Tippi Hedren had live birds thrown at her in a cage for several days of shooting. She was bitten and clawed and almost had an eye injury.

The Birds is famous for having no musical soundtrack. As the credits roll, there?s only the electronic sound of wings flapping. To heighten the tension throughout the movie, Hitchcock relied on the ominous screeching of birds.

The plot

Melanie Daniels is a young San Francisco heiress whose father owns a large newspaper. She has her eye on a young man, Mitch Brenner,who lives in the coastal town of Bodega Bay. Melanie decides to pay Mitch a surprise visit. Yet when she gets to his house, a seagull attacks her, gashing her face. During her stay with Mitch, residents in the small town of Bodega Bay are attacked by vicious flocks of birds without cause. Melanie, Mitch and his mother become prisoners in the house, where they grow increasingly terrified as birds begin to gather outside, preparing to mount a massive attack on them.

The most terrifying bird on earth

Don?t ever mess with a cassowary! It?s one of the largest and most bad-tempered birds on the planet. And it doesn?t like humans at all.

The cassowary has a protective crest of armour on its head and its feet are lethal weapons. The middle claw on its three-toed foot is like a dagger: it?s 12 centimetres long and can seriously hurt an enemy. The female cassowary grows to almost 2 metres tall and weighs 60kg.

In 1926, in Australia?s Queensland, 16-year-old Philip McLean and his younger brother became the victims of a terrible cassowary attack. A bird that was defending its territory lashed out at the two boys, who didn?t stand a chance. The younger boy managed to escape, but the bird knocked Philip to the ground and slashed at his throat with its claw. The boy managed to get to his feet, but soon collapsed and bled to death.

The ferocious bird isn?t afraid to attack even dogs foolish enough to try to mess with it. Yet thanks to its beautiful plumage, the cassowary is a great sight to behold ? from a safe distance.

The Master of Suspense

Sir Alfred Hitchcock (1988 ? 1980) was a British filmmaker. He is best known for making some of cinema?s greatest thrillers and suspense movies. Often directors experiment with different genres during their career, but Hitch stuck mainly to one: horror.

After a successful career in his native country, making both silent films and early sound movies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood in 1939. Over a career lasting more than half a century, Hitchcock made himself a name as cinema?s ?Master of Suspense?. When television started to outdo cinema in terms of popularity in the 1950s, Hitchcock embraced the new medium. He produced a popular TV series of halfhour mystery stories called Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Hitchcock directed more than 50 feature films during his long career in Hollywood. Several, like Psycho, Vertigo and The Birds, remain bestsellers on DVD. Most new thrillers and horror ovies
owe a great debt to cinema?s greatest manipulator of fear.

Feathered friends

There are more than 10,000 different species of birds. They range from the tiny hummingbird to the towering ostrich. Our feathered friends have been around since the Jurassic period more than 150
million years ago.

Birds have successfully adapted to all the climates on earth, from penguins in the Antarctic to the myriad tropical species. As a character in Hitchcock?s The Birds notes, if all the birds on earth decided to attack us, we wouldn?t stand a chance.

Since the 17th century, around 120 to 130 species have become extinct as a result of human activity. Hundreds more died out before then. Today, some 1,200 bird species face extinction.

Dead as a dodo

The most famous extinct bird is the dodo, a flightless forest-dweller that died out at the end of the 17th century.

The dodo lived on Mauritius off the coast of Africa, where it was doing nicely until foreign sailors began landing on the island. To the Europeans, the bird looked like a giant pigeon with its dark-gray feathers and white breast tail and wings. Unused to predators, the dodo didn't know how to defend itself. To make things worse for the bird, it laid only one egg at a time and on open ground without protection. European sailors and their animals began hunting the dodo, often for sport, driving it to extinction within decades.