Thanks to Fathom Events and TCM, Carlos and I went to go see The Birds (1963) last night at our local AMC theater.
I hate to admit it but I've been avoiding watching The Birds for years. None of Alfred Hitchcock's post Psycho (1960) films appeal to me and I usually stay in the safe territory of his 1940s and 1950s masterpieces. The idea of a movie about flocks of birds attacking a pretty blonde woman just didn't entice me. However, in the past few years I've become more and more open-minded to watching things I've avoided in the past. In doing so, I have discovered new favorites. So when the opportunity to see The Birds (1963) on the big screen came along, I was pretty excited and jumped on the chance to see it.
The film started with some TCM promos and some trivia questions. I think these kind of screenings benefit everybody. It gets folks into theaters during the middle of the week, a dead time for most movie theaters. It gives TCM an opportunity to promote their brand and products. And it also gives classic movie fans, especially ones who don't have access to repertory houses which screen old movies, a chance to watch some of our favorite classics on the big screen. It's a win-win-win situation all around and I hope this continues.
They completely sold me on this Alfred Hitchock: The Masterpiece Collection Limited Edition Blu-Ray boxed set. WANT!
Before the screening, we got to see an introduction to the film by Robert Osborne, an interview between Robert Osborne and Tippi Hedren from the last Turner Classic Movies Film Festival and archival interviews of Rod Taylor (from 1995) and Suzanne Pleshette (from 2003). We got to learn about how Alfred Hitchcock picked Tippi Hedren from an advertisement and had Universal court her for a movie. She became part of Hitchcock's entourage but it would be a couple years before he gave her a movie. Her very first one was The Birds. I love that she credits Jessica Tandy for inspiring her to play a more sympathetic character. And I thought it was very neat that Tippi wore the bird pin that Hitchcock gave her when he cast her in The Birds. Hitchcock seemed to be such an interesting but odd person. He tended to be possessive of his blonde starlets and collected them over the years. As Osborne said in the intro, each actor had a different experience with the director. Some good, some bad, some mixed. Hitchcock never treated one person the same as the next.
There is nothing new I can say about The Birds and I came to it with hardly any knowledge of the film. So I will just share my reactions. I wasn't too crazy about the movie but there were things I really enjoyed. The lack of music added a creepiness to the film which I thought was very effective. The bird noises were quite overwhelming. Carlos and I both found ourselves with our fingers in our ears at different points. You are supposed to be disturbed by the film so I found that to be effective as well. There is no musical soundtrack however Bernard Herrmann is listed as Sound Director. The only music really is the song you hear the girls singing in the Bodega Bay School.
The performances were so-so. I don't think anyone was spectacular and I thought Tippi Hedren's performance was just awful. I realize that she was a model and this was her first role so I give her some benefit of the doubt. It didn't help that I disliked her character Melanie Daniels and found no sympathy for her either.
The setting was amazing. Bodega Bay was quite a perfect choice. A big expansive space but still isolated and small. Edith Head was Tippi Hedren's costume designer but Tippi only wears one outfit the entire time.
The ending was very abrupt. All of a sudden we saw the Universal Pictures sign and that was it. We kept waiting for more. I knew that was Hitchcock's touch but we didn't even get to see the lights turn on because it's a satellite fed screening and there was no one there to oversee it.
Leaving the movie I kept asking myself lots of questions. Why did the birds attack the people of Bodega Bay? What was the purpose of them doing that? Was it an anti-feminist message? Was Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) and her romantic pursuit of Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) too much of a reversal of the sexes? Was she being punished for "acting like the man"? Was she being cursed? Was she a witch? Was it the ghost of Mr. Brenner who caused this? Was it a coincidence that she arrived at Bodega Bay right around the time the birds went crazy? How did they collect all those birds? Why did Melanie open that last door to the attic? Why did Fathom Events and TCM use a lot of blue in the promo image when the movie was clearly green? Why did my stomach keep making noises during the showing? WHY?!
Overall, it was a good experience. About 25 people showed up to the screening and no one laughed! And I'm looking forward to more Fathom Events and TCM screenings to come.
Update: One of my giveaway winners Jena pointed out to me this trailer for an upcoming movie about the making of The Birds (1963). It focuses on the strange relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren. Tippi Hedren is played by Sienna Miller and Hitchcock by Toby Jones. I had seen some publicity photos online but wasn't sure what it was for. Watch the teaser trailer below: