mag·nif·i·cent/magˈnifəsənt/ (adj.)

1. Impressively beautiful, elaborate, or extravagant; striking.
2. Very good; excellent.

Synonyms: splendid - gorgeous - grand - superb - glorious

WARNING: Some spoilers may be bound but I try to keep them light.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Birds (1963)

DAY 24

"I keep telling you, this isn't 'a few birds'! These are gulls, crows, swifts...!"

The Birds (1963) is a movie that starts like a very typical romantic comedy and then slowly transforms scene by scene into a supernatural horror movie. Tippi Hedren plays a rich prankster named Melanie Daniels who gets a taste of her own medicine when she is fooled by Rod Taylor's character Mitch Brenner. She follows him to his second home in a small town above San Francisco to exact her revenge when things suddenly start to get strange in this small town and the birds are suddenly acting very strangely.

I like the story in The Birds I think the way the story changes and evolves is very well done and very interesting, and keeps you guessing about what is coming next.

I think what Hitchcock did with the soundtrack is really interesting. There's no traditional score at all in this movie, a couple incidental songs, but mostly the movie is silent with some kind of electronic manipulation to make bird-like noises when necessary. This adds a whole level of drama and intensity to scenes that I would have never imagined. I was fortunate to see this film with a full theater recently, and I swear there was parts where you could feel the whole audience holding their breath, the entire theater was very quiet and kind of amazing actually.

Although I liked the theatrical dialogue for the most part there were some scenes where I felt it didn't work as well as others and instances where characters would divulge opinions or talk about thinks in ways that seemed very forced or unnatural. And there's some very dialogue heavy scenes that seem to stretch on for next to forever, I'm not sure if this is just a consequence of having no musical soundtrack or if these scenes are actually just excessively long.

While most of the effects in this movie still hold up there's whole parts where I felt the dated techniques and technology get in the way of the illusion, like the scene where the birds are all coming down from the chimney the scale of the drawn birds didn't match the image of the humans batting them away and there's a whole bunch of parts where birds were obviously cut and pasted on top of shots, the outlines of said birds aren't cut very well so they leave very awkward and unnatural shapes... I found this a bit too distracting.

I'm really fond of Tippi Hedren's performance in this film. She plays the lead, the rich playgirl prankster Melanie Daniels. Somehow she looks absolutely fabulous even while being attacked by a crazy swarm of birds! It's really hard to imagine this is her first major role in a film because it really seems like she has years and years of experience based on how great her acting is. She really brightens a lot of scenes and is a delight to watch.

In this film, I really like how well thought out and developed the characters are, there's a very complex web of each person's different relationships to others and it's handled superbly. This is a film that would have been very easy to half-ass the characters but because they didn't, it really makes the film extra enjoyable.

There's a lot of really specific scenes and moments in this movie I really love. There's a diner scene where a bird-expert, a drunk and a few other lively peoples share their opinions on the strange occurrences. And there's some really awesome dialogue exchanges and scenes with Annie Hayworth and Melanie Daniels and also between Mitch Brenner and Melanie Daniels.

But the thing that really blew me away in this movie is how amazing the suspense is in this film. Especially in the scenes where characters are slowly trying to walk past birds and all the attack scenes in the boarded up house at the climax of the movie. I couldn't believe how these scenes affected me, even today and I'd seen the movie before! Something about the way Hitch slowly builds up the attacks makes the ones toward the end of the movie that much more effective!

The Birds (1963) is a very interesting and inventive film that still today, works very well. There's not a lot of movies like this, and less that are actually pulled off this well. 4.5/5 stars.

Happy watching!

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