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The Birds

By Bret McCabe | Posted 5/28/2008

Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 foray into nature gone inexplicably wild may be the most uncanny movie in a filmography entirely devoted to man's darker instincts, and yet despite--or maybe because of--its preposterous concept, it offers some of the most conflicted feelings of any movie in his oeuvre. Wholesome, lantern-jawed American Mitch (Rod Taylor) meets the blond, urbane Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) in San Francisco, and she pursues him up to his idyllic Northern California hamlet, Bodega Bay, where, for some reason, the area's birds start to attack--and kill--the locals. Hitchcock never qualifies the why of these attacks, although, given the master's knack for putting his sexually available icy blondes through the ringer, you suspect it has something to do with the woman being the pursuer in such a starched-collar era. Nothing in the movie justifies that, though. Instead, you get scenes of comic absurdity, such as the seagull point-of-view insert right before said gulls attack a children's party--and screaming towheads with what look like fake birds attached to the their necks never stops being funny--moving toward moments of actual astonishment, such as the murder of crows gathering outside the local schoolhouse. Curiously effective.

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