Paint-Soiling Scenes #22: THE BIRDS

My friend Eve is scared of birds. She runs away from them. Isn’t it weird how mammals of our size can be freaked out by such tiny creatures: spiders, bees, scuttling scorpions? Most of these critters have been at the centre of some Nature’s Revenge film of some sort. Jaws is probably the most responsible culprit but, even twelve years earlier, Hitchcock had unleashed an unstoppable tirade of winged attackers on the human population of California.

‘Tis The Birds, 1963’s finest killer-bird film. Hitchcock really pushes the extent of his abilities, namely making the ordinary somehow unsettling. Bodega Bay – like Amity Island in 1975 – is a colourful, quaint little cove of a place, chock full of happy people, pretty architecture and a slow pace of life, soon to be invaded by ‘our friends’ the birds…

And he does it all without a single note of music.

This scene rates as one of the best in the movie: Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), goes to the Bodega Bay School and finds that a huge flock of birds are waiting outside. Waiting for the children… The children who are inside the school singing some creepy pigglety pagglety mow mow mow song.

They flee, the birds scatter, beaks peck at kiddies. In modern movies, kids are hardly ever short of irritating, fucking obnoxious little brats who always evade serious injury. The Bodega Bay Class of ’63 – including 12-year-old Veronica Cartwright – are cute, well-behaved sprogs and we wish them no harm, making the scene that whole lot more scary.

Hitchcock was never one for standard eerie imagery – shadows, long slow pans et al – but he was masterful in extracting the creepy from all other avenues, this being a prime example.

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