Sunday, October 18, 2020


After THE EXORCIST and THE HAUNTING, I'd have to say that Alfred Hitchcok's THE BIRDS is my third scariest movie of all time. I mean, from Hitchcock's radio ads declaring that "The Birds is Coming" (at the time, I thought, "shouldn't it be 'are coming'"?), to sitting through the film as an 8 year-old Monster Kid, this movie flew (pun intended) to the top of my most scary list. After numerous viewings over the year, for me it still maintains that frisson of fear that we all look for in a good thriller. Seriously, can you imagine being pecked to death?

Here is an article from that delves into some of the lesser known facts about the movie. Some of them I knew, bit several others were new to me, and they may be new to you, as well. And, oh, if you've never seen this film, you are not only missing out on on of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest films, but also one of the greatest of films.

10 Things You Never Knew About Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds
The Birds is one of Alfred Hitchcock's most well-known films and often thought of as his best. Here's some behind the scenes secrets about the movie.
By Jake Dee | October 14, 2020 |

Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds continues to be regarded as one of the scariest movies ever made. In 2001, the film was listed at #7 on the American Film Institute's compilation of the 100 Greatest American Thrillers of all time. In addition to its 96% Certified Fresh Rotten Tomatoes score, the film also currently boasts a 90/100 Metacritic rating.

Released in U.S. theaters on March 29, 1963, The Birds follows Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), a single San Francisco socialite who, upon a visit home in Bodega Bay, becomes attacked by ferocious flocks of birds of every stripe. With the film approaching its 58th anniversary, here's a detailed look back at The Birds' production history.

10. Inspiration
According to It's Only a Movie, Alfred Hitchcock obtained the rights to Daphne Du Maurier's short story The Birds in 1955, with plans for its use on his TV show Alfred Hitchcock Presents. However, very little of Du Maurier's story is present in the film adaptation.

In 1961, a similar phenomenon to the plot of the film occurred in Santa Cruz, California. On August 18, 1961, the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper published the hysterical headline, "Seabird Invasion Hits Coastal Homes," before detailing a story about millions of birds crashing into residential homes and causing major damage. Hitchcock began filming the movie shortly after reading about the incident.

9. Casting
Before Rod Taylor was cast as the male lead Mitch Brenner, Hitchcock considered his long-time collaborator Cary Grant for the role. Other names were considered before Hitchcock decided he didn't need a big star, as he felt his name the birds were the main attraction. Farley Granger was one of Hitchcock's first choices for the role.

Sean Connery, who starred in Hitchcock's follow-up film Marnie, was also considered for the role of Mitch. Audrey Hepburn was up for the role of Melanie, while Sandra Dee screen-tested and Jill Ireland auditioned for the role.

8. Special Effects
According to an interview with Dick Cavett, Hitchcock admitted that roughly 3,200 real birds were trained for use in the film. Hitch also admitted that the ravens were the most clever, while the seagulls were the most ferocious.

According to The Making of Hitchcock's The Birds, Universal spent roughly $200,000 creating mechanical birds for the film, although most of the birds depicted onscreen were real. A total of 320 special effects shots were used in the movie, including the final composite shot which is comprised of 32 separately filmed images. The film earned an Oscar for Special Effects but lost to Cleopatra.

7. Mitch Named After Restaurateur
In the source novel, the main male character is named Nat Hocken. Very little is retained from the novel in the film version, but when it came time to rename the lead character, Hitchcock made an inclusive deal with a local restaurateur.

During production, the owner of the Tides Restaurant seen in the film (Mitch Zanich), allowed Hitchcock to film there under the condition that he name the lead character after himself. Hitchcock not only agreed, but he also gave Zanich a minor speaking role as a man who asks, "What happened, Mitch?" after a Melanie suffers an attack.

6. Schoolhouse Scene
According to Tippi Hedren in her memoir, the schoolhouse featured in The Birds was genuinely haunted in real-life, which frightened her castmates, but made Hitchcock want to film there even more. Despite appearing as if in Bodega Bay, the schoolhouse was located roughly five miles away from town.

To increase the terror, reshoots were done on a Universal backlot for the scene in which the children race from the schoolhouse in horror as the birds begin to attack. Children were placed on treadmills and told to run in place, while footage of birds attacking was added through rear-projection. The scene was extremely difficult to shoot and took a few days to complete.

5. Lack of Musical Score
Despite several pieces of diegetic music heard in the film, The Birds is bereft of an official musical score. This was a deliberate choice by Hitchcock to create as much tension as possible. According to the book Hitchcock's Secret Notebooks, it was Psycho composer Bernard Herrmann's idea for the film to have no music. As such, Herrmann is credited as a Sound Consultant.

The scant music heard in the film includes Oskar Sala's bird sounds, Hedren playing Debussey's "Two Arabesques" on the piano, and the schoolchildren crooning "Risseldy Rosseldy."

4. Akira Kurosawa's Favorite Hitchcock Film
Shortly before his death in 1998, legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa compiled an unranked list of what he considered to the greatest 100 movies ever made.

While he limited the list to include only one film per admired director, Kurosawa named The Birds as his favorite Hitchcock movie. In his corresponding reason for choosing the film, Kurosawa cited that the images of so many birds stirred in him a genuine sense of dread and wonderment as to how Hitchcock was able to achieve the scene.

3. Climactic Attack Scene
The climactic scene of the film in which Melanie is brutally bombarded by a murder of crows took seven days to complete. Mechanical birds were attached to Hedren's clothing so they wouldn't let up. Tippi Hedren suffered a real gash to her cheek during the scene and required a stint in the hospital for exhaustion when the scene was completed. Hedren subsequently called it the worst week of her life.

As a result, when Mitch carries Melanie down the stairs after the attack, the actress in the scene in Hedren's stunt double. The shot was filmed while Hedren was still in the hospital recovering.

2. Ideas For Ending
The Birds concludes with Mitch, Melanie, and Lydia slowly escaping through a sea of ominously perched birds outside their house as they drive out of town. Several other ideas to end the film were considered, including one that got as far as having concept art developed.

According to original storyboards, the alternate ending that gained the most traction would have portrayed the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco completely covered in birds, foreshadowing a frightening takeover.

1. Film Premiere
Following the UK premiere at the famed Odeon Theater in Leicester Square, London, unsuspecting filmgoers were suddenly met with the sound of screaming and flapping birds as they exited the screening.

The sounds came from speakers hidden in the surrounding trees and bushes, meant to increase the fear in various audience members as they left the premiere. Also in attendance at the London premiere were two flamingos, six penguins, and 50 starlings and red cardinals.

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