Birds, The

Tagged: Film

Film (1963). Universal. Director Alfred Hitchcock. Written by Evan Hunter, based on The Birds (October 1952 Good Housekeeping; 1996 chap) by Daphne du Maurier. Cast includes Tippi Hedren, Suzanne Pleshette, Jessica Tandy and Rod Taylor. 119 minutes. Colour.

Ordinary birds in a small seaside town near San Francisco (see California) suddenly and without explanation launch a series of murderous attacks on people. The appearance of menace out of a clear sky is paralleled, symbolically, by the eruption of strong feeling in the too-perfectly groomed heroine of the Freudian love story that runs through the film. It is the arrival of this woman which apparently precipitates the bird attacks, and she herself is later imaged as a bird in a cage. The attacks are set-pieces, and carry considerable conviction, achieved with skilled editing and through use of a combination of real birds, models and process work by the veteran animator Ub Iwerks (1900-1971), an early colleague of Walt Disney and co-creator of Mickey Mouse. Although very much more sophisticated than usual, this famous film belongs formally and classically to the Monster-Movie genre, where the fragility of human hegemony over Nature and the world is conventionally imaged by a tranquil landscape ravaged without warning by some monstrous, inexplicable fury. The film is not strictly sf, since interestingly it neither seeks nor provides any rational explanation for its furies in terms of scientific meddling, atomic radiation or anything else. But not only is its central metaphor of human control vs natural disorder central to sf, historically it was a focal point of the genre as the catalyst for a whole series of revenge-of-Nature films over the next two decades. [PN]

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