In times of COVID pandemic, it's scarier than ever to watch Alfred Hirtchcock's The Birds, released in 1963. Since I used to live round there, the dichotomy between art and reality had an even greater impact than an ordinary movie. We knew that gas station when it was still hand pumped, and the pier when it was still worked by fishermen, bringing in their catch. We used to drive past the schoolhouse, up a narrow lane. One year the rose covered cottage where Annie the schoolteacher supposedly lived, but didn't join the crowds of tourists who went to view. Some scenes filmed on location, others copied in studio, but absolutely convincing. So scenes such as Melanie sitting "driving" a car against a badly cut filmed background of birds might have been deliberatly unsettling - what is real, what is not ?
Hitchcocks The Birds works on many levels. Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hendren) is a rich bitch whose life is aimless so she does silly stunts like dancing naked in a public fountain and smashing. Daddy's a millionaire newspaper owner., so she gets away with anything, including getting reporters to track people down by their car licence plates - illegal then, as now. While she's in a bird shop, a lovebbird escapes and goes berserk flying round the room. What does it know ? Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) gently catches it and puts it back in its cage. Melanie becomes obssessed with Mitch and figures out a way to stalk him, even if it means sailing a boat across Bodega Bay to his home. She brings him a pair of lovebirds, but lies non stop about her motives. Yet he lets her into his life. Annie, (Susanne Pleshette) knows something's wrong with Melanie but she loves Mitch so much she's willing to play second fiddle rather than lose him.. Mitch's mother Lydia (Jessica Tandy) also has psychiatric issues so perhaps Mitch, Annie and his family are in cages of their own. Melanie blames hrer problrems on her mother who walked out on her but doesn't wonder why her mother needed to do that in the first place. Though the mayhem doesn't start til the birds go mad, the people here are already waiting to explode.
The family hides out at their farm, which is boarded up in vain defence. But the birds get in, through the attic and attack Melanie. They don't really know what's happening outside Bodega Bay except that most locals have evacuated, they're alone and attacks have occured in Santa Rosa (nearest major hospital) so they start to drive to San Fransisco. But as they're fleeing, the car is besieged. What happens ? Hitchcock's The Birds is a masterpiece. Nature can turn the tables without notice. The trappings of civilisation collapse quickly when people think they know better than Nature