TERROR FROM ABOVE!
When was the last time you saw a bird and felt a stomach churning sense of fear? Probably never I bet. I mean, what's the scariest bird out there? An Ostrich is pretty big. Not particularly frightening though is it? And all those stories you were told as a kid about Swans being able to break your legs (or was that just me) are pretty much unfounded.
How about an eagle or a vulture? Yeah they're pretty mean looking but you know what? I feel pretty confident I'd be able to take one. It's probably this lack of primal fear (birds have never really been above us in the food chain after all) that has led to the fact that there are very few horror movies out there about our winged friends. However, here's a little look at the exceptions to the rule.
Interestingly, the first real horror movie that revolved around birds is without a doubt, the most famous and most impressive. Plus the title kinda leaves little doubt to what the subject matter is. Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds' (1963).
However, it was another Hitchcock movie – and probably his most famous – that introduced the concept of birds within horror movies. That movie was 'Psycho' (1960).
It's worth noting that none of the birds in Psycho are actually alive. But that isn't really the point. First off, it's worth mentioning that the film starts in Phoenix, Arizona. Also, is it a coincidence that Janet Leigh's character is called Marion Crane? Possibly, but I doubt it.
Norman Bates certainly seems a little obsessed by birds. In one room within Bates' Motel, several pictures of birds hang on the wall. Things are a little bit more sinister in the parlour, where there are several stuffed birds on display. Norman also observes that Marion (Janet Leigh) 'eats like a bird'.
If Pyscho allowed Hitchcock to touch upon this rather odd theme then his next feature allowed him to grope at it repeatedly.
Hitchcock's movie was inspired by a Daphne de Maurier short story – also called 'The Birds' that was published in 1952. The film wasn't the first dramatization of the story however, with a couple of radio episodes being broadcast in the mid fifties.
After an encounter with a suave lawyer named Mitch (Rod Taylor) in a pet shop, Melanie (Tippi Hedren) a young socialite, drives out to his house situated in a small Californian community called Bodega Bay. She purchases a pair of lovebirds en-route (he tried to buy a pair for his sister at the pet shop but they were sold out) and leaves them at his mothers house with a note.
However on her way back she is attacked by a sea gull. Mitch drives past, sees her and invites her back to his for dinner. She quickly befriends not only Mitch's mum but also his little sister, Cathy, as well as his ex girlfriend! Weird set up eh? Later that night a sea gull kills itself by flying into a window. Coincidence? Think again!
The next day, at Mitch's sister's birthday party, things get really weird when a flock of seagulls attack Cathy and her friends. To compound the issue, they are attacked by bunch of sparrows after they get into the house via the chimney!
The next morning, Mitch's ex goes to visit a neighbour who has been having a bit of trouble with his chickens and finds him dead – his eyes have been pecked out! Now chickens, sea gulls and sparrows aren't exactly standard horror fare are they?
But this is Hitchcock we're talking about. He has the ability to make anything menacing, as is the case here. It's partly due to the concept of something so harmless as a sparrow suddenly turning into a killing machine that is so disturbing!
'The Birds' was shot during the Cuban