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What better title could they have come up with for this scary movie than the simple and elegant "The Birds"?
The birds, indeed. They scared me half to death. I'm sure that's why my date (my first ever!) took me to see it. He knew the fear factor would ensure that I would clutch his arm all night long. And I did.
When I saw the movie years later on television, the passage of time, the smaller screen and the fact that I was no longer on my first date with a boy made me see the film with new eyes. It was still scary, but it also had laughs I didn't see before. But I don't think the laughs were intended by Hitchcock; they came from sloppy editing and direction, not because the scriptwriter had written them in.
My favorite bit of editing strangeness came when the character of Melanie, played ably by Melanie Griffith's mother Tippi Hedren, was watching the gas station fire. I'm not sure what Hitchcock was going for, but there were several quick cuts of Hedren in states of frozen and very phony-looking terror. It looked like Hitchcock said, "okay, now look scared," and didn't tell her where to focus her eyes or what she was supposed to be looking at. The results are comical, in an uncomfortable sort of way.
But that's a niggling point, because the definitely movie succeeds at scaring. Apparently it frightened Tippi too. After shooting the final scene in which she was attacked by the birds, she said it was "the worst week of my life." I guess it must have been because they shut down the set for a week to allow her to recuperate. It's interesting and a little ironic that she's such a strong animal activist now. Maybe her experience on the film caused her to want to keep a closer eye on the animal kingdom -- just in case.