Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Review: The Birds

OK, here's anothertime where I swoop in for a peck at a disappointing book-to-film.

I had read Daphne Du Maurier's short story The Birds, but it wasn't devotion to that which mde this film so disappointing. I wasn't exactly expecting it to be the same, as the short story - chilling as it was - wasn't what I thought could be made into a feature length film. However, I did expect better from Hitchcock the LEGEND.

I wasn't so disappointed in the not so fab effects, of course it's an older film (1963) and the fact that it's oh so obvious that the heroine is driving a stationary car against an indoor scenery when it's meant to be a fine sunny day outside, and the blood and wounds are fake as (the birds peck faces, they scream, drop almost dead there's fake blood, but the blood is washed off and there's not so much the sight of a gash) was to be expected. Nor that the accents were unbearably plummy. Or that the little girl was an unbearably tryhard child actress, labouring every line.

Trouble is, the film just isn't suspenseful enough. That's really it. There's some scenes with hope - for instance, the birds in the attic, or gathering on the play equipment, but there's too much levity in between, you just don't realistically feel that the birds have got into everyone's heads. I wanted them freaked out more.

I would have liked Hitchy to have built up more on the idea of the birds getting to people so much, they witchhunted his girlfriend and they went mad, and that they drove his mother REALLY loopy. That kind of psychological terror could really have been explored further, with the birds just wearing people down more and more.

It would have been different from Daphne's idea, but I think, would've worked better than what was presented.


TimT said...

I think Hitchcock was less interested in terrifying the audience than in observing the emotions he could cause in the characters/actors. And in the fab sf idea of one species turning en masse on another, for no reason at all. That's pretty much what I liked about it, anyway. A post 1970s-horror director probably would have camped up the idea a lot more, with birds lurking in dark places, whole scenes flowing with blood and gore, etc, but that's because they're more interested in getting a rise out of the audience, and making them feel they've had an 'experience' (a little like addicts want a hit - 'Anything will do') so they will keep paying for more.

Apparently he drove one of the actresses to tears by repeatedly hurling dummy birds at her. You can probably see that in one of the scenes of the film....

I loved the film when I saw it. It was just so original, even for Hitchcock, who usually focuses more on psychological suspense or spy dramas. Then again, it's been a while.

Maria said...

I heard that some of the birds were drunk!

I liked some scenes - oh, and I couldn't help but think "The Working Class" when I saw the birds gathering on the play equipment. Unfortunately I was expecting it to hit me with more horror and it just didn't do it for me.

Also, I liked the nutty lady in the bar who was an expert on birds. Kudos to the playgirl who managed to totter about in high heels everywhere - I would have taken them off and run barefoot if I were being chased by rabid birds!

I love the idea of birds attacking for no reasons. Unlike many of the imdb critics, I saw no reason for there to be a resolution as to WHY they attacked. I just wanted it to be a bit madder - not necessarily with gore, but with freaked out people.

Maria said...

Oh, I can see here that there is a remake of Hitchcock's classic in pre-production, with Naomi Watts, directied by Martin Campbell. I'm sure it won't please the Hitchcock fans, and if Watts is the lead, it will probably be a remake, not just another story based on Daphne's book, trying to stick closer to Daphne's story.

(Daphne's story was centred around a male who had a family that was attacked by birds. No rich playgirl initiated the atack)

Despite me saying Hitchcock's wasn't completely satisfying, I probably would be more interested if someone was inventive enough to do another Birds story, and attempt to rewrite it, trying another take on Daphne's invention instead of just redoing Hitchcock's idea. After all there are so many possibilities, and Daphne had a very different development and ending, and Hitchy has very much put his stamp on his; despite its lacking as I saw it it was innovative for its time and he put a lot of creativity in it.

Maybe trying to see it differently would be quite an exercise for a director, I'd like to see that. After all the main thing Hitch took from Daphne was "There is a town by the water, and for no apparent reason, birds attack, birds of all types." He took some ideas like them coming down the chimney, the house lock down and finding someone in the house dead and people not first believing the bird attacks. Otherwise his was quite different from Daphne in mood and plot and characters. And many plots could be written around this idea.

Mr Mean said...

If Naomi Watts is in the remake, I think at the very least she'll be more convincing as the distresses heroine. On the other hand, you'll wanna bet modern-day Hollywood will insist on spelling out the reason why the birds attack.

There's a mildly amusing discussion thread on IMDB titled, “Things not in the original film that Michael Bay will add for the remake.

Mr Mean said...

TimT, I have to say Tippi Hedren looked pretty damned wooden in the movie to me. Like Maria said, though, kudos to her for managing in high heels so well in every scene.

Maybe they'll now cast Hedren in the remake as the hero's mother!