The Birds: Collector's Edition
For an inveterate studio director like Alfred Hitchcock, 1963's The Birds was a substantial undertaking, as he had very little experience with such things as complex matte shots, synthesized sound effects, and (especially) bird wranglers. Unconventional in almost every regard, the project forced Hitch to deal with the sort of special-effects issues that are routine nowadays, and in some ways he broke new ground, as The Birds was the first film to use an entirely synthesized score (which consists of nothing more than bird sounds, not music), and the famous final shot is a remarkable pastiche of 32 separate film elements not so hard to do nowadays with software, but a real pain to do optically in the '60s. Based (barely) on a short story by Daphne Du Maurier, the story centers on socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), who has a chance encounter with defense attorney Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) in a San Francisco pet shop. Mitch pretends to be a customer, while Melanie humors him and pretends to be a salesperson. However, before long Mitch reproves her for a high-profile prank that got into the local papers. Confused but oddly smitten with the good-looking lawyer, Melanie decides to travel to Mitch's nearby hometown of Bodega Bay, and she buys two lovebirds for his young sister Cathy (Veronica Cartwright), who has an upcoming birthday. However, once Melanie arrives in Bodega Bay, strange things start to happen. Taking a small boat to the Brenner family home, she inexplicably is struck on the head by a seagull. Mitch's mother Lydia (Jessica Tandy) is strangely cold to the attractive, well-spoken Melanie, but she's just as concerned about the fact that her chickens have stopped eating. If the exposition seems a bit on the long side, it rarely loses pace, and it makes the "payoff" of The Birds far more worthwhile the audience is given ample time to get to know the characters, which only increases the tension and sense of helplessness as the violence gets underway in earnest. The fact is that The Birds isn't merely a spectacle of savage bird attacks, but instead it is a small story about a few people and how those people interact in the midst of an incomprehensible crisis. And while the wayward plotting and the odd, unresolved conclusion have caused confusion amongst some viewers, it should be noted that The Birds is more akin to a song or a poem, with various verses that build upon themselves and an oft-repeated chorus. The key to understanding and appreciating The Birds is to watch what happens during the quieter moments between the various characters, and how these scenes relate to the increasingly savage, eventually apocalyptic bird attacks. Universal's The Birds: Collector's Edition is sure to satisfy Hitchcock fans, and it's well worth the purchase price. The source print is of excellent quality (in anamorphic 1.85:1), with solid color and very little damage. Audio is in DD 2.0 (mono), and is very clear. Additional supplements include the 80-minute documentary All About The Birds, with numerous insights from the cast and crew; Hedren's screen tests; two newsreels; a deleted scene and an alternate ending, both told with elements of the shooting script, storyboards, and some production stills; a still gallery of publicity shots, posters, and lobby cards; Hitch's original theatrical teaser trailer; production notes; and cast-and-crew bios and filmographies.