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Alfred Hitchcock and The Birds

Guest Author - Lisa Shea

A classic movie for any Halloween party or gathering is Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. For birders, the movie has added resonance! Be sure to rent or buy The Birds and enjoy one of the classics in horror film

Starring Tippi Hendren as a blonde California woman out to have fun, The Birds shows Hitchcock's skills of psychological manipulation. Unlike horror movies that rely on straight gore and savagery, the birds scared audiences with the moments of quiet, of isolation.


The birds in the movie are seagulls, sparrows and crows, all waiting for their chance to swarm on the helpless people. It struck a nerve with watchers because birds are indeed everywhere, and are usually ignored as friendly or harmless. But what if that flock of doves hanging out on the street decided to become hostile? What if those seagulls circling around at the beach chose to coordinate an attack on someone, for some unknown reason?

The movie was based on a story by Daphne DuMaurier, and the idea was put into Hitchcock's head by an actual news report of seagulls acting strangely on the coast. He wanted to use fake birds, but they didn't film well. A few fake sparrows can be seen in the 'sparrow attack' scene, in the mom's hair. Many gull scenes were shot in San Francisco, where the gulls were naturally nasty.

One of the most remembered scenes involves the crows on the gym equipment in the children's playground. As the children quietly prepare for recess, the crows begin to gather in larger and larger numbers. Soon they are a malevolent force, ready for the attack. Where most filmmakers would have only threatened adults, Hitchcock sends the birds after the kids, bringing out the terror in both kids and adults watching. The image is so strong in our culture that few now see a massive group of crows without being reminded of that scene.

Hitchcock hired Ray Berwick to work with the birds in the film. Ray trained birds for months and months. Ravens and crows are extremely intelligent and even learned to peck hamburger off of actors' faces, for some 'attack' scenes. But the smaller birds were more trouble. In the scene where sparrows fly down the chimney, they tried lowering 2,000 bullfinches down. The bullfinches decided to just hang out on available perches! They ended up having to have the actors pretend to shoo away imaginary birds, and effected in the flying avians.

Seagulls were better. Ray had them trained to circle over actors, attack, and then return to his hand. When working with the children he would carefully wire their beaks shut, just in case, but the birds were extremely well behaved.

The ravens were the smartest and often had minds of their own. One raven, Corvus, hated Rod Taylor and would attack him any time he saw him. Another raven, named Buddy, loved humans and refused to attack them!

Highly recommended as a Halloween movie for any birding fans!

Buy The Birds at Amazon.Com
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Content copyright © 2014 by Lisa Shea. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Lisa Shea. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.

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