Our "Hitchcock at the Height" series comes to a close this Wednesday, July 31, with the avian thriller The Birds, which will be introduced by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D.
Terror by the Sea: The Birds
By Kerri Grogan, BMFI Staff Assistant
This year marks the 50th anniversary for Hitchcock's harrowing film, The Birds (1963), but the novelette it was based on was already a decade old by then. Also titled The Birds, it was written by Daphne du Maurier and originally published in 1952. Both feature deadly attacks by birds in a seaside town, but there are some big differences from text to film. One of the main changes was Tippi Hedren's character, Melanie Daniels, who was originally war veteran and family man Nat Hockens.
The other distinctive change is setting. While the original story is set in du Maurier's native Cornwall, Hitchcock moved the story to Bodega Bay, a remote coastal town in California. Eerily enough, two years before the film's release, there was a real avian invasion in the seaside city of Santa Cruz, California. Hitchcock reportedly asked for a copy of the news article covering the event (which you can read here) to use as research material. Obviously the real event had no widespread aftermath, but the novelette does: by the end, all of Britain is suffering from deadly attacks. Hitchcock's film doesn't explicitly have the same apocalyptic results, but it does hint at it.
Hitchcock leaves a very open ending in the film by intentionally omitting a "the end" title card. He wanted audiences to have the impression that the terror faced in the film was ongoing.
Did you know? The attic attack scene took a full week to film, and used only live birds–no puppets. Hedren was injured during filming, and afterwards, she was so exhausted that she had to spend a week in the hospital! Hitchcock leading man Cary Grant happened to be visiting the set that week, and after watching the filming, he called Hedren "one brave lady" for her work on it. [Source]
Kerri Grogan is BMFI’s Staff Assistant. She studied animation at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and moonlights as a dice-rolling, video gaming geek, blogger, and comic artist.