A suspenseful horror thriller that often delivers the best its genre has to offer, The Birds is near perfect filmmaking, right up until its puzzling final moments.
Director Alfred Hitchcock remembers that good movies share a common trait: interesting characters. And these characters are excellent. Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette) and Lydia Brenner (Jessica Tandy) are all well developed and easy to care about. Which is why their eventual struggles scare us.
The performances are also high quality.
Perhaps most importantly, The Birds bears the best of Hitchcock’s staples: eerie audio, slow build up of suspense, ominous warnings and intellectual debates from minor characters, etc. Hitchcock was the master of suspense, and it shows here as much as in anything else he directed.
Yet, The Birds isn’t quite perferct. Even for the 1960s some of the effects are poor, the most obvious example being when birds fly out of the Brenner’s fireplace. The birds are on a loop, meaning we see the same birds every few seconds. It is therefore problematic that one of the birds is a more colorful than the others, and that another is near translucent. We see these same oddities over and over again, which draws attention to them.
The ending is a bigger issue, though. This one . . . just . . . ends. I don’t need to know why the birds attacked, or even whether they eventually leave people alone, but it would be nice to see whether or not the characters get out of Bodega Bay.