Film Review - The Birds

Release date - 1963
Director - Alfred Hitchcock
Genre - Thriller, Horror

The birds is an apocalyptic story of a costal town filed with unexplained and chaotic attacks of “ordinary" birds. We have no idea what causes the birds to turn against humanity and it seems that nobody else does either. Everyone within the film is confused and on edge throughout. This is a film that provides no answers and no escape. Even years after it’s release people are still terrified by the film, maybe because Hitchcock avoided any explanation to the bird attacks on Bodega Bay.

The no answer ending was decided later on during the production as Hitchcock ditched the scripted final scene in favour of an open ending giving the film that perfect closing image that leaves everyone wondering what happens next.

That particular final shot of the film, with the characters driving away from Bodega Bay as they're watched by a large flock of birds was apparently one of the films trickiest scenes, combining live birds, animated birds and puppet birds, along with the car heading towards a detailed matte painting as a backdrop. When asked Hitchcock recalled that the scene composed of 32 well blended separate exposures, saying it was the most difficult shot he'd ever done.

End scene composed of animated birds, puppets, real birds and a matte painting for the backdrop.

Actual matte painting of the final scene.

Sticking to the subject of the actual birds during filming to attract the trained birds the actors often had ground meat or anchovies smeared on their hands. This would have become effective during the scene where the birds attack the school children even though it was done using mostly puppet crows and only a few real trained crows. See in figure 4 how effectively this is being done.


Hitchcock's movie was loosely based on a story of the same title written in 1952 by Daphne Du Maurier, but it is said that Hitchcock also showed interest in a real life event that happened, said to have based the 1963 film on a creepy incident in California where flocks of dying birds flew into the windows of homes in Monterey Bay in 1961. People were being attacked and left rattled after their homes were being attacked by flocks of birds. Some reports say that "Residents, especially in the Pleasure Point and Capitola area were awakened about 3 a.m. today by the rain of birds, slamming against their homes." "Dead, and stunned seabirds littered the streets and roads in the foggy, early dawn. Startled by the invasion, residents rushed out on their lawns with flashlights, then rushed back inside, as the birds flew toward their light." (Santa Cruz Public libraries, N.A)

There isn't much about the actual incident but what is always said is that Hitchcock did truly take inspiration from this attack "Moviemaker Alfred Hitchcock appears to have drawn some inspiration for one of his classic thrillers, "The Birds," with the help of toxin-producing algae." (Parry, 2012)

Scientists were forced to come up with an answer for the freak attack, there answer was simply that the birds were poisoned by toxic plankton. "scientists examined the stomach contents of the dead birds that left the trail of terror in 1961. Examination of the stomachs of the animals revealed toxic algae, which cause amnesia, disorientation and seizures, on three-quarters of the plankton the birds ate." (Chatterjee, 2011)

Below a picture of a police officer who was on patrol the night it happened, apparently saying by the time he could stop his car the birds were raining down on him.


Know knowing that Hitchcock took inspiration from Daphne Du Maurier and a true event we can start to truly see why he has been titled the master of suspense.

Bibliography - 

Santa Cruz, Public Libraries N/A 'Santa Cruz County History - Unusual & Curious' 
From: The Birds. In: http://www.santacruzpl.org [Online]
At: http://www.santacruzpl.org/history/articles/183/
(accessed on 27.02.15)

Parry, Waynne (2012) 'Blame Hitchcock's Crazed Birds on Toxic Algae' From: The Birds.
In: http://www.livescience.com 01.03.12 [online]
At: http://www.livescience.com/17713-hitchcock-birds-movie-algae-toxin.html
(Accessed on 27.02.15)

Chatterjee, Surojit (2011) 'Alfred Hitchcock 'The Birds' Attack Mystery Solved (PHOTOS + VIDEOS)'
From: The Birds. In: http://www.ibtimes.com 29.12.11 [Online]
At: http://www.ibtimes.com/alfred-hitchcock-birds-attack-mystery-solved-photos-videos-709324
(Accessed on 27.02.15)

Illustration List - 

Figure one - DeviantArt: More Like Birds Poster by FabulousFabulous (2015) From: The Birds
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock [Film Poster] United States: Universal Pictures. 
At: www.deviantart.com

Figure two - THE BIRDS (1963) From: The Birds Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock [Film Still]
United States: Universal Pictures. At: www.filminamerica.com

Figure three - The Guardian (27/Sep/2002) - Masters of illusion - The Alfred ... (1963) From: The Birds Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock [Film Still]
United States: Universal Pictures. At: the.hitchcock.zone

Figure four - The Birds (1963) - locations - The Alfred Hitchcock Wiki (1963) From: The Birds Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock [Film Still]
United States: Universal Pictures. At: the.hitchcock.zone

Figure five - Has the mystery behind Alfred Hitchcock's thriller The Birds ... (1963) From: The Birds Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock [Film Still]
United States: Universal Pictures. At: www.dailymail.co.uk

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