Monday, January 07, 2008

The Birds: Watching with New Eyes

Last night Julie and I watched the last half of The Birds, the legendary Alfred Hitchcock movie set in Bodega Bay, California. This movie came out in 1963, when I was 1 year old. And yet, I know that I saw it several times (and was terrified by it) before I was 10.

The Birds was a revolutionary film in terms of concept, special effects, and story. And yet, viewed from our thoroughly modern viewpoint of 2008, the special EFX are downright laughable. Same with the patrician accents in which all the actors speak.

But The Birds also, unintentionally, set bird watching back as a socially acceptable behavior by at least two decades. This happened on two levels. First, by elevating birds to Potential Monster Status (there are billions of them and they could attack at any moment). And secondly by placing, smack in the middle of a riveting horror film, a memorable stereotypical characterization of a dowdy bird watcher: Mrs Bundy—complete with beret, long face, über-serious mien, and tact-free know-it-allness. She even mentions the Christmas Count!

Also starring in Hitchcock's avifaunal classic were Jessica Tandy, Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette, and the ever blond and perky Tippi Hedren.

We were enthralled once more by The Birds. And we were amazed that we could recall each scene in great detail—almost like watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show! where you scream things at the characters on screen. "No Tippi! You DITZ! DO NOT take the convertible into town! The birds are attacking! They will SERIOUSLY mess up your bouffant!"

I momentarily came out of my flashback to grab a digital camera and snap off a few shots of the TV screen. Here's YOUR flashback, my friends.

Perched outside the Bodega Bay School waiting for the kids to come out to play,
a flock of common ravens hangs around like a gang of juvenile delinquents.

Long before the Bob Newhart Show, Suzanne Pleshette was an early 60s hottie. Her eyes were pecked out by California gulls moments later.

Fire drill gone very wrong. Everyone knows that if you run, it just makes the bird madder and more hungry for eyeball juice. No kids were harmed (much) in the filming of this scene.

Last one down the hill into town has to go to the hospital! Don't forget your homework!

Wearing your corn necklace to school in Bodega Bay is sure to attract ravens.

Tippi Hedren. Wide-spaced eyes. Hair perfect. Mascara perfect, Skin perfect. Lips perfect. All the things that birds HATE!

Not only is Mrs Bundy the bird watcher a blow-hard, she also smokes
and does not know the proper Latin names of the members of the Corvidae family.

Mrs Bundy says: "I have never known birds of different species to flock together. The very concept is unimaginable.
Why, if that happened, we wouldn't stand a chance! How could we possibly hope to fight them?"

Rod Taylor had trouble keeping the birds out of his mom's house. Clearly these California gulls has interbred with some Campephilus woodpeckers to acquire the ability to peck though thick wooden doors.

Tippi's nightmare. She'd been told by Hitchcock that the birds would all be stuffed and dead. When stagehands threw live birds at her, her horror was positively cinematic!

Foreshadowing the Ralph Macchio role in The Karate Kid, Tippi survived the worst the birds could deal her.

I couldn't help wondering if these species were new for their Yard List.

The sun's glory rays shining down on Bodega Bay as the survivors drive to San Francisco in a tiny convertible. Later on they caught the very first Grateful Dead show in Golden Gate Park and it totally changed their lives.
They returned to Bodega Bay to found the Point Reyes Bird Observatory.

You know, the irony is that Bodega Bay is one of the very best birding spots in the West. You've GOT to go birding there. Just don't take the convertible.

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