Angry Birds

An hour outside of San Francisco, there’s a tiny rural town, still poking along as if unfazed by expanding city life. To them, Melanie (Tippi Hedren) represents an invasion. An outsider, wearing a fur coat and expensive jewelry, hunting for a man she momentarily met in a pet store. Maybe, possibly, for a weekend fling. Nothing could offend these people more.

Hitchcock uses his avian villains as a defense mechanism; in The Birds, nature protects. Overpopulated cities cost birds their land. Pet stores lock them into cages. People know it’s all wrong – they say as much throughout the film – but nothing is done to stop it. Hedren’s arrival is a catalyst, partly for representing a changing way of life, and given The Birds is Hitchcock’s, a well defined sexuality.

The first bird strikes Hedren on a boat. She’s looking lustfully at her potential boyfriend, Rod Taylor. Another seagull slams into the door belonging to the local school teacher, minutes after she trades thoughts about Taylor and their flings. With their first major strike, the birds swoop down on a children’s birthday party, this after Hedren shares intimate stories with Taylor.

To see a tiny swift – not a vulture, hawk, or eagle – sitting near a fireplace and feel dread is a sign of total cinematic mastery

The Birds sends out warnings. Taylor’s mother (Jessica Tandy) doesn’t take to Hedren; the whole town looks down on her actually. A small scrape from an errant gull soon becomes a mass assault by crows. No one sees the message, other than a mother and her two kids in the diner, slinging accusatory language toward Hedren, and it’s not wrong. No more so than the bar customer signaling end times with Bible verses, or those pointing to man’s invasive growth on nature. Hitchock was out in front of the animal attack genre by a solid decade.

Around 10 years after The Birds, giant mutant rabbits ate people in Night of the Lepus. It’s an absurd idea, of course, but so is The Birds. To see a tiny swift – not a vulture, hawk, or eagle – sitting near a fireplace and feel dread is a sign of total cinematic mastery. When in Hitchcock’s viewfinder, anything innocent can turn terrifying – given the chance, no doubt carnivorous rabbits could become sensationally grim in his control.

But for The Birds, the fear is physical. It’s bloody and gory. In greater context, The Birds suggests nature follows an emboldened Christian purity. With its final shot, The Birds tracks Hedren and Taylor as they head to San Francisco. Crows will follow; they’re out to preserve themselves as much as virtue.

Video

Always a little dreary, The Birds lands on 4K intact, which isn’t often an arresting presentation by design. Filters soften Hedren’s close-ups (all of them), muddy composites sap detail from the scenery, and imprecision leads to color bleeding. That won’t – and cannot – change no matter the master used.

Understanding The Birds doesn’t rely on precision at all times, it does look marvelous here. When amid prime clarity, resolution stacks up, delivering generous definition. Scenes around town bring out legible text in the grocery’s products, signage, and minuscule touches near the docks. Scenic images of the school reveal an aging building in the best way. Some facial texture drips in too.

Shot on Eastman color stock, saturation doesn’t hold the luxury of, say, Vertigo, but the period style adds some pzazz. The gas station and other locales draw out lush primaries. Greenery excels too. An HDR touch-up brings out sun reflections on chrome and water. Lit candles bring some pop too. The Birds isn’t flush with heavy contrast, but subtly adds to the cinematography, giving black levels a bump too (critical during the final scenes inside a boarded up house).

Audio

Clean DTS-HD mono preserves the unnerving bird screeches. There’s no music aside from the opening credits, leaving the open air to breathe, and dialog to thrive with only the slightest aging detectable. A few dubbed lines stick out given the clarity.

Extras

Migrating (sorry) the Blu-ray bonuses, an 80-minute documentary details the production, and horror directors/writers step in for another 14-minute feature looking back on The Birds’ influence. Hedren’s screen test is fascinating for showing Hitchcock’s methods in choosing his cast. A deleted scene (incomplete) and alternate ending (also incomplete) follow. Truffaut and Hitchcock’s interview snippet runs 14-minutes, focused obviously on The Birds. Newsreels and trailers pop up before two leftovers from Universal’s 100th year celebration, one about the lot, the other restorations.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Birds
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

Hitchcock turns the mundane into a terror with The Birds, treating the animals like a force protecting old morals.

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3 (2 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 48 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: