I have to admit that I’m a Hitchcock heretic in that I vastly prefer Hitchcock as a stylish, shallow entertainer from his British period (up through 1938 when he came to Hollywood) to the slightly weightier Hitchcock of his later American career. With that in mind, I’m not personally as jazzed about the fairly late in the day The Birds (1963) as I’m supposed to be, but I recognize the film’s importance—and its technical accomplishment. (I perhaps appreciate the latter even more after being subjected to the zombie crows in Resident Evil: Extinction this week.) In typical Hitchcock fashion, he undertook this elaborate production on the heels of his “bare bones” production of Psycho (1960)—almost as if in reaction to the simplicity of the earlier film.
What he made was essentially the world’s first conservationist horror picture—with the natural world apparently striking back at the mess humanity was making of things. (The film seems strangely modern in that regard today.) It’s also typical that he structured the film as a series of set pieces, building the frenzy and the terror of the characters as they deal with the onslaught of our former feathered friends. A variety of deeper readings have been advanced for the film over the years, but in the end, it’s a movie that feels like it was made by a brilliant filmmaker who simply felt challenged by the enormity of the task. In that regard, it’s close to 100 percent successful.