Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Horror/Suspense Movie Classics: The Birds

Guys, I went through a bit of a Hitchcock phase in junior high because I was into creepy stuff and my mom likes Hitchcock and also his movies are generally appropriately rated for Mormon teenage viewing, but somehow I've never seen 1963's The Birds. I'm pretty sure we read the short story it's based on in my 9th grade honors English class. I am skeptical that this will scare me in my old, wizened, cynical state, but I like to be surprised. Also, I'm sure the gender politics are super good because Hitchcock and also 1963. Let's get started--CAW!

Before things actually get started, let me say that Tippi Hedron is a rich old lady in one of my top-3 movies of all time I Heart Huckabees and is thus always and forever great in my mind. The credits at the top here have birds flying past and say, "Introducing 'Tippi' Hedron" which is kind of patronizing if you ask me. If it's her professional name, just go with it. Okay, blonde lady walking around the city. I'm guessing it's California. Oh, San Francisco. She smiles at some catcallers. Gross. She goes into a pet store. Upstairs is the bird area. It's very shrill in there. Blonde lady doesn't want to wait for her bird to arrive at the store. She's going to have to teach him to talk. A handsome suited man comes in looking for some lovebirds. Blonde pretends to work there, Handsome Suit is looking for some lovebirds that won't fuck in front his eleven year-old sister. He keeps calling her on not knowing shit about birds. You can barely hear the dialogue over the bird chirping. He clearly knows she's full of shit, but she keeps going with the unsuccessful con and accidentally lets a bird go free. Handsome Suit catches it with his hat. He knows her name is Melanie Daniels. He saw her in court when one of her "pranks" ended up in a broken window. She's annoyed he's onto her game.

Melanie is intrigued by Handsome Suit Lawyer Guy and runs after him. He drives a Galaxie and she memorizes his license plate number. Melanie has decided she will have her bird delivered to her home. She uses a forest green rotary phone to call a reporter friend to look up the license number. Oh, her "daddy" works at the paper, too. Of course. Melanie's decided she wants some lovebirds. Order them, old lady!

Next day, I'm guessing. In a horrendous fur coat, Melanie brings a cage with two lovebirds in it up an elevator. The Sixtieeeeees. A dude with a mustache looks at her suspiciously. He's a neighbor and says the Handsome Suit is in Bodega Bay for the weekend and she probably shouldn't leave the birds in the hallway all weekend. Melanie drives up the coast highway because apparently she can just find him by doing that. The birds in their cage tip with each curve in the highway. Nice. Melanie is driving too fast and her brakes keep screeching. She goes into the local general store looking for Handsome Suit. The proprietor shows her that the Brenners live across the bay. She wants to surprise them, and the main road goes up to the front door. She'll take a boat to cut across and surprise them. There's some disagreement over whether the little girl of the family is named Alice or Lois. This store owner is giving her a lot of information. He tells her where to find the local schoolteacher to check. He must have such a boner to give her all this personal information without asking any questions. This creepy lady is creepy.

The teacher tells Melanie the girl's name is Cathy. The teacher gives her a cigarette and asks if she's Mitch's (Handsome Suit's) friend. The teacher says "everyone" meets Mitch in San Francisco and tells Melanie good luck. That's an exceptionally hot rural coastal school teacher. I see a Schlitz sign. SCHLITZ! I had it once in rural Wisconsin. (Worth it?) Melanie is such a sociopath (psychopath, really), you guys. Her fur coat and heels and updo are ridiculous for this dock/boat situation. The old dock guy starts her little motorboat and off she goes across the bay to stalk Mitch HandsomeBrenner. I love that all the car/boat action shots are totally '60s-worthy blue screen or whatever. As she gets closer, Melanie shuts off the engine and paddles in to better creepily surprise them. She gets off at the Brenners' dock and is excited to stalk them up close. She just fucking walks into the house like a goddamn prowler since she saw everybody leave. She leaves the birdcage and a card for Cathy and hurries back out--but not before ripping up an envelope addressed to Mitch--checking to make sure no one sees her. She climbs back into her boat and paddles away a bit to watch like a goddamn creep. Mitch goes in the house and comes back out, startled. She ducks down in the boat and starts the engine as he spots her from shore with his binoculars. They both smile. He runs and gets in his car and will try to beat her driving back to town, I guess.

Melanie is Smug. Mitch runs out and meets her at the dock and she puts on her "Who, me?" face as a seagull swoops down at her head and draws blood. Mitch helps her out of the water. She says her tetanus shot should be current. Mitch takes her into the local restaurant. So many sea captains at the counter. We find out Mitch is a lawyer as he cleans her wound. He practices criminal law. She claims she's friends with Annie, the schoolteacher. Melanie is such a bad liar. His nautical sweater is pretty great. Their sexy repartee is interrupted by pixelation on the DVD. Fast forward a bit... Mitch's mom shows up and they insist she come to dinner, so Melanie's got to follow through with the pretend friendship with Annie. She's going to rent Annie's room for a night. She picked up stuff from the general store for the night. Of a flock of gulls, Annie says, "Don't they ever stop migrating?" BIIIIIIRDS.

Totes norms first convo with your future SIL.
Later on, Melanie pulls up to the Brenners' in her car. Fucking fur coat. How fucking many animals were killed for that shit? The family walks up the road as she rings the bell. Little Cathy hugs Melanie for the bird gift. Mrs. Brenner calls the vet because their chickens won't eat. BIIIIIIIIIIRDS. Melanie's green skirt suit is majestic. Such nice wood paneling. Mitch brings Melanie a drink as Mrs. Brenner whines on the phone. She finds out a neighbor's birds are also sick or something. The two sets of chickens have different feed, so why won't any of them eat?  After dinner, Melanie plays something soothing on the piano while occasionally pausing to smoke her cigarette. Cathy wonders how Melanie knew she wanted lovebirds and then says most of the people Mitch knows in San Francisco are "hoods." (BLACK PEOPLE) Mrs. B. says some shit about how in a democracy, everybody deserves a good defense blahblahblah. "I know all that democracy jazz. They're still hoods." Right you are, Cathy. Judge those criminals. Judge 'em HARD. They all laugh about how one of Mitch's clients shot his wife seven times for turning the TV channel. Cathy tries to convince Melanie to come to her "surprise" party tomorrow. Mrs. B. interrogates Mitch about Melanie. She's in the society papers all the time, apparently. Mitch calls his mother "Darling." He says he can handle Miss Daniels, though.


Mitch wants to see Melanie again in San Francisco. He interrogates her a bit and she admits all her lies and drives away angry. Many, many birds perched on the power lines to the house. She gets to Annie's and Annie sees she's pissed and offers her some brandy. She pours some in some lil wine glasses. Annie admits she found herself in this little town because she came up with Mitch. Annie talks about how Lydia (Mrs. B.) is a bitch. She says it's not an oedipal thing. Now they're bros. Lydia is worried she'll be abandoned if somebody loves her son since she can't love him, I guess. Annie still likes Mitch "a hell of a lot." The phone rings. It's clearly him. He's calling for Melanie. Annie smokes in the foreground as Melanie talks to her ex on the phone. Melanie is also smoking. She agrees to go to the surprise party tomorrow afternoon. Annie will be there, too. Melanie's bought a nightgown. Annie tells her to nevermind Lydia. She wants to go, so she should go to the party. A noise on the porch. A seagull ran into the door and is dead now. STUPID BIIIIIIIRD.

Next day at the birthday party, Melanie and Mitch go walking in the hills. How can she walk in nature with those heels? They sink into the sand. I'd fucking take them off. Mitch keeps giving her more booze to try to get her to stay for dinner. She says she has to get back to SF for work. Her jobs are mostly socialite nonsense. Fucking with people, taking a single class at Berkeley--oh wait, just hanging out learning swear words on campus?, and keeping a Korean kid in school. She says her Fridays are free. For bird shopping. They drink martinis and smoke. Melanie's mom ran off when she was young. Things start to get a little emotionally real and they quickly walk back down the hill to the party. Annie watches them as she guides the children's games.

A seagull scrapes the blindfolded birthday girl's head. Melanie and Mitch drop their drinks as gulls attack the children. The adults chase the birds off the kids. The birds sound like cats. Annie says, "That makes three times." Scared little white children. Mitch insists Melanie stay for dinner. The lovebirds are noisy. Suddenly, birds come down the chimney and fill the living room where they're eating dessert. Mitch opens a door and the women cower. Melanie protects the little girl. Mitch blocks the fireplace with a table. Melanie pulls Cathy and Lydia into another room as the birds swarm and drop a shit-ton of feathers. In the aftermath, the local sheriff identifies the birds as sparrows There are broken dishes. Mitch tries to explain all the bird attacks, but the sheriff, who is maybe Lydia's nephew, doesn't really believe it. Melanie decides to stay over and help clean up and calm things down. "Sure is peculiar."

In the morning, Mitch is burning something outside. We see Melanie in her nightgown with her hair down and it is way cuter. Bob with curls. Lydia drives off to a neighboring farm in their seafoam green Ford. She goes into the house after no answer and finds a bunch of broken teacups still hanging from their hooks. She finds dead birds all over the place. Her farmer friend is dead, his eyes pecked out. She drops all her shit and runs out of the house. Without telling the farmhand anything, she drives away. Real fast. She pulls up at home and practically falls out of the cab of the truck. She won't say anything. Mitch has to go to the other farm and kisses Melanie's neck and they embrace. "Be careful." Now they're kissing. Hot.

It's not weird that I'm just an older version of you, right?
Melanie brings some tea in to Lydia. The Santa Rosa police are coming in to investigate the farmer's death. Lydia's worried that Cathy's not safe at school. Not sure the lady playing Lydia is old enough to be Mitch's mom, but whatever. She rambles about her dead husband and how she can't reach her kids emotionally like he could. Her room is very mustard-colored. Lydia's not sure if she likes Melanie or not. This convo is supes awkard esp. since Mitch and Melanie have known each other for like three days. Lydia cries about how she doesn't want to be left alone. She wishes she were stronger. Melanie says she'll go get Cathy from school so Lydia won't have to worry.

Melanie drives her silly convertible to the old-timey school where the children are singing inside. Melanie pokes her head into Annie's class and is directed to go fucking wait because it's Singing Time. A bird lands on the jungle gym behind her as she lights a cigarette. Why the fuck would you wait outside? Now there are four birds on the jungle gym. Five. Melanie nervously smokes and waits. How many goddamn verses does this song have? Melanie watches as a bird lands on the playground equipment, which is now completely covered in birds. Melanie hurries back inside and tells Annie not to let the kids out. Annie says they have to demonstrate a fire drill. The kids who live nearby must go home and the other kids have to go to the hotel. She tells them to be quiet and run when she tells them. So many crows or ravens or whatever. The birds lift off as the kids begin to run. The kids scream as birds land on their heads and shoulders and, peck, I guess? This is so fake-looking, I love it. Like, I think it would've been safer to leave the kids in the school, just away from windows.

Birds attacking kids. Cathy and Melanie help a girl who was brought down by several birds. The girl's face is bloody as Melanie ushers them into an unlocked car, but she obviously doesn't have the keys. She honks and eventually the birds and the kids have all dispersed. Melanie is now in the restaurant trying to explain it to her dad on the phone. Of course he accuses her of being hysterical. An old lady says crows and blackbirds are VERY different. She claims she knows about birds and also shut up, young lady. Crazy drunk guy says it's the end of the world as Melanie talks to Mitch on the phone. Ezekiel chapter 6. He's Irish, I think. Irishdruuuuuunk. The waitress is impatient for some bloody marys and is worried about scaring the kids in the restaurant. Disagreement with old lady about a bird war. Ornithology is her AVOCATION THANKYOUVERYMUCH. Different bird species don't work together, stupid blonde lady. Worried mom wants to leave town.

Sheriff Dewey would.
Mitch and the sheriff show up. Drunk guy keeps Bible quoting. Mitch is SRSLY worried, but the Santa Rosa police think the birds were just an afterthought to the farm death. Mitch wants local sea captain guy to help. They see a guy at the gas station across the street get knocked over by birds. The restaurant lady and her kids run back inside as gasoline leaks everywhere. FIRE HAZARD. The spreading puddle reaches a guy about to light a cigarette. They yell to him, but he ends up blowing up anyway. Now several cars and the whole path of gasoline back to the station are on fire. OOPS! Here come the seagulls! Everybody runs outside, stupidly. Somebody sprays the fire with a hose. Melanie climbs inside a glass phone booth because she is A Idiot as the birds swarm around. The fire department shows up as bird clouds swarm and the fire is not particularly effectively fought. Birds keep crashing into the phone booth. Every time Melanie tries to get out, she's swarmed. As they start to break the glass, Mitch pulls her out and back into the restaurant, which is now empty and quiet.

They find all the women hiding in a back hallway. Mrs. Ornithologist cowers. The hysterical mom blames Melanie for everything because the bird shit started when she showed up in town. Melanie slaps her (rightly so). The birds are retreating, so Melanie and Mitch run up to Annie's to retrieve Cathy. The schoolyard and building are again lined with crows. The couple walks by slowly up to Annie's house. Annie lies dead on the front steps. Melanie screams at the sight of her body. Cathy is inside safely, sobbing. Mitch grabs her and she hugs Melanie. The birds make intermittent cries. He wants to throw a rock at the birds on the roof, but Melanie stops him. DUH. His pants have some serious cargo pockets as he puts his jacket over Annie's face. Melanie says not to leave her there, so he picks her body up and brings it inside the house. His cargo pants are pretty high-waisted. Luckily, Melanie's still got her purse. They have to walk back past the playground birds. Mitch walks between the birds and the ladies back to Melanie's car. They put the roof up and cram into the front seat. Apparently Melanie left her keys in the passenger side sun visor. Cathy cries about how Annie shoved her inside and saved her from the birds before she was killed.

Back at the Brenner place, Mitch boards up the windows. Why aren't they leaving town? The birds are amassing again. Mitch claims there's a pattern to their attacks. The phones are dead, so Melanie can't reach her dad in SF. Lydia calls them inside, where a SF radio station reports a crow attack on the kids in Bodega Bay, but they don't have much info. Lydia starts to freak out about what the plan is. "If only your father were here!" Melanie and Mitch get more firewood as Lydia and Cathy cry. Birds head inland to Santa Rosa, apparently. There's a fire in the fireplace and the windows are all boarded up. Something tells me the birds will find a way in again somehow. Fucking Lydia. Cathy wants to bring the lovebirds into the living room, but her mom is like, "Fuck, no." Mitch checks the security of all possible entrances and exits. He eyes the lovebirds. He's going to have to strangle them at some point, I'm pretty sure. Yeah, Lydia, definitely drink some more coffee. Oh wait, she's just cleaning up dishes. She's going to strangle the lovebirds in the kitchen. Somehow she manages not to.

They all sit and wait. They should play a board game or something. Lydia must've been like 16 when her son was born. Cathy is sick and needs to throw up. Melanie goes with her to the bathroom. They suddenly hear thousands of bird cries. Everybody stands up, scared. Mitch tries to build up the fire. Why not just close the flue and secure it with logs or something? They hear crashing and Mitch wrestles a seagull or two through a window. They peck and he bleeds really fake blood while reaching for the errant shutter. He uses an electrical cord to tie it closed. No one helps him. Useless women. Isn't there, like, a basement or bathroom with no windows they can hide in? Mitch goes to clean his wounds as they birds are managing to peck through the front door. He puts a cabinet in front of the door and nails it in place. Melanie watches. The lights suddenly go out and there is but firelight now. Mitch grabs a flashlight. Birds are pecking through walls now, I guess? It seems they may be receding now.

Guys, get in the car and drive. Drive real far away. Like, to the desert or something. Everybody but Melanie sleeps in the firelight. She hears flapping and whispers to Mitch. He doesn't wake up, but she decides to go investigate with the giant flashlight. The lovebirds are still in the cage. The flapping is coming from upstairs. Bad Idea Jeans, Melanie. There's a big bug buzzing around a lamp in my living room, so it's pretty much the same situation in here as the movie right now. Do not go in there. Do not go into a crane shot right now! No but srsly, don't open that door, Melanie. She goes into the bedroom. A hole has been pecked into the ceiling and the room's filled with birds. They come at her as she very, very slowly tries to open the door behind her and becomes more and more scratched up. If you scream, I bet Mitch would wake up and help you. Hit them with that flashlight, bitch! OMG, you can get out, you idiot. He finally comes to the door as her lifeless body blocks it. He breaks through to grab her. Lydia helps fight them off too as they drag her body out. Mitch carries her downstairs. He requests water, antiseptic, bandages, and brandy. Melanie half wakes up and waves her arms to fight the birds off, but Mitch calms her down. So glad she reapplied those false eyelashes right before she was attacked. He gives her some brandy.

They tend to the wounds as she stares, dead-eyed. Mitch says they have to get her to a hospital before another attack. They'll take Melanie's car. Mitch peeks outside. The yard is full of birds. He walks slowly across the porch and they just calmly move out of his way. They're lined up everywhere. He goes to the garage as one nips at his leg. The car is still in good shape. He goes to open the garage door but thinks better of it. He turns on the car radio. He finds out that Bodega Bay has been cordoned off. The town's mostly been evacuated and the military may get involved. I'm not really sure it it's worth trying to get out right now. But Mitch opens the garage, puts the car in neutral, and guides it out to the front door. Careful not to excite the birds, Mitch goes back into the house.

Remember this? Good times.
Melanie is bandaged and catatonic. Mitch tells his mom everything's "all right" as they lead Melanie outside. She hears birds and starts to freak out. They quiet her and get her in the car. Cathy wants to bring the lovebirds. Lydia snuggles Melanie in the backseat. Mitch starts the car and pulls out. The birds seem to only be mildly disturbed by this as he slowly drives through the multitude. So much tweeting as they head down the road. THE END.

A little better than expected. Watch out for biiiiiiiiiirds.

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