Is The Birds (1963) an allegory about the end of the world? A dire environmental warning? Possibly a cautionary tale about the explosive dangers of repressed sexual desire? Perhaps it is all of the above. Or maybe none. Few of Alfred Hitchcock's films have lent themselves to so much open-ended interpretation—pick your favorite reading and you can surely find the evidence to support it. Not surprisingly, the director claimed far more innocent motives: “I hope to make you all aware of our good friends, the birds. Theirs is a noble history.” So there you have it, unless you suspect Hitchcock wasn't being entirely forthright . . .
Adapted loosely from the Daphne du Maurier (Rebecca) short story, The Birds takes us to the entirely normal and perfectly pleasant California town of Bodega Bay, where socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren, in her unforgettable film debut) intends to surprise attorney Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) with a pair of lovebirds. She initially does it on a lark, but love is indeed in the air. And so are the birds, first by the hundreds, then by the thousands. They are swooping, clawing, and killing—but why? Perhaps the scariest possibility is that the birds are attacking for no reason at all—just because they can, or, more accurately, just because Hitchcock can. After all, when asked to explain the underlying logic of his movies, Hitchcock replied, “to put the audience through it.” Interested?