Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Hitchcock on location: The Birds
"The Birds" has always baffled me; it's considered by many as one of Alfred Hitchcock's best movies, but overall, it does very little for me. Its uneven mixture of screwball comedy and suspense/horror makes it one of my least favorite Hitchcock movies. Evan Hunter's screenplay doesn't help either, nor has it aged very well. Some scenes are absolutely brilliant, while others seem flat and dated. Despite that, I was very excited to find myself in Bodega Bay recently, affording me the opportunity to see some of the locations used in this movie.
The first comparison shot is where the movie begins, in San Francisco's Union Square:
A December 2005 view from the same angle:
Recklessly driving up the coast, our heroine, Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), is going to a lot of trouble to flirt with attorney Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor).
Melanie approaches the Schoolhouse in Boedga:
The Potter Schoolhouse as it looks today:
Bodega and Bodega Bay are approximately 5 miles apart, but thanks to a little movie magic, Hitchcock stitched them together to form one little community. For downtown Bodega Bay, Hitch used the Universal backlot:
as well as the real Bodega Bay:
Melanie rents a boat so that she can sneak up on the Brenner house with her lovebirds:
A contemporary panoramic view of where Melanie piloted her outboard motorboat:
Melanie cruising through "Bodega Bay," with a scenic matte painting behind her:
The real Bodega Bay:
Just before getting dive-bombed by a gull, Melanie gives Mitch a haughty (but flirtatious) look as he waits for her on the dock.
End of flirtation; Melanie needs medical attention, as Mitch whisks her off to the Tides Restaurant:
The new and improved Tides Restaurant, which is a completely new structure:
Embracing the film, and continuing to earn a bit of coin from it, this stuffed "bird" looms over the gift shop entrance:
Later in the movie, Melanie heads back to the schoolhouse to check on the safety of teacher Annie Hayworth (the husky-voiced Suzanne Pleshette) and the children:
A front view of the schoolhouse today.
Melanie heads off to the side of the building to get a smoke while she waits for school (and specifically Mitch's younger sister) to be dismissed.
This is where the brilliance of Hitchcock's suspenseful style is at its peak, with the intercutting of Melanie getting increasingly more nervous while the birds begin to pile-up behind her.
Only the audience knows about the birds.
That is, until a single crow flies overhead.
Melanie follows the crow visually until she sees it descend upon the playground jungle gym.
I have to hand it to Tippi Hedren. In her first starring role, she is fantastic in this movie. The controlled horror she displays is so natural. Hitch did a great job coaching her for this movie.
A contemporary side shot of the schoolhouse. No jungle gym. No playground. And no Tippi.
A few shots from the film showing the children frantically running away from the birds:
Had the little darlings actually been running down the street away from the schoolhouse, THIS is what they would have seen:
Instead, Hitch filmed that viewpoint in a different area, and spliced the two together.
Hope you enjoyed my Hitchcock on location series!
See more Bodega Bay photos on my Bodega Bay web page.
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