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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MRaymond said...

Wonderful posts over the last few days. I've been to a few of those locations and never knew this part of history.

The schoolhouse always freaked me out. It looks haunted.

K. Martinez said...

I love the "silent" soundtrack to The Birds and it's definitely up there as one of my favorite Hitchcock films.

As for Bodega Bay, I was a little disappointed when comparing it to The Birds. Perhaps I was expecting a 1960s Bodega Bay too much on my visit there.

It's been well over a decade since I've viewed "The Birds" so I'm curious as to what specific scenes fell flat for you. Perhaps it's time for me to give it another viewing.

I thoroughly enjoyed your Hitchcock series. You did a great job as always.

Lizzy Tex Borden said...

Yes, that was a great post... I love stuff like that... Thanks...

Anonymous said...

Ha, this is all close to home and familiar. I camp frequently in the hills near that schoolhouse.

My son was working at the Bodega Bay Marine lab last summer, his view back to the town was a real contrast to the matte painting. I thought of that scene every time we drove out to visit.

Thank you Dave, for pictures of home.


CoxPilot said...

Always liked the vintage Aston Martine. James Bond would have been proud.

Major Pepperidge said...

I was going to ask what the cool car was, but CoxPilot covered it!

Davelandweb said...

K. - Most of all, any of the scenes that deal with Lydia's not wanting to be alone bore me. Too much explanation about something I really didn't care about. Jessica Tandy's character just came off as extremely annoying.

spacepotato said...

When the children are running from the birds, (where they show the water in the distance) that was filmed on Taylor Street. About seven miles from the actual school building.


We'll I for one think that the birds was a great movie. And still is today. And if they made a remake of the birds it would be even greater because of all of the new special effects that are now available.. but one thing is for sure. and that is, Bodega Bay will truly be a bigger landmark for tourists. And that too is a good thing .. thank you Mr Hitchcock for all of your great movies


Never the less, it was a great movie. And still is today. And wish they could make a remake of that movie with all the special effects they have to be it would be great.. and Bodega Bay is now truly a landmark for tourists. And that too is great.

Dave DeCaro said...

Emmett - I get it. So does everybody else. No need to leave further comments saying the same thing.