March 30, 1963 [The Birds]

The Birds worries my son, for the same reason he was anxious about The Blob: They don’t kill the monster. He can put up with any horror, any panicked loss or defeat, any dripping-jaw monstrosity--as long as it’s curtains by The End.

Hitchcock, though, is interested only in making, not killing, the monster. His birds have methodically, expertly worked to inflict pain, death, and control--and he has helped, of course, at long last honing his skills--his one skill, actually, the only skill great filmmakers and their editors need: deciding the sequence of images--and the length of time the camera holds on those images. When the birds attack the town, the camera flashes from Tippi Hedron to the impending doom she is helpless to prevent, one-two-one-two-one-two--until the gasoline explodes--and then Hitchcock turns traitor and goes up into the sky to join the birds--and we look so thankfully insignificant down there, the sounds of whatever pain we might suffer lost in sweet ocean breezes and bird cries.

But then there’s the attack on the schoolchildren, and we’re right there with them, running along, clawing desperately at our hair and necks as the birds descend--and then the eyeless corpse, leapt upon by the camera, quick-stutter-jumped into the mess the birds have left--and we know we’re next--so in we go to the house with birdlike Tippi Hedron and her new family, cowering from our little flying friends, so many of them they gather like clouds, like dust in a haunted house--the world, now, darkened by the birds.

And I agree with my son that we should worry, if that’s all we’re going to get: a perfectly manipulated Armageddon, feathery and sleek. I know Hitchcock is having the time of his life, but I’m stuck in the picture with my kid, and there’s nothing I can tell him.


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