Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer
The Farewell To Middle-earth Issue
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe: Get 12 Issues For £25
Buy the perfect Christmas present this year
Farewell To Middle-earth
Full details of our Peter Jackson-edited issue
Feature
The Birds At 50: 9 Moments Of Visual Genius
Empire pays tribute to Hitch's ornithological horror

submit to reddit

Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds premiered on March 28, 1963. Ostensibly a gentle rom-com about a socialite, Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), and a lawyer, Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), it soon becomes an all-out horror when their courting is interrupted by violent, unexplained bird attacks. Its ambiguity and subtext have been hotly debated since its release, but one thing most agree on is that The Birds contains some of Hitchcock's most inspired imagery. To mark the film's 50th birthday, we examine some of its remarkable visual moments, and look at how the Master employed the tools at his disposal to evoke specific emotions, create certain effects and generally demonstrate his all-round genius...

WORDS NEIL ALCOCK
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
  1 of 9 Next

The Chimney Attack

Having already aimed a pointy beak at Melanie's head and mounted an all-out assault on Mitch's little sister Cathy’s (Veronica Cartwright) birthday party, the birds' third attack arrives unexpectedly and with eerie menace. Melanie and the Brenners are enjoying a spot of afternoon tea, while Cathy's pet lovebirds are making steadily more and more noise in the background. As the only non-violent birds in the film, are they trying to warn the Brenners of something? A curiously high-angled close-up of Melanie (foregrounding the spot on her head where she was attacked), paired with sudden silence, unsettles us, and a single finch appears on the hearth. And then: carnage. Thousands of finches, buntings and swallows pour out of the fireplace and attack the family. The switch from domestic banality to unbelievable terror is deftly controlled by Hitchcock, giving us a few uneasy seconds to realise something's up before unleashing the full horror.

Trivia titbit: Most of the birds in this scene were added in using a "yellow screen" process at Disney. An attempt to use live birds on set was abandoned when they were released from the chimney and proceeded to behave in an entirely non-threatening manner, standing around and wondering why everyone looked so cross.
 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
 
1 of 9
Next

Have Your Say
Register or login now to let us know what you think.

Your Comments

1 Fawcett Farm Location
The Fawcett Farm is located maybe a mile or so northwest of the hamlet of Valley Ford on California State Highway1, just west of the intersection of Highway 1 with the Valley Ford-Freestone Road. It is easy to spot on Google Earth. My in-laws have a sheep and cattle ranch to the south of Valley Ford. Roads near Valley Ford were used in the filming of Bandits (2001). South of Valley Ford is Tomales, where the Presbyterian Church was the location for the church and cemetery scenes in Village of the Damned (1995). More

Posted by futhark on Saturday July 6, 2013, 05:06

2
Thank you very much for a really interesting feature. I reckon it must have been 20 years ago when I first saw the film (the first time I'd seen a Hitchcock), lured by the promise of many visual effects shot. I'd never really appreciated what wonderful things could be done with suspense until I'd seen the climbing frame scene. That ending is frustrating to watch aged 12 if you've only ever seen films with tied-up endings. Six years later, coming back from the Emmerich version of Godzilla, we just caught the tail-end of The Birds on TV, and again the sound effects when the three actors were just looking up at the ceiling was so much more effective than anything in that Emmerich film More

Posted by Schnorbitz on Friday March 29, 2013, 17:22

SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS

SAVE UP TO 69% GET 12 ISSUES FOR ONLY £25
Get the best seat in the house by subscribing to the world's biggest movie magazine today. Save up to 69% and every month you'll get exclusive subscriber-only covers, access to the biggest stars and the best news, reviews and behind-the-scenes reports straight from the set. Click here to find the perfect offer for you


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Review Of 2014: The 15 Best Cameos Of The Year
Our favourite one-scene movie-stealers

8 Things You Can Learn From The BFI's Star Wars Exhibition
The original crawl, a 'grotesque' villain and a very different princess

Review Of The Year: 40 Worst Posters Of 2014
One-sheets that you'd rather not have on your wall

Hobbit Q&As: Ian McKellen On Finally Saying Goodbye And Farewell To Gandalf The Grey
Read our exclusive Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies interviews

Review Of 2014: Empire's Interviews Of The Year
Crews! Chan! Chickens?! The chats we loved in 2014...

Gallery: Peter Jackson Prop Art: The Bigiatures
An exclusive look inside the director's secret warehouse

Review Of 2014: The Best TV Moments Of The Year
We celebrate the small screen's biggest scenes

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)