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Film Studies 101
Feature
The Birds At 50: 9 Moments Of Visual Genius
Empire pays tribute to Hitch's ornithological horror

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The Jungle Gym

Perhaps the most famous sequence in The Birds is the 'jungle gym' scene, in which Hitchcock builds suspense through innovative editing. Waiting to meet Cathy from school, Melanie sits in front of the playground and enjoys a crafty fag. A single crow lands on the climbing frame. Hitchcock cuts between increasingly tighter shots of Melanie and shots of the climbing frame, each time adding more birds. Having set up this pacy rhythm, he then confounds expectation by sitting on a close up of Melanie for nearly 30 seconds, during which the audience is tearing their hair out waiting to see how many birds have amassed behind her. The reveal is magnificent and terrifying, and made even creepier by the bizarre nursery rhyme the school kids are chanting in the background.

Trivia titbit: Most of the birds in the final shot are dummies or cardboard cut-outs. Hitch figured that if a few of them were alive and moving, the audience would believe they were all the real deal.

 

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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


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