The Hitchcock Haul: The Birds (1963)

birdsI hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween weekend last week! I know I did. I obviously meant to post this last Tuesday, but my life seems to have grown much busier lately, and I have a harder time fitting everything in. Better late then never, right? So, last year for Halloween I watched Hitchcock’s Psycho. This year, I thought it would be a good idea to watch the other film people generally regard as one of his “horrors”, The Birds. I had never seen The Birds before, and I really had no idea what to expect. The concept seemed incredibly ridiculous, and yet it’s based on a story by one of my favorites; Daphne du Maurier. If you all remember correctly, she wrote the novel Rebecca, which was also adapted by Hitchcock and won him his only Best Picture Oscar.

The Birds opens with a minor (and perhaps adorable) confrontation between Tippi Hedren‘s spoiled socialite Melanie Daniels and lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) in a pet store. Mitch does not approve of her over-the-top practical jokes (that seem to have landed her with criminal charges), and Melanie is both annoyed and fascinated by him. As a form of revenge and flirtation, Melanie buys a pair of love birds and attempts to leave them at Mitch’s door, but when his neighbor informs her that he is out of town for a while, she makes the slightly crazy decision to stalk him out in Bodega Bay up in Northern Cali. She goes all the way out there and tricks locals into giving up personal information about Mitch, his family, and where they live. Not creepy and violating at all. She then proceeds to break into his waterfront house and leaves the birds not for Mitch, but for his little sister Cathy. Sounds like all your exs, right?

Mitch and Mel Forevs

Mitch and Mel Forevs

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The Hitchcock Haul: Rebecca (1940)

rebecca1940dvdThis film has a special place in my heart. It, along with the novel by Daphne du Maurier, turned me onto mysteries and thrillers — something I’ve been obsessed with ever since.

Just to set the bar, we’re talking about a movie that has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and earned Hitchcock his only Best Picture Oscar. It is a beautifully haunting and tantalizing film, and yet still not as good as the book.


When I was younger and starting to get into Hitchcock, my Mom would talk about the film Rebecca and how great it was, but she could never get her hands on it to watch. When Netflix came out, we signed up right away (it was like destiny), and one of the first films my Mom put on the queue was Rebecca. It was unavailable for YEARS! Finally, after I graduated from college, we were mailed our copy.

At this point I had already read the novel out of anticipation. It delighted me! The scandal was incredibly juicy for something written in 1938, and the psychological horror that was prevalent throughout was amazing. The important twists in plot impressed me. They were both shocking and plausible. It’s a tale of sexual deviance, resentment, and coping with the past.

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The Hitchcock Haul: Marnie  (1964)

marnie-1As I work my way through Hitchcock’s filmography, I haven’t encountered one of his films that I’ve wanted to talk about more than Marnie. This is one of the few Hitchcock films with a female protagonist (brilliantly played by Tippi Hedren), and at first glance the character of Marnie seems like a militant feminist. How refreshing! Except it turns out her strong will and complete distaste for men is just another classic Hitchcock smoke screen.

Marnie the film has been described as a great expression of sexual and psychological distress, but the content feels a bit too mishandled for me to agree. Marnie does examine the effects of repression on the mind and the use of therapy/analysis as a method of understanding deviant behavior. Of course it’s all wrapped up in an exciting thriller for our enjoyment. I can’t speak for the source novel by Winston Graham, but I did add it to my “to read” shelve on Goodreads! Here’s to hoping it’s just as exciting.

The film, however, is much deeper than any other Hitchcock I’ve seen to date. It’s also the closest Hitchcock comes to discussing feminism and real women’s issues. Unfortunately, it’s more of a dismissal of feminism than anything. It also has an overtly misogynistic male lead in Sean Connery. He definitely rapes her.


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