The Birds is a 1963 suspense/horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, loosely based on the 1952 story "The Birds" by Daphne du Maurier. It depicts Bodega Bay, California, which is, suddenly and for unexplained reasons, the subject of a series of widespread and violent bird attacks over the course of a few days.
The film was billed as 'introducing' Tippi Hedren. It also starred Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette and a young Veronica Cartwright.
The screenplay was written by Evan Hunter. Hitchcock told him to develop new characters and a more elaborate plot, keeping Du Maurier's title and concept of unexplained bird attacks.
Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), a young socialite, meets Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) in a San Francisco bird shop. Mitch wants to purchase a pair of lovebirds for his sister's eleventh birthday, but the shop has none. He recognizes Melanie from a previous encounter, but she does not remember him, so he plays a prank by pretending to mistake her for a salesperson. She is infuriated when she realizes this, even though she also likes to play practical jokes. Intrigued, Melanie tracks down Mitch's address in Bodega Bay, California. She purchases a pair of lovebirds and drives two hours to Bodega Bay, where she sneaks across the bay to the house and secretly deposits the birds inside, with a note. Mitch spots her on the water during her escape. He intercepts her when she is attacked and injured by a seagull. Mitch invites her to dinner, and she reluctantly agrees.
Melanie develops a relationship with Mitch, meets his widowed mother Lydia (Jessica Tandy) and his younger sister Cathy (Veronica Cartwright). She also befriends local school teacher Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette), who later reveals she is Mitch's ex-lover. When Melanie stays for the night at Annie's house, they are startled by a loud thud; a gull has killed itself by flying into the front door. At Cathy's birthday party the next day, the children are set upon by seagulls. The following evening, sparrows invade the Brenner home through the chimney. Lydia discovers a neighbor who has been killed by birds that invaded his house, and she flees the scene in terror. After being comforted by Melanie and Mitch, Lydia is concerned about Cathy's safety at school. Melanie drives there and waits for class to end, initially unaware that a huge number of crows are massing nearby. Horrified when she sees the playground engulfed by them, she warns Annie, and they evacuate the children. The birds attack, injuring several children.
Melanie meets Mitch at a local restaurant. Several patrons describe their own encounters with strange bird behaviour. A drunk believes the attacks are a sign of the Apocalypse, and a traveling salesman suggests exterminating them all. An amateur ornithologist dismisses the reports of attacks as fanciful and argues about it with Melanie. A young mother becomes increasingly distressed by the conversation and chides them all for frightening her children. Outside the restaurant, a motorist is attacked while filling his car with gasoline; he is knocked unconscious and the gasoline continues to pour out onto the street. The salesman from the restaurant, unaware that he is standing in a puddle of the gasoline, lights a cigar and drops the lit match. The gasoline ignites, killing him. The birds attack in greater numbers as people pour from the diner to survey the damage; Melanie is forced to take refuge in a phone booth. Mitch rescues her and they return to the restaurant, where the hysterical mother accuses Melanie of being "evil" and causing the attacks, and the ornithologist sits in silence. Melanie and Mitch return to Annie's house and find that Annie has been killed by birds while pushing Cathy indoors to safety.
Melanie and the Brenners barricade themselves inside the Brenner home. The house is attacked in waves by the birds, and several times they nearly break in through the sealed doors and windows. During a nighttime lull between attacks, Melanie hears noises from the upper floor. Not wanting to disturb the others' sleep, Melanie enters Cathy's abandoned bedroom and finds that the birds have broken through the roof. They violently attack her, trapping her in the room until Mitch comes to her rescue. She is badly injured and nearly catatonic, and Mitch insists they must get her to a hospital. A sea of birds ripple menacingly around the Brenner farm as Mitch prepares Melanie's car for their escape. The radio reports the spread of bird attacks to nearby communities, and suggests that the National Guard may be required because civil authorities are unable to combat the inexplicable attacks. The film concludes ambiguously, as the car carrying Melanie, the Brenners and the lovebirds slowly makes its way through a landscape where tens of thousands of birds are perched together. For the moment, the birds are not attacking.
- Tippi Hedren as Melanie Daniels
- Rod Taylor as Mitch Brenner
- Jessica Tandy as Lydia Brenner
- Veronica Cartwright as Cathy Brenner
- Suzanne Pleshette as Annie Hayworth
- Ethel Griffies as Mrs. Bundy
- Charles McGraw as Sebastian Sholes
- Doreen Lang as Hysterical Mother in Diner
- Ruth McDevitt as Mrs. MacGruder
- Joe Mantell as Travelling Salesman in Diner
- Malcolm Atterbury as Deputy Al Malone
- Karl Swenson as Drunken Doomsayer in Diner
- Elizabeth Wilson as Helen Carter
- Lonny Chapman as Deke Carter
- Doodles Weaver as Fisherman Helping With Rental Boat
- John McGovern as Postal Clerk
- Richard Deacon as Mitch's City Neighbor
- Bill Quinn as Sam as Man in Diner
- Morgan Brittany as Girl in Birthday Party
- Darlene Conley as Waitress
- Dal McKennon as Sam the Cook
- Mike Monteleone as Gas Station Attendant
- Jeannie Russell as School Child
- Rory Shevin as Small/young blond frightened boy in coffee shop
- Roxanne Tunis as Extra
Alfred Hitchcock makes his signature cameo as a man walking dogs out of the pet store at the beginning of the film. They were two of Hitchcock's own Sealyham terriers, Geoffrey and Stanley.