JUNK FOOD: The Birds is coming!

June 2021

I used to work for a movie theatre that specialized in old films and thematic series; a “calendar house,” vs. “first run.” I was lucky enough to be there the year Universal Pictures celebrated its 100thanniversary and released restorations of, among other classics, The Birds. I knew the film by heart, but had never seen it in 4K wonder (Hitchcock in HD is a different kind of scary).

a large group of crows sits menacingly on a jungle gym; Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds

I sat in the balcony for The Birds. The rich colors and deep sounds washed over me and I gave myself over to escapism. I gasped when poor Tippi was first divebombed, and held my breath as the schoolchildren cowered while silently passing the murder-filled jungle-gym. But my escapism was thwarted by the cheep cheep cheep of two tittering college girls who eschewed the rapt attention of their fellow film-goers.

They giggled, then laughed, then brayed as the people onscreen bumbled, then fled in terror from the threatening skies. It was strange to be terrified, then have the state of being afraid intruded upon by annoyance. The emotional whiplash was making me ill.

poster for Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, featuring an illustration of Tippi Hedren being attacked by crows

It was late, I was off the clock, and wearing something that was specifically not professional. So when I crept through the dark to chastise the noisy pair they took me less than seriously. When I told them they were ruining the movie they cheekily replied, “We paid our $4 like everyone else, but we didn’t know it was going to be a comedy.” When I hissed that The Birds is not a comedy they, without missing a beat, looked at each other before turning back to me and said, in unison, “Yes, it is.” I walked out.

I left the theatre that night so I could retain my feelings for The Birds without human intrusion.

a bald fat man stares into the camera with crows perched on his arms and head; Alfred Hitchcock

Watching Hitchcock now calls for a revised stance given how much I’ve learned of his abuse of his players—Ms. Hedren particularly—so I’ll leave you with a clip of today’s preferred crow enthusiast:

From somewhere between Sunrise Bay and Herb Ertlinger’s vineyard, comes Dr. Clara Mandrake.