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"Da Boids"

"The Birds" on DVD

Many Wings and a prayer

Universal's "Collector's Edition" DVD release of the Hitchcock classic "The Birds" is a wonderful disc experience.

"The Birds" is one of the legendary director's best films, a tale of nature gone amok that set the stage for such disaster films as "Volcano," "Deep Impact," and many others. Set in the small town of Bodega Bay, California, it recounts a weekend of terror in which thousands upon thousands of birds suddenly - and for no apparent reason - begin attacking the residents.

"Tippi" Hedren (though she doesn't seem prone to falling over), and Rod Taylor are the stars, she playing Melanie Daniels, a rich kid whose reputation has been tainted by a gossipy media. She heads to Bodega Bay to pursue Mitch Brenner (Taylor), an eligible bachelor lawyer she finds intriguing.

Then the birds come, wreaking havoc on Bodega Bay life and destroying lives and property in the process.

In the end, the main stars (well, those who are still around), hole up in a farmhouse in a way that kind of reminds us of the main location of the horrifying "Night of the Living Dead."

Not much really happens for nearly the first hour of the film as Hitchcock kicks off the story and the characters - but there's "Hitchcockian" foreshadowing all over the place as he sets the tone for the raucous second half of the film.

By the time you see "The End," on screen, you aren't sure if the bird attacks are a freak of nature, an act of God, or a bird-brained plot to get Melanie Daniels, and maybe those around her, too.

Jessica Tandy, Veronica Cartwright and Suzanne Pleshette round out the major players, and all do creditable service in their roles.

The real stars, however, are Hitchcock and the birds - an amazing combination of filmmaking and editing prowess, special photographic and mechanical effects, and avian acting. By the time the film's over, you'll never look at your budgie the same way again.

It's a tribute to Hitchcock's skill that, while music is an integral part of a movie and is usually essential for helping shape a film's mood, the director chose not to have a musical score for "The Birds." Instead, he uses bird sound effects - and it works very well.

As a DVD, this is another of Universal's "Collector's Series" of discs and that means it's a treat for DVD lovers and film students alike.

Video quality is very good and, though it doesn't appear to have been digitally remastered the picture quality is sharp and bright. The audio isn't as good (but remember, this is a 1963 movie) and, unfortunately, Universal has chosen the Dolby Digital 2 channel mono route which, while it allows you to use your main stereo speakers to their best advantage, doesn't necessarily mean the sounds will come from the area of your screen (which is where they should be).

This isn't a major criticism, though we prefer the Dolby Digital mono method that sends the signal to your center channel; it's more than adequate for movies that have "old tech" or not particularly "aurally challenging" soundtracks and it locks the sounds where they should be.

Extras abound on "The Birds," including a decent (but short) liner essay from the director's daughter (and a paragraph from Hitch himself). The disc itself includes "All About the Birds," a documentary ……..

You also get a deleted scene, the original ending from the movie (so you can second guess the choice of a legend!), storyboards, a copy of "Tippi" Hedren's screen test, and a promotional reel "The Birds is Coming!" Universal Studios used to flog the film.

That isn't all. There's also "Suspense Story: The National Press Club Hears Hitchcock" (another promotional film), photos from the production (which was shot mostly at Universal Studios, but used the real Bodega Bay as well), production notes, cast/crew information and the trailer.

Universal's "Collector's Series" DVD's are wonderful examples of the DVD medium and, though they've released a few legitimate stinkers as Collector's Edition titles, "The Birds" is a landmark film that truly deserves this loving treatment.

The Birds, from Universal Home Video
113 minutes, Widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby Digital 2 channel mono
Starring Rod Taylor, "Tippi" Hedren, Jessica Tandy, Veronica Cartwright, Suzanne Pleshette
Screenplay by Evan Hunter
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock


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Updated May 13, 2006