My wife and I sat down the other night to watch The Birds. We had the choice of sandblasting and painting the kitchen, shaving a possum, or watching the movie, and, unfortunately, we were out of paint and razor blades. The Birds is Alfred Hitchcock’s classic movie about our little feathered friends and their attempt to destroy all of the residents of a picturesque small California town with the disarming name of Bodega Bay. For you language scholars out there, the term Bodega Bay is from the archaic form of Spanish once used by the monks who originally helped settle California, and it literally means “bad acting by the sea.”
If you’ve never seen this movie, you have my congratulations. But if you are thinking of renting a copy, the storyline goes something like this. A rich girl—played by Tippi Hedrin—meets a rich boy—played by Rod Taylor—in a pet shop in The Big City. They don’t seem to hit it off at all, and then for no particular reason, she stalks him to the above-mentioned small town, because she either loves him or hates him. No, it’s not a multiple-choice question: You really can’t tell. Rod Taylor, by the way, was a Fifties and Sixties Hollywood Hunk who originally hailed from Australia. He was like Mel Gibson in that respect, only he was taller, did not know Danny Glover, and was in no way responsible for Apocalypto. Tippi Hedrin was an emerging starlet of the period, but as far as I know, making The Birds cured her of all subsequent desires to act or eat chicken.
Back in Bodega Bay, Tippi breezed into town in a skirt that was tighter than Saran Wrap on a pork chop and immediately incited the bird population into a homicidal rage when a seagull flew into her hairdo and broke its neck. Women used a lot more hairspray back in those days, and when the big hairspray shortage of 1963 struck, industrial shellac was considered to be an acceptable substitute. Tippi was out floating around the harbor in a rental rowboat when the bird augured into her hair. There has been an ugly rumor circulating for years that the seagull actually committed suicide on-camera after watching some early rushes from the movie, but this story cannot be verified, and no good can come from spreading unfounded gossip.
Anyway, Tippi had rented the rowboat in the first place so she could go break into Rod Taylor’s house and leave a pair of lovebirds there as a birthday gift for Rod’s baby sister to find. Yeah, I know. Kind of creepy. In the movie, this sister was about forty years younger than Rod, and no, I can’t make that math work out, either. Maybe she was adopted. Jessica Tandy (of Driving Miss Daisy fame) was the mother of both Rod and his sister, and she took to Tippi Hedrin about like a lion takes to a wildebeest. Maybe it was that whole breaking and entering thing that got them off on the wrong foot.
Oops, I forgot Suzanne Pleshette. She was the old maid school marm in town in addition to being the jilted girlfriend of Rod Taylor. She was ostensibly hanging around waiting for another crack at Rod when she was a) befriended by Tippi and b) eaten by birds, in that order. The thing about being done in by birds is that it is kind of like meeting your demise at the hand of the original Boris Karloff version of The Mummy. If a blind, lame, one-handed dead guy zipping along at about one-mile-per-hour catches you, then you sort of deserve whatever happens next. If The Mummy subdues you, then Darwin was right, after all, and you are certainly too inept to be allowed to live long enough to pass along your genetic material to the next generation. And it is the same sort of phenomenon when people start getting nudged into the afterlife by birds. If a flock of sparrows gets you, well, cowboy up, and better luck next time.
To continue, after Suzanne got her terminal pecking, most of the rest of the townsfolk eventually joined her because they couldn’t get away from all of those birds with bad attitudes.
California Person One: Look, there are some birds acting strangely.
California Person Two: I guess we better run, scream, and flap our hands over our heads to get them good and stirred up.
California Person Three: Good idea. Let me round up some widows and orphans to run with us.
California Person Four: Great. While you’re doing that, I’ll go smoke a cigarette while I gas up the car and accidentally blow up the filling station.
California Person Five (hollering at the rest of the crowd): Don’t forget to fall down when the birds attack you!
If you are from California, stop reading now, because I don’t want to make you mad. For the rest of you, all I can say is, I’d like to see those birds bring some of that action down here. It would be the world’s shortest movie followed by the world’s biggest cookout.
Rifle: Look, there are some birds acting strangely.
Skeeter: I’ll go get the shotguns.
Rifle: Better bring some of that dynamite, too. I have been wanting to blow something up all week.