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THE MAKING OF HITCHCOCK'S THE BIRDS
By TONY LEE MORAL (Kamera Books; 2013/15)

This book is most certainly, as a cover blurb proclaims, “The Definitive Production History of THE BIRDS.” Author Tony Lee Moral, who previously penned HITCHCOCK AND THE MAKING OF MARNIE, provides a thorough recounting of the production and reception of THE BIRDS (1963), Alfred Hitchcock’s most innovative film.

     The book’s exhaustive coverage is not an entirely good thing, as the making of THE BIRDS, which took place largely on location in Bodega Bay, CA, was frankly not all that invigorating. Like most of Hitchcock’s productions the filming was accomplished with a great deal of forethought and discipline, meaning the BIRDS shoot was not an especially exciting one. Part of Hitchcock’s genius was the calm, unaffected control he exerted over his productions, even one as technically challenging as THE BIRDS.

     In this book we hear from nearly everyone involved in THE BIRDS, including its untested star Tippi Hedren, her co-stars Rod Taylor, Susanne Pleschette and Veronica Cartwright, screenwriter Evan Hunter, matte artist Albert Whitlock and (via archival interviews) Alfred Hitchcock himself. Among the tidbits gleaned are the fact that Hitchcock was inspired by the French New Wave films of the late 1950s-early 60s (evident in THE BIRDS’ lack of music and unsettled ending); that Taylor didn’t much appreciate Hitchcock’s autocratic directing style; that the tension between Hitchcock and Hedren that came to a head on the set of MARNIE (on which he allegedly threatened to ruin her career after she turned down his sexual advances) began during the making of THE BIRDS; that during the climactic depiction of Hedren attacked in the attic actual birds were thrown at and tied to her body; and that the film’s 1963 release, while lucrative enough, was far from the monster success of Hitchcock’s previous film PSYCHO.

     We also get plenty of info on the incredibly complex special effects, which were unprecedented for their time, and instrumental to the effects revolution that swept the film industry in the ensuing decades. Again, however, this doesn’t make for a terribly exciting read, unless you happen to have a fetish for the minutia of outdated visual trickery.

     

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