Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose #18: Love Birds (Opening Scene of The Birds)

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The opening scene in The Birds follows the elements of a romantic comedy rather than a horror film by introducing a beautiful and sophisticated blonde who is initially mistaken for a sales clerk by a very suave and handsome man which leads them into a playful repartee duel regarding love birds.  We learn right away that both Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) have a sense of humor, both are somewhat attracted to each other and enjoy toying with one another in a farcical way as they discuss the mating habits of birds.

 

Hitchcock’s sound design introduces us to the birds via their loud and grating cawing before we ever see them on camera.  It’s the sound cue of a young boy’s flirtatious whistle that turns Melanie around before entering the store and another sound cue of louder and more pronounced bird sounds as she sees, and the audience sees for the first time a large mass of seagulls circling over Union Square in San Francisco.  The mood created from the loud and piercing sounds of the birds is a keen awareness.  This is unusual.  Have you ever seen so many gulls?  Must be a storm at sea that can drive them inland.  So within the first few moments of the film, we have been prepared and informed that there is an undercurrent of things being not quite normal.

 

Hitchcock’s cameo exiting the pet store with his two dogs seems very apropos concerning the theme of his film and utilizing the very location his stars will be using to start their relationship. 

 

Maybe my imagination but from the over the shoulder shot of Tippi Hedren conversing with the pet store proprietor, her hair seems to be styled very similar to how Kim Novak’s hair was done when she was emulating Carlotta Valdes in Vertigo.  On a humorous note on the opening scene it has been pointed out to me that a “people wrangler” (production assistant) in a light colored trench coat can be seen stopping a little old lady from crossing the street to prevent her from being in Tippi Hedren’s crosswalk shot.  As many times as I have seen this movie, I never noticed, always being focused on Tippi Hedren, of course.

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1. The opening scene has elements of romantic comedy, in that the two leads meet and have a flirty conversation. Their relationship is based on a misunderstanding. While not related to romantic comedy, I want to note that Mitch's arrogance, his assumption that Melanie must be an employee and therefore must serve him, speaks to the larger point of the picture about man's arrogance in his relationship to animals. Judgement day looms!

 

2. There is no musical score, the bird noises are blended with the city noises - for now. The birds frantic chirping creates an anxious mood, not unlike the staccato violins in the opening of Psycho.

 

3. Hitchcock's cameo isn't really out of line with his other cameos, in that he is just passing through. What connects this cameo specifically to this film are the two leashed dogs, again, another metaphor for man's arrogance that he is in control of something meant to be wild.

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The opening scene in The Birds follows the elements of a romantic comedy rather than a horror film by introducing a beautiful and sophisticated blonde who is initially mistaken for a sales clerk by a very suave and handsome man which leads them into a playful repartee duel regarding love birds.  We learn right away that both Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) have a sense of humor, both are somewhat attracted to each other and enjoy toying with one another in a farcical way as they discuss the mating habits of birds.

 

Hitchcock’s sound design introduces us to the birds via their loud and grating cawing before we ever see them on camera.  It’s the sound cue of a young boy’s flirtatious whistle that turns Melanie around before entering the store and another sound cue of louder and more pronounced bird sounds as she sees, and the audience sees for the first time a large mass of seagulls circling over Union Square in San Francisco.  The mood created from the loud and piercing sounds of the birds is a keen awareness.  This is unusual.  Have you ever seen so many gulls?  Must be a storm at sea that can drive them inland.  So within the first few moments of the film, we have been prepared and informed that there is an undercurrent of things being not quite normal.

 

Hitchcock’s cameo exiting the pet store with his two dogs seems very apropos concerning the theme of his film and utilizing the very location his stars will be using to start their relationship. 

 

Maybe my imagination but from the over the shoulder shot of Tippi Hedren conversing with the pet store proprietor, her hair seems to be styled very similar to how Kim Novak’s hair was done when she was emulating Carlotta Valdes in Vertigo.  On a humorous note on the opening scene it has been pointed out to me that a “people wrangler” (production assistant) in a light colored trench coat can be seen stopping a little old lady from crossing the street to prevent her from being in Tippi Hedren’s crosswalk shot.  As many times as I have seen this movie, I never noticed, always being focused on Tippi Hedren, of course.

 

Interesting point about the "people wrangler," Riffraf! I had not noticed that at all.

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July 25, 2017 – Hitchcock lecture Part 18

 

 

1. Melanie pretends to be the bird shop owner or worker as she tries to help Mitch find two lovebirds. It’s clear that she’s no bird expert, but Mitch plays along. Based on attire, Melanie seems to be an upper class woman, and Mitch seems to be a nice man who is close to his family.
 

2. The birds dominate from the first frame with their sound. The sound overlaps the dialogue, almost obscuring it at times. The high pitch and the sheer volume of the chirping noises makes it seem like we are trapped a huge birdcage.

 

 

3. Hitchcock steps out of the shop with two dogs. While there was mention in the lecture about Hitchcock’s symbolism on doubles, I honestly felt like he picked what made the most visual sense and the fact that both of those dogs were his own. 

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  1. In what ways does this opening scene seem more appropriate to a romantic comedy than a “horror of the apocalypse” film? What do we learn about Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) in this scene?

Mistaken identity often plays a big part in romantic comedies so we begin with that here. Melanie is well dressed, beautiful, with an air of sophisticated ease. She's accustomed to getting what she wants when she expects it - but doesn't get huffy when the bird she ordered is not ready and waiting for her (but she doesn't want to hang around and wait). Mitch is also well dressed, attractive, and indicates he cares about his family by the nature of why he wants to purchase the lovebirds. I think he knows she is not a saleslady in a pet store but he begins the conversation on that note - and Melanie plays along. The dialog is playful, flirtatious, and light. They are attracted to one another - who knows where it will go.

 

2. How does Hitchcock use sound design in this opening sequence? For example, how are the sounds of birds used to create a particular mood and atmosphere?

The sounds of the birds outside first indicated to me we were by the sea or a body of water - and we are as its San Francisco. Birds searching for food or smaller prey to eat. The sound seemed a little louder than I would expect - so must be more birds in the area than usual. Inside the bird sounds are softer and the atmosphere is calmer. No aggression or birds of prey here. So...a difference between inside and outside. Wild birds versus domesticated birds. Uncaged birds versus birds tamed and kept in cages. Uncontolled nature versus controlled nature.

 

3. The opening scene contains a famous Hitchcock cameo. Describe the cameo and if you think it has any particular meaning in relation to this scene.

Well, its connecting to man having pets which he controls on a leash or by caging the animals. It was noted this is another examples of Hitch's love of using doubles. I can't read anything more into this scene.

 

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1. I think this scene would be the start of a romantic comedy because she pretends to work there so she can get to know him better and he just plays along with her. We learn that they are attracted to each other.

 

2. Hitchcock uses bird sounds to make the mood cheerful while the atmosphere is (I think) more friendly.

 

3/ The cameo of him walking his dogs was just that a cameo and I son't think it had any importance to the movie.

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  1. In what ways does this opening scene seem more appropriate to a romantic comedy than a “horror of the apocalypse” film? What do we learn about Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) in this scene?We have a case of mistaken identity, with Tippi pretending to be a clerk, while they flirt with each other. They are both well groomed, which seems to make them from the upper socio-economic classes. Perhaps used to having their way, as Tippi can't be bothered to wait for her mynah bird, but asks for it to be delivered.

 

How does Hitchcock use sound design in this opening sequence? For example, how are the sounds of birds used to create a particular mood and atmosphere? The gulls are very noticeable in the scene over the square. Also inside the pet store. I've never seen a pet store with so many birds, and so few cats and dogs.

 

The opening scene contains a famous Hitchcock cameo. Describe the cameo and if you think it has any particular meaning in relation to this scene.Hitchcock leaving the pet store with his 2 dogs on a leash may be showing we think we can harness/tame animals.

 

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what ways does this opening scene seem more appropriate to a romantic comedy than a “horror of the apocalypse” film? What do we learn about Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) in this scene?

 

The Birds is my 2nd favorite Hitchcock next to Psycho.  Contrary to the question I do sense  a slight "horror apocalypse" foreshadowing in the opening scene mixed with dark and romantic comedy elements.  Maybe that is because I first saw this movie at age 6 and was really creeped out by it.  I have never been a big birds fan when it came to nature or pets.  As a child, there was a a large jungle jim near in the elementary school park.  One October it was cloudy and I remember the black crows gathering in packs nearly 40 of them... it was so reminiscent of the schoolhouse scene from the movie that I couldn't even go outside to play.  I remember even "not wanting" to go to school because of the the Birds.  In addition I currently live in a beautiful historical area of Long Beach, CA with many palm trees.  At certain times of the year, 100s of wild green parrots from Mexico fly into the palms in front of my condo.  In fact I have a panoramic glass window view of these palms.  Some mornings I'm waken up to the cacophony of parrot chirping that is so unsettling and then there is the retaliation of bird **** all over the cars that are forced to park on the street because many condos, and buildings in the old historic district I live in have no garages.  I also once was driving on PCH in Huntington Beach and a gull actually did crash into my car!  So though I doubt a bird apocolypse is possible, I do believe that smaller bird attacks and bizarre bird incidents are!  I also had crows that bit through telephone wires on my roof disconnecting my phone on 3 occasions.  I had to change to cell phone only.  Crazy huh?  Do like birds?  (NO NO NO).  I also have 2 friends who have parrots.  I can't stand the grating noise they make, the molting feathers and the smell.  UGG. so freaky.  . . .

 

The opening scene contains a famous Hitchcock cameo. Describe the cameo and if you think it has any particular meaning in relation to this scene.

 

. . . .The only other animals are the brief glimpse of Hitch's dogs. 

 

 

I'm not a big fan of birds either! I once pet-sat a friend's birds and that was an eye opener for me. Her birds liked only her, and they were happy to remind me of that every time I tried to feed them. I had to wear gloves because they would have drawn blood with their beak-bites otherwise. And birds are smart, a lot smarter than I ever thought before that experience.

 

Actually you can see puppies in the pet shop, on the first floor of the shop. I prefer puppies to birds!

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1.    In what ways does this opening scene seem more appropriate to a romantic comedy than a “horror of the apocalypse” film? What do we learn about Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) in this scene?

 

The opening scene music is light and matches Melanie as she walks quickly and “lightly” across the street and soon gets whistled at by a young boy making me feel that her looks may be an important part in this movie. I’m beginning to realize that Melanie is a main character with good looks, class, and money. The look on her face when Mitch comes in lets me know she is attracted to him immediately by his looks and that she will go along with his mistaken identity so she can have a conversation with him.  Their sarcasm underlines the conversation as they wander about the store.  Immediately, you might think the movie will be about these two people and their relationship.

I learned that Melanie is not married because when she holds the pencil to her face, I do not see a wedding ring on her left hand, and in that case, I’m sure Mitch takes notice too. I learned that they are both attracted to each other because they keep the conversation going even though Mitch is prodding Melanie to make a fool of herself by letting her go on about the wrong description of the birds.

 

2.    How does Hitchcock use sound design in this opening sequence? For example, how are the sounds of birds used to create a particular mood and atmosphere?

 

The bird sounds can be heard immediately in the opening, but not seen. Soon the city location is identified as we see the San Francisco bridge poster indicating there is water nearby and that it makes sense we would hear and see lots birds.  But when we hear and see the large group of birds circling and their sound is high-pitched squawking sounds it makes me think that that the birds are on a hunt.

 

3.    The opening scene contains a famous Hitchcock cameo. Describe the cameo and if you think it has any particular meaning in relation to this scene

 

The cameo is seen within minutes of the opening seen as Hitch walks quickly out the shop door with this two terriers; and as Dr. Edwards mentioned, there we see the “double” reference from previous Hitchcock films. I think the scene lets us know that the pet store sells dogs and is that it is open for business.

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  1. In what ways does this opening scene seem more appropriate to a romantic comedy than a “horror of the apocalypse” film? What do we learn about Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) in this scene?

Tippi Hedren is beautifully dressed and is walking quickly (and happily) in downtown San Francisco. There are wolf whistles and she turns to "acknowledge" them.  The pet shop is a happy place, full of chirping birds.  The tone of the clerk's voice and her dialogue are lightly comedic.  Tippi Hedren then reacts to Rod Taylor by pretending to be a sales clerk and they engage in playful banter.  Taylor wants to buy lovebirds, reinforcing the romance element.  Hedren even convinces him to buy a canary instead which signifies his willingness to accede to her.  The only dark element is the large number of gulls almost swarming in the sky nearby and Hedren asks about them.

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2. How does Hitchcock use sound design in this opening sequence? For example, how are the sounds of birds used to create a particular mood and atmosphere?

 

We hear the normal sounds of urban life--traffic, horns, the cable car bell, and the seagulls cawing in the background.  As Hedren enters the pet shop, the birds are chirping lightly.  When Taylor enters, the bird sounds become louder and a bit more aggressive (masculine?).  As the two converse, the bird sounds almost come to a crescendo indicating the chemistry between the two.

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3. The opening scene contains a famous Hitchcock cameo. Describe the cameo and if you think it has any particular meaning in relation to this scene.

 

I think it is a delightful cameo reinforcing the romantic comedy atmosphere of the opening.  A gentleman walking with his pair of dogs also reminds the audience of the image of a romantic couple.

 

Another thought:  Sorry to introduce politics, but when I watched the final scene in the Lecture Video, it eerily reminded me of the present political situation.  Very scary for those who disagree with the current administration.  So great to see the marvelous actress Jessica Tandy in that scene.

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1.    In what ways does this opening scene seem more appropriate to a romantic comedy than a “horror of the apocalypse” film? What do we learn about Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) in this scene?

 

Two strangers are brought together by chance in a pet store. Classic intro to a RomCom especially when the lady attempts to BS the gent by impersonating a sales person at the store. We learn that Melanie is interested in Mitch. We do not know for sure yet what Mitch has in mind. We learn that the location is a major US City (San Francisco). The two appear to be urban, sophisticated, middle class people in the mid to late 30’s range (?). Both are businesslike in their mannerisms and comportment. The scene is overall "playful" in it's approach. Something is looming in the sky's.

 

2.    How does Hitchcock use sound design in this opening sequence? For example, how are the sounds of birds used to create a particular mood and atmosphere?

 

The bird sounds are filling the audio track behind the dialogue. This adds a wild, natural and ever present buzz of energy to the mood and circumstances.

Prior to entering the shop, we experience a similar buzzing and ever present whirring of energy while street traffic comes and goes on the SF streets. The energy in the environment is high and building, spiraling upward.

 

3.    The opening scene contains a famous Hitchcock cameo. Describe the cameo and if you think it has any particular meaning in relation to this scene.

 

I knew he was in the scene from reading the curator’s notes …I did’nt even see him while watching the clip. I will have to watch it again. LOL. Oopps there he is exiting the shop while she passes in.

 

On first pass, I do not see any underlying meaning. If he only owned one dog, there would be one dog, if he owned three, there would be three I guess. If he was fond of other types of animals he may have been shot inside the shop observing a snake or a rabbit. I do not take away any underlying meaning to his presence except that the timing was calculated to pass her in the doorway to get them both on screen in the shot.

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  1. In what ways does this opening scene seem more appropriate to a romantic comedy than a “horror of the apocalypse” film? What do we learn about Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) in this scene?

 

Melanie and Mitch are flirting with each other when Melanie is pretending to work at the bird shop. Although Mitch is sees through her, he plays along with her practical joke. They engage in very witty banter, reminiscent of the 1930s romantic comedies - The Thin Man (1934) comes to mind. Mitch and Melanie are very sophisticated and urbane, just like Nick and Nora Charles, as shown by their dialogue and wardrobe. Melanie is dressed in an elegant suit; her hair is styled in a French twist and her nails are perfectly polished. Mitch is also dressed in a typical business suit - one that a man would wear if he were an accountant, lawyer, or other business professional. 

 

In this opening scene, the numerous birds flying in the sky are not ominous, but only part of a scene one would expect in a waterfront city like San Francisco. Mitch chooses love birds in the store, which only adds to the romantic element of the opening scene.

 

After you see this film, you realize those birds in the opening scene are a foreshadowing of events to come. Interestingly in the last scene, Cathy takes the lovebirds with her, as they are escaping the apocalypse. As she says, "the love birds haven't done anything..." Is Hitchcock saying that "good will triumph over evil?"

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The pet shop scene with Taylor and Hedren has a lot of banter and keeping up a ruse.  Hedren pretends to be the proprietor and leads Taylor on, and then Taylor figures it out and starts leading her on.  We are shown that these are two smart, equally matched people.  There is a bit of dialog where they touch on the morality of locking up birds in cages, but neither seem to be much bothered by it.

 

The sound design leads us in with the distant call of seagulls, so we know we are near the coast.  There is city street noise mixed in also.  Then we cut to a flocking of gulls and they are screaming at us.  When we arrive in the pet shop, the sounds of cheeping and cooing are quieter, more reassuring.  The dialog is mixed into the bird sound, both equal in volume.

 

The cameo, besides being amusing, may have relationship to the scene in that we are seeing "trafficking" of animal life here;  some will have good consequence, some will be bad.  I have seen the film only once and found it rather disturbing, suggesting the revenge of nature on man.  I always cheer for nature!

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As Melanie walks to Davidson's Pet Shop, we see a typical city scene opening from Hitchcock, the San Francisco trolly blocking part of our view, then as Melanie comes in walking she passes a poster of the Golden Gate Bridge she looks very well dressed, in black top and tight fitting skirt with a white blouse. Stylish clothes, and a young teen gives her a wolf whistle, she turns and smiles. She enjoys making an impression and having it appreciated. This is a common element in romantic comedies, (like Barbara Stanwick in the Lady Eve. Though while everyone else notices her clothing Henry Fonda goes on about her “perfume”). When Melanie arrives at the store and the saleswoman tells her: “I was hoping you would be late 'He” hasn't arrived yet.” We are thinking of a man, then it switches to a Myna Bird.

 

We are not surprised when Mitch shows up and mistakes Melanie for a saleswoman, since she is leaning over the counter writing, still not many saleswoman in pet stores especially, would be wearing designer clothing. Melanie plays along with Mitch asking what he is looking for, “Love Birds, a new variety … for his sister's 11th birthday...doesn't want them too demonstrative”. It seems they are playing and may know each other, but definitely there is flirting going on, especially on Melanie's part who shows more and more how little she knows about birds, but audience thinks may be talking about themselves. As when Mitch asks for the ornithological reason for keeping canaries separate, and her response of their “moulting”. How can you tell they are moulting? And she responds with “hangdog expression”. A couple who might have had a minor argument earlier in the day? Since we know from earlier dialog between Melanie and the saleswoman, it is now after three.

 

The Birds may be going back to more of Hitchcock's earlier work, especially German Expressionism, since for music they use only the Trautonium an instrument for sound effects that Hitchcock learned about during his time making films in Germany. We hear it immediately in the raucous noise as Melanie is walking, the sound of gulls hovering around a food source, or an intruder, as we see them and hear them at a beach, or over a landfill. Perhaps an expected sound from San Francisco, except as Melanie gets closer to the pet store we see people looking up, and then Melanie looks up and we see the birds. We immediately get an answer for it, when Melanie comments on it to the saleswoman, who says it happens when there is a “storm at sea”.

 

While the sound is disconcerting, we are turned away from that by the flirting between Melanie and Mitch later, but even sooner, by seeing Hitchcock lead his two terriers out of the store. Hitchcock was a dog lover and his two terrier's names were the name for one of his production companies “Geoffrey Stanley” that made Marnie. When the little dog in Rear Window is found dead with it's neck strangled, the response of the owner, shows Hitchcock's love of dogs, the opposite of birds in Hitchcock's films. Dogs steadfast and loving, birds are wild, you may own one, you may teach it to talk, (which Melanie obviously is not looking forward to having to do), but given an open cage and door or window that bird will be gone, it is still wild it is not domesticated. We can see this in the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill documentary about colonies of escaped parrots in San Francisco, and there are colonies around NYC of Monk Parrakeets.

 

Still, we will have the two love birds bought for Mitch's sister as the opposite of the birds outside, ravens mostly, and long before Poe seen as a bird of evil, a familiar of witches. The birds that will take back the earth from those who are destroying it.

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1. In what ways does this opening scene seem more appropriate to a romantic comedy than a “horror of the apocalypse” film? What do we learn about Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) in this scene?

 

There’s a chance meeting between Mitch and Melanie inside a pet store.  Mitch assumes Melanie is a store clerk, and this type of mistaken identity is a typical meet cute for a romantic comedy.  It’s obvious from body language that Melanie is attracted to Mitch, but he doesn’t appear to be as obvious about his attraction to her.  Mitch starts asking Melanie questions about love birds and Melanie works the charade exuding confidence even while giving him misinformation.  I think Mitch figures out pretty quickly that Melanie is not a store clerk.  Even so, Mitch doesn’t call her out immediately or seem bothered that she is pretending to be someone she’s not.  He wants to see how far she’ll take the ruse.  Their dialog is light and slightly flirtatious (more so from Melanie at this point).

 

Melanie is sophisticated, beautifully groomed and dressed, and seems to come from money.  She’s used to getting attention (boy who whistles at her), and she’s used to getting her way; but she’s polite and cool.  She doesn’t make a big stink with the store clerk when her birds haven’t been delivered yet, and she seems certain she can charm Mitch.  Mitch is well dressed, loves his family, seems no nonsense, and all business.  He likes having the upper hand and being in control.

 

2. How does Hitchcock use sound design in this opening sequence? For example, how are the sounds of birds used to create a particular mood and atmosphere?

 

Outside the shop we hear the usual traffic noises associated with a big city, and the faint sound of seagulls screeching is evident in the background.  Melanie is whistled at by a young boy passing her, which she acknowledges by turning around and smiling.  Then she hears a loud raucous sound of many gulls flocking in a group overhead in the sky.  The sky is overcast, and the gulls seem to be agitated.  Usually gulls are not so far inland unless there’s bad weather approaching.  This is foreshadowing for what’s to come.

 

As soon as Melanie enters the pet shop, there are lots of chirping sounds coming from the caged birds, but at a lower in volume than the gulls, and the sounds seem to be the normal noises birds make.  The shop is brightly lit with cages of colored birds in warm tones, which is in contrast to the gray skies outside where the gulls are gathering.

 

Melanie and Mitch’s dialog is pleasant and even with all the bird noises around them, the camera focusing on their faces makes them the center of the scene and the bird sounds blend into the background.

 

3. The opening scene contains a famous Hitchcock cameo. Describe the cameo and if you think it has any particular meaning in relation to this scene.

 

Hitchcock walks out with a pair (doubles theme) of light colored terriers.  The only meaning I can gather is he loves animals and enjoys shopping for and with them.  Having a pet store location is the perfect excuse to feature his beloved dogs.

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1. In what ways does this opening scene seem more appropriate to a romantic comedy than a “horror of the apocalypse” film?  What do we learn about Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) in this scene?

 

The basic opening after Melanie strides into the pet shop could certainly play as a scene from a Ross Hunter-produced movie such as Pillow Talk or Lover Come Back with Doris Day and Rock Hudson as the principal actors.   Hitchcock sets the first meeting of Melanie and Mitch as a verbal, thinly veiled sexually-infused joust. We think that Melanie is fooling Mitch into believing that she’s a sales assistant but find out that she is being conned by Mitch who knows her exact identity.   The comeuppance that she receives from Mitch drives the plot to the next level in which Melanie is both intrigued and piqued by her curiosity about meeting this attractive man.   For the 1960s, this was a table-turning event in which a female initiates the courtship.  However, in Hitchcock’s chauvinistic view, a woman is still weaker but generally more cunning than a man.   

 

 

2. How does Hitchcock use sound design in this opening sequence? For example, how are the sounds of birds used to create a particular mood and atmosphere?

 

Hitchcock uses the sound of birds to set the mood of the audience to follow the opening credits with a visual and aural crescendo of birds flashing under the titles.  Visually, Hitchcock’s camera shows an overcast day of the streets of San Francisco as Melanie strides towards the pet shop.  Interestingly enough, when Melanie reaches the front entrance of the pet shop, the studio lighting has brightened everything in the frame.  (Did Hitchcock use special lighting equipment to enhance the street entrance to make it seem that we are at the beginning of a wild comedy while Hitchcock makes his guest appearance walking two dogs?  Or, was the storefront actually a studio set that was cut-to from the San Francisco street locale?)  

 

3. The opening scene contains a famous Hitchcock cameo. Describe the cameo and if you think it has any particular meaning in relation to this scene.

 

As I mentioned is my #2 response, the Hitchcock cameo with the two dogs sets the light comedic tone that is about to unfold between the two leads.  The bright studio lighting in the storefront is emblematic of film comedies of the day and a contrast to the overcast, slightly depressing view of the San Francisco locale at the beginning of the scene.  Before Melanie walks into the shop, she turns briefly to view the swarming birds overhead.   As we view the medium shots and close-ups of Melanie, the frame is brightly lit which lends a happy aura about her.  However, her POV is a dark gray, overcast sky with the silhouettes of birds circling ominously.  Hitchcock visually cues the audience to this contrast in tone and mood.

 

 

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In what ways does this opening scene seem more appropriate to a romantic comedy than a “horror of the apocalypse” film? What do we learn about Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) in this scene?

 

It follows Melanie while having the underlying component of the birds. We follow her trying to fool Mitch and their interaction. I suppose ultimately this seemingly harmless buildup will make the story all the more upsetting/horrifying.

 

How does Hitchcock use sound design in this opening sequence? For example, how are the sounds of birds used to create a particular mood and atmosphere?

 

The sound of the birds is constant and very intrusive. What we don't get is music, there is no score. The birds remain front and center in our ears.

 

The opening scene contains a famous Hitchcock cameo. Describe the cameo and if you think it has any particular meaning in relation to this scene.

 

He exits the store with two dogs. Maybe I'm missing the joke, but perhaps it's meaningful since he's with an alternative animal.

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I thought that today's lecture was one of the best in the course. It helped me to understand my reactions to this film on a more conscious level. I agree that this film has a certain freedom and creativity to it that some of his earlier work in Hollywood--even some of his most brilliant work--doesn't match.

 

As Melanie enters the store, she looks up at the dark cloud of birds above Union Square.

 

The opening scene is very much a "meet cute" with a disturbing undertone. The names Mitch and Melanie sound straight of romantic comedy, and her impersonation of an expert bird salesperson is very amusing because she clearly knows nothing. Similarly, Mitch's interest in finding love birds who do not perform explicit sex acts is slyly funny in view of the fact that we are witnessing a charming and clever mating strategy on Melanie's part. I do feel a little bit weird that he is buying love birds for his pre-adolescent sister!

 

Before the romantic theme is introduced, though, we have the very uneasy dialogue with the saleswoman. There is something almost shady about the way she is constantly modifying her information. She first claims the bird will talk and then says the purchaser will need to teach him. She also brings up the fact that the bird is being taken from its natural habitat and shipped a long distance. Some of her most seemingly innocuous comments are the most troubling in retrospect as when she attributes the massing of birds to storms at sea.

 

There is something sinster about this pet shop. The dark cages and very long lines of birds looks like a state prison for animals. Mitch actually underscores this point about captivity when he talks to Melanie. The loud soundscape of bird noises is disturbing as well. This store is not a happy place for birds.

 

I am not sure what to make of Hitchcock's appearance. Unlike the birds in the pet store, his dogs do not seem the least bit oppressed but who knows what dogs think about being collared and led about on a leash. I noticed that he got out of there very fast. And there are two dogs, another example of doubling along with the love birds.

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  1. In what ways does this opening scene seem more appropriate to a romantic comedy than a “horror of the apocalypse” film? What do we learn about Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) in this scene? There is an immediate attraction between the two handsome/beautiful and well dressed couple....the playful ease between the two of them....he must know she does not work there but regardless he continues the banter..he and she wants to continue the interaction..if you had no idea about this film you would think it is about a developing love story...and what it going to happen between the two....I would definitely not think that some ominous horror would develop as time goes by!

 

How does Hitchcock use sound design in this opening sequence? For example, how are the sounds of birds used to create a particular mood and atmosphere? Truthfully the prominent sounds of the birds throws me off....that is really not a common sound you hear in a bustling city....hearing them is almost annoying.......then right before she goes into the Pet Store....Tippi looks up and sees a mass of birds how odd...thus lending to the annoying first sounds of the birds...why are there so many....and so noisy

 

The opening scene contains a famous Hitchcock cameo. Describe the cameo and if you think it has any particular meaning in relation to this scene.....Love looking for Hitchcock in each cameo of a film.....my immediate thought is the 2 dogs...similar to the two of each animal entering the Ark...is Hitchcock representing Noah......they need to enter the Ark... 2 of each...before disaster strikes....

 

 

 

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This beginning shows the real store keeper who brings a comedic relief to the start, and then the playfulness of tippi pretending to be the store keeper. Mitch seems to know that she isn't knowledgeable about birds, but goes along anyway. Indicating a possible romance.

 

The outside birds seem to be more aggressive than the tame inside birds by sounds only.

 

Hitch walking two dogs as the cameo, reflects his authorship on this film. By this time we the audience looked for him, and by seeing him early leaves us satisfied it's his.

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1. Meet Cute

   

    The characters meet cute and exchange playful banter with sexual undertones.  They're clearly a

    match for each other- both attractive- both have strong drives and wants. He thinks he wants a 

    woman who will fit into his lifestyle (his description of the love birds- not too demonstrative or

    restrained). Already we see that Melanie is pretty demonstrative- attracts attention and is a little

    bit of a minx. She thinks she wants a man who's the perfect fit- not a "chick" and already trained

    to talk and will be delivered to her house in a cage. (The mynah bird). We can see that Mitch is

    still connected to his 11 year old sister- maybe still living at home as a "chick". Also, he is clearly

    not going to fall for any of her tricks & will run his own tricks on her. Also, he won't fit in a cage. 

   

    Melanie

 

    Melanie is attractive and stylish and seems to know it. She draws the attention of a boy on

    the street and almost seems to cause the birds to chirp louder with intensity when she enters

    the store. She flusters the saleswoman although she herself displays unflappable calm. She 

    responds to Mitch's mistake with wicked spontaneous fun.  She turns to chide someone who 

    cheekily whistles her on the street but responds with good humor when she finds it's a child. I 

    think this shows a tenderness towards children. She's spontaneous and resourceful- finds ways to  

    parry Mitch's obviously superior knowledge of birds.  She's a little spoiled and impatient when she

   deals with the saleswoman. She's used to getting her own way. I think she's a little stubborn too. 

   She refuses to give up her charade even when it's obvious Mitch is on to her. 

 

    Mitch

 

    Mitch also seems to know what he wants and is confident even to the point of almost seeming

    a little arrogant when he assumes Melanie is a saleswoman there to help him. He's intelligent 

    enough to figure out her game and then gently tease her deeper and deeper into it. He's clearly

    thoughtful enough to buy his little sister a charming birthday gift. He's handsome, obviously. He's

    mischievous and tricky enough to play along with Melanie's gag. He's also composed & not easily

    disturbed. 

 

2. The bird sounds change when we enter the store. The ones on the outside are more gull like and

    have an ambient natural quality. The ones on the inside have a frenzied cacophony. The sounds 

    for when Mitch enters seem more masculine somehow than the ones when Melanie enters. Maybe

   the sounds are meant to halo or aura our characters like music would. I think it's a really effective 

   use of sound because you don't notice it as much as music. It's more subtle and also more 

   subconsciously effective. I think it's a little unsettling too- the one clue that we're not watching 

   a romantic comedy?

 

3. Hitchcock comes out of the pet store as Melanie is going in. He's walking two scottie dogs which

    he's presumably just bought? Is the store mainly a bird store or a pet store? I think the significance 

   of the dogs is that Hitch is saying "A dog is a man's best friend- stick to dogs". He's hinting that the

   buying and caging of birds can be a problem. Caged things can turn on you with revenge? Also maybe

   hinting that women (or any creature) can be a dangerous and powerful force when caged or held back.

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​1. This film seems like it will be a romantic comedy at first because there is only a brief encounter of the birds in the sky before it becomes secondary to Melanie and Mitch's playful banter. She obviously does not work at the store but does not correct Mitch and continues pretending to knw what she is talking about just so she can talk to him, which is comedic. He also wants to purchase love birds specifically, and goes along with her pretending just to be flirty and to keep talking to her.

 

​2. At the very beginning, the sea gull noises are relaxing and make me feel like I am at the beach, although it is a little overwhelming and odd because there are so many of them, all being really loud. Then when we move into the pet store it is just as loud, except with many different kinds of birds. They obviously do not like being caged and Mitch brings that up, asking how Melanie feels about keeping them trapped (ironic because the free ones will end up attacking them) but they do not seem overly menacing- more begging than angry.

 

​3. I didn't make anything out of the cameo except that Hitch is using doubles again like he does with the love birds. And he loves his doggies :) 

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I think most people have responded better than I can, or at least have said everything I was thinking, so, instead, here's something for some comedic relief....all of Hitchcocks cameos:  (I hope the youtube link works!)

 

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Hollywood Hitch in BIRDS leads us down the rom com path as Taylor & Tippi banter over the details of love birds. What are they actually talking about, "...not too demonstrative, but not aloof?" Probably sex couched in euphemisms. The mistaken identity is definitely a comedic touch, as Taylor believes Tippi is a pet store employee.

 

It's puzzling that the city scape has only aviary sounds. The mood is initiated as off kilter and strange. Does anybody care? The atmosphere is tipped off to be ambivalent ~ almost an opposite foreshadowing, clever Holloywood Hitch! He twists our emotion with sweet birdy sounds to menacing birds of prey.

 

The fact that Hitch escapes from the pet store just in time for the 'foul' kingdom's revolt with his cute babies shows us that we better take notice. It's a stretch to hone meaning, but as we have learned thus far, these little details Hitch inserts have larger meanings as we put the puzzle together.

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1.  With the exception of the massing of birds overhead as Melanie is ready to go into the store, you would have no idea this is going to be a dark film.  The "meet cute" introduction is very much a romantic comedy staple, and the two characters play along with it.  She's intrigued, and we don't yet know why he continues the game (other than her attractiveness) when she clearly doesn't have the knowledge about birds that he has. 

 

2.  I noticed the difference between the sound of the birds outside and the birds inside.  Outside, while not completely menacing, the sound is a little more harsh.  As soon as she walks inside the pet store, the sounds are happy and chirpy.  Very subtle, but definitely there.  Also, it highlights the difference that we'll see later between the benign lovebirds (i.e., "inside" birds and in a cage) and the outdoor birds who can mass together and cause destruction.

 

3.  The only connection I saw between Hitch's cameo (walking two dogs) and the film is that it might be a nod to the fact that Melanie is going to meet a romantic partner in the store -- i.e., two dogs come out with Hitchcock, and by the time Melanie leaves the store, she's on the road to pairing with Mitch. 

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