Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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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?

Hitchcock is careful to couch the story in a setting of normalcy to counterpoint the apocalyptic elements to follow. Melanie is suffering delays in shipping frustration, she is mistaken for the shop girl, then taken for a ride by Mitch. There are several layers moving on to of each other here. Throughout is the chatter of the birds. 

We learn that Mitch is not as ignorant on the topic of birds as one might have supposed, we learn that he is quick on the uptake with Melanie, even after his initial error, and that he is interested in her. We also learn that he has a sister.

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 eschews a conventional score in favor of a soundscape composed entirely of bird sounds and some integrated music. The birds are almost used musicaly and the bird sounds have the same effect of emphasising moods, or prodding audience expectation.

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.

Hitchock exits the bird shop with his dogs, as Melanie goes in. Apart from the observation of 'doubles' that was referenced int he video, I don't know what other meaning is present.

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In the opening scene, the whistle by the boy on the street before Melanie notices the large flock of gulls in the sky gives a lighter tone to the incident. Melanie pretending to be the saleslady, the playful banter between Melanie and Mitch, and Mitch going along with the pretense gives it more of a romantic comedy feel, especially since he is looking for a pair of not "too demonstrative" lovebirds. It is clear that both Mitch and Melanie are demonstrating their interest in each other.

 

The sound of the gulls heralds the events to come. It helps to focus us on the birds. The birds are quite loud in the store as well, and compete for attention with the dialog.

 

Hitchcock's cameo with the two dogs is kind of interesting in that, just like Melanie noticed the birds, one of the dogs stops and looks back in that direction as well. A couple of the people on the street looked, but Hitchcock himself did not.

 

 

 

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And what about her coat?  ...even the birds are critics....

 

thebird_zpsiyzwabyv.gif

 

According to the extra feature on the DVD for The Birds, that is a fake bird on a wire grazing Marnie's head (or, as Tippie Hedren described it, the hairsprayed helmet of her hair). My head is starting to hurt with the quick repetitions of this 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?
  • The scene between Melanie and Mitch resemble a meet cute. They are more like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail. That is even more the case the further you get in the scene. 
  • Some of the aspects of the opening do resemble a horror film opening. The foreshadowing the birds and having the birds play such a prominent role in these two characters meeting. The sound of the whistle before she notices the birds and the isolating of the birds sounds. They are the soundtrack of the film. In horror the music is often a character of its own. 
  • Melanie and Mitch are very similar. They enjoy playing a game of cat and mouse with each other. 
  1. 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 birds keep you on your toes. First you hear a whistle from a boy directed towards Melanie and then she notices the birds. This adds to suspense in this moments but sets up suspense for later. 
  • The sound of birds in the shop works the way themes in films work. When you hear that sound you know something is coming. 
  • The shop workers line "storms a brewing," adds to that. 
  1. 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.
  • In could possibly play in to the fact that this is where your leads meet. 

 

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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?

 

This opening scene seems more like a romantic comedy because it has a very light and airy opening-just a woman wanting to pick up a bird. There isn't any threatening music or characters. We get the idea that there could a romantic relationship in the cards for Melanie and Mitch. The only item that might be a little foreshadowing is the seagulls outside and the shop attendant telling Melanie that there's probably a storm that's driving them inland.

 

We learn that Melanie is impatient and used to getting what she wants. We learn that Melanie is spontaneous and a bit of a prankster. We soon get the feeling that Mitch knows that she isn't an shop attendant and he just keeps egging her on.

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Just as I felt when I first saw The Birds several years ago, it seemed lighthearted, with droplets of humor, such as the wolf-whistling boy, Melanie's appreciative response and her playful attitude with Mitch as she pretends to be a pet shop employee, plus Hitchcock's signature cameo with his two little dogs (the issue of doubles, which is a Hitchcock characteristic). It seemed to be an obvious set up for Mitch, who's seeking lovebirds (also another example of doubles) for his sister - not his wife or girlfriend - therefore suggesting the field is open for a relationship with Melanie) and Melanie (coquettishly posing as an employee, engaging in playful banter with Mitch) to meet each other, as the two people clearly are attracted to one another. Melanie is cool, well dressed and sophisticated and based on the exchange with the staff person portrayed by Ruth McDevitt, Melanie is someone who is used to getting her own way.  All of this, though, is juxtaposed to a feeling of foreboding that sets in when you think of the swarm of birds outside of the shop, which Melanie notices (as does one of Hitchcock's pups) before entering the store. I recall thinking, "this is creepy," "why are the birds there," and later, "what is it about her (Melanie) that is attracting the birds?" To me, the latter point is the undercurrent throughout the rest of the film. Naturally, I was hooked right at the start!

 

I was struck by the lack of music that would fit such a lighthearted opening - which also suggested to me that something strange and ultimately, frightening, was about to happen. The sounds of birds, wings flapping, etc., mixed with street sounds, reinforced this notion. This was further punctuated by the even louder bird sounds - which would be typical - that we hear inside the pet shop.

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Daily Dose #18 - The Birds

 

"Tis a fowl, fowl better thing that I do, a fowl, fowl better film to go to...."

 

"Feed the Birds....Tuppence a bag..."

 

This film scared the bejesus out me the first time I saw it.  I truly think it is more horrific than Pyscho.

With Pyscho, all you have to do to be safe is stay away from the Bates Motel.  With The Birds, no place is safe.

 

So - bring on the queries!

 

  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 a very light-hearted tone to the scene, from the opening with Melanie walking along Union Square and being whistled at (a "Catcall" in other terms) and smiling to the (dare I say?) bird-brained shop owner, to the seductive verbal byplay between Mitch and Melanie.  Melanie to the typical Hitchcock blonde, well to do and playing a role other than her own - she goes along with the mistake by Mitch that she works at the shop.  She is aware of her sexuality and its effect on the male sex.

But Melanie is also lonely.  She is hoping to buy a Myna Bird - one that talks - to keep her company.

 

Mitch has close family ties but apparently is not married.  He confuses Melanie for a shop worker, then is mystified and confused by some of her answers to his question.  It's a nice set-up for a romantic comedy starring, instead of Tippi Hendren, Doris Day, with Rock Hudson or James Garner for the Mitch role.

 

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?

 

It is a bit strange that there is no music playing during the opening sequence outside, instead, we are treated to seagull cries, not unusual for San Francisco, and the sound intensifies during the shot of just the birds in the sky.  Inside the pet shop, the bird calls mask out any other animal sound and sound a bit more soothing during the Mitch/Melanie dialogue.

 

 

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 has two dogs on a leash, they are comfortable with him, and he with them.  Therefore it would appear Hitchcock is a cheapskate and has not made any purchases from the shop  (He is not carrying any packages).  It also conveys Man's dominance over land animals.  He has tamed them.  But the birds fly free.

 

 

- Walt3rd

 

p.s. anyone else feel the birds are triggered somehow by the catcall given Melanie?  

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1. The opening scene between Mitch and Melanie is like many rom/com's. It's light and playful. It reminds me of the opening scene of a Penny Serenade with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. In today's film Melanie tries to pull off that she knows about birds, but Mitch see through it almost immediately. There is a flirtation between them before the clip ends. It makes the viewer think they might be seeing a comedy and not a suspense/thriller. But little do they know.

 

2. Hitchcock typically uses music in the background during the opening scene. In this movie the sounds of the seagulls and the birds in the whole make the predominant sounds. It's not unusual for gulls to fly around San Francisco but in this scene the noise is much louder. Melanie notices and looks up to the sound to see more birds than usual. Inside the shop that's the first noise you notice. Not the puppies or the other animals but the birds in the cages. Even at this point it doesn't seem to be of great importance. Just one of Hitchcock's touches.

 

3. He's emphasizing two or a pair. He's walking his two dogs out of the shop. Mitch is looking for a pair of love birds. Mitch and Melanie are at the beginning of being a couple.

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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) through their interactions in this scene?
 

Melanie is beautiful, looks great and knows it.  She appreciates a whistle by stopping.  She turns and gives the whistler a big smile.  She arrives at the pet shop at the appointed time and asks relatively logical questions about the myna bird.  She has to wait for the shopkeeper to make a call.  The bird has not arrived.  She starts to write her phone number and address for the shopkeeper, but is interrupted by Mitch when he mistakenly thinks she is the shopkeeper.  She doesn't tell him she is not the shopkeeper or that she doesn't work there at all.  She is secure in herself and curious enough about Mitch to try and help him or pull off a good joke.

 

Mitch knows what he wants--love birds.  Melanie starts looking while walking about the bird section telling Mitch about the "birds".  Mitch has to know that she is either a ditz or just doesn't know which bird is which.  He is polite and considerate even though he must know he is being had.  She's beautiful so he plays along and when she asks if would take canaries instead he accepts.  Now the canaries are in same shot as Melanie and Mitch.  Mitch knows what canaries are, does Melanie?

 

This interaction is more comedic than apocalyptic.  They both are willing to play the male-female game so it has to be romantic.  
 

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 opening scene takes place outside in a kind of square.  There is a soft sound of seagulls calling and it grows louder and louder.  Melanie stops to look up and we see all these seagulls flying around in wide circles over the square.  Nothing happens and Melanie goes into the pet shop.

 

The sound design is fantastic.  It really sounds like a flock of hungry seagulls that just spotted food.  The pet shop is trickier for me.  Anyone who has ever been in a pet store with that many birds has no need to use canned bird sounds. They make a racket all on there own.  But if they used sound design for the shop and the outside, it was spot on.

 

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 opening scene has Melanie entering the pet shop as Hitchcock comes out behind his two terriers.  For me, it brings up what you spoke about, the duality of things; a Hitchcock thing to do.

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1. This scene seems to be more of a set-up for a romantic comedy as it introduces our male and female leads as strangers, but brought together by coincidence in a public place.  Mitch acts as if he mistakes her for a pet shop employee (which we find out soon after this clip that its an act he is putting on), while Melanie plays along with him, putting on her own act.  This set-up of prankster-ish behavior, play acting, misunderstanding and deception are often used to create comedic situations.  Add to this that her assumed motivation is only to become acquainted with this attractive man.  It is discovered later that his deception is based on knowledge of her notorious history, disguised in a desire to show her up - but is actually an unrecognized attraction.  It's the ying/yang of antagonistic attraction.

2. The audio of this scene starts with the sound of gulls dominating the street scene, (which draws Melanie's attention), followed by the boy's wolf-whistle at Melanie (or a 'bird' to use the English slang). Once inside the pet store, the sound of the various species of bird's is a persistent layer to the interior scene.  This despite the presents of other types of pets, which go unheard.  This lays a foundation for the entire film, that the birds are ever present, populous, and cannot be ignored.  To some degree it adds a layer of distraction, if not irritation, to the scene.

3. As to Hitchcock's cameo in the opening, it was known he wanted to get his expected cameo out of the way early in his later films, so as not to have the audience attention focused on finding him, rather than the narrative.  As Dr. Edwards mentions, the fact that Hitchcock is walking two identical dogs, does suggest the theme of doubles or pairings - as with the two love birds in the subsequent scene.  It also re-emphasizes that this shop is a pet store which Melanie is entering.

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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?

This is scene has so many of the elements of a romantic comedy.   There’s an immediate physical attraction on the part of both protagonists.  Their first encounter begins with verbal sparring and a match of wits. There's a slight case of mistaken identity. They flirt and get underneath each other’s skin at the same time.  To mix things up, an incidental character is added to the scene – eccentric and kooky old ladies are always a good addition to a rom-com.

In less than three minutes, we learn that Melanie is a girl who is used to having her way - whether it be birds or men.  Mitch is a guy who is intelligent and who will not be taken for a fool; more likely he will turn the tables on you.  Both like to take control of situations in their own way.

But the movie is not a rom-com in its totality – the scene is off-kilter.   First, we have the ominous shot of the seagulls hovering over San Francisco.  Second, there’s the sound effects which I will address in the next question.

 

 

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 last time we were listening to flirtatious, romantic banter like this was on the train in North by Northwest.  Soft, sexy, jazzy music just within earshot, to underscore the dialogue and add to the romance.  Here, the tone of the dialogue is similar – male and female throwing blunt love-darts at each other.  But instead of music we get the sounds inherent to a bird-shop.  Only the chirping is incessant; it’s presented at such a peculiar pitch and frequency to make us want to exit the shop as soon as possible – running with our fingers in our ears.   It really does take some of the joy of watching these two go at it.  Even now we start to hate these birds; though they are harmless in their cages it feels like they are ganging up on us.

 

 

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 of the bird-shop with his two dogs; his stride seems quick and purposeful.   He appears for a moment to be a little haughty; perhaps angry?.

At first, I thought – ‘this cameo means absolutely nothing!’  But, now that I think about it further – it’s a bird-shop!   Why did he go in with a pair of dogs?  He’s not leaving the shop with a birdcage or package so we have no reason to believe he is interested in owning a bird.   Did he ‘return’ a bird?  Now, after all these years, I am wondering about this.  Gee, thanks Professor Edwards!   ????

I look forward to reading other interpretations of the cameo.

 

 

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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?

Melanie, seems like an intelligent, wealthy woman and is interested in Mitch. She decides to have a little fun with him by pretending she works in the pet store. She doesn't know a lot about birds and is making up information about them as he catches her in this act.

 

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 very over powering in the opening scene. The birds are loud outside and inside, annoyingly loud in listening to the dialogue.

 

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 is walking two dogs out of the bird store which is very ironic. I do not think it has any meaning other than being a funny cameo.

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Birds are the central topic of this scene, their sounds are heard outside and inside the store. The birds make so much noise that Tippy Hedron notices that a lot of them are flying over downtown. There are a lot of birds inside the store, their noises are bright and cheerful. Tippi Hedron is buying a myna bird, why she wants one is unknown.  From her inane conversation with Rod Taylor we learn that she does not know much about the birds in the store.  He may know more about the birds than she does but, seemingly, not much.  For romantic comedy, this is a very dull beginning.  We do not even see a pair of love birds.  

 

 

 

 

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I love The Birds. There's so much going on in this movie, each episode with Mitch and Melanie, or the unrequited love story of Annie Hayworth, or the tragic fears of Mitch's mother....could be a story in itself. And then we're suddenly brought back to the idea of...oh yes, the world is going crazy and life as we know it is ending. (Actually a little too close to the atmosphere today.)

And I love Tippi Hedren - she is so incredibly self-possessed in this movie. Who else could calmly travel up the coast, rent and drive a motor boat to a remote location, all while wearing a pencil skirt, an upswept hairdo and carrying a bird cage?

 

And by the way, I really do think someone should mention the serious claims Tippi Hendren has made about the sexual harassment she received from Hitchcock during the making of The Birds. She says Hitch put her in harms way and she was injured during the making of this film because she wouldn't submit to him. It is a sad part of the Hitchcock character, but it seems to be true.

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1.  The opening is a "meet cute", which is pretty standard form in a romantic comedy. There is maybe just a slight hint of foreboding in the circling birds outside, but otherwise the tone is very light overall.  Melanie and Mitch are clearly attracted to one another, and there is a slightly flirtatious tone to the dialogue.  We learn that Melanie is willing to play assume the role of an employee of the store, just to have a little fun.  And Mitch is charming and intelligent.

 

2.  The bird sound is used almost in the way that musical cues could be used to aid in the overall mood.  When the movie opens outside, the seagull sounds are quite audible, but not intrusive;  we are focused on Melanie crossing the street.  Then, when she looks at the circling birds in the sky, the noise becomes more raucous, and louder too.  Then, when she enters the shop, the sound quiets a bit, and is just a charming melange of mellifluous bird noise, which fits the "romantic comedy" tone established by the two characters.

 

3.  Hitchcock exits the pet store just before Tippi Hedren enters, turning to the right and walking down the sidewalk, with his own two dogs in tow.  Hitchcock could have been filmed exiting the store with a bird cage, since birds are the title animal, but Hitchcock was a dog lover his whole life, and I'm sure he enjoyed allowing his own dogs to "guest star" in the film.  I don't think any deeper thought went into this or any of his cameos.  

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DAILY DOSE #18 (The Birds).


 


FINE FEATHERED FRENZY:


1. As Melanie and Mitch flirt while discussing love birds, we expect that's what they'll become.


2. The outside flock sounds ominous; the inside, cheerful. Also a boy wolf whistles his own bird call.


3. Hitchcock's cameo of being walked by his dogs suggests the tether between pet and owner.

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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?
It's a romantic comedy. Melanie is very interested in Mitch who is very good looking. She portrays  as the pet shop employee just to flirt with him.
 
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 birds sounds and visual effect in the opening scene is kinda eerie and creepy to look up and see all those birds just flying.
 
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.
HIs cameo is just to funny, its a movie about birds and Hitchcock walks out of the pet store with two small dogs.
 
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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?

 

Its a cute flirty scene and we are in on it.  Only the very beginning when crossing the street and seeing the birds is referenced.  The rest of the opening does feel like the beginning of a romantic comedy. 

 

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?

 

I did noticed the friendly little chirps in the store scene.  Those made it feel more light and romantic.

 

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. 

 

Its funny seeing him with the two dogs.  It seems at only the one dog, stops for a minute and looks at the camera.  I didn't notice anything of particular meaning with this cameo.

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1) This scene has several instances of a romantic comedy opening. For instance, Mitch sensing that Melanie does not really work at the pet store, and giving her a hard time and amusing requests. 

We learn that Melanie is an upper class socialite that does not have a care or worry in the world and Mitch is some kind of businessman with a sarcastic sense of humor that takes revenge on those who are not truthful.

 

2) The sound design, specifically the birds, is used as a conversation starter about its occurrence and foreshadows the birds as being a big part of the later plot. The mood and atmosphere the bird sounds create is one of dominance and overpowering because the sequence has more bird sounds than human sounds.

 

3) Hitchcock’s cameo occurs when Melanie enters the pet shop and Hitch exits with two white dogs on leashes. This cameo does nothing, for me, in meaning besides add to the fact that this scene is set in more in an upper class area of the city.

 

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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?

     

    Well, we see the two characters, presumably meeting for the first time, flirting as they discuss birds.  Mitch mistakes Melanie for a shop girl and asks her questions as she pretends to work and know (less than he does) about the birds in the shop.  The setting is in a public space (again Hitchcockian) and no frightening music.

     

  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 gulls outside look ominous; the sound from them is screechy and could be scary.  Inside the shop it isn't frightening, but the birds do take over the entirety of the background noise.  But the noise is something that you can overlook hear as you expect to hear the animals in a pet shop; you don't worry about it and basically put it out of mind.  You cannot but help to hear them; as stated in the lecture video, the birds are the stars of the movie - and even in this scene they do make themselves known.

     

  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.

     

    Hitch is seen walking (his?) two dogs from the pet shop.  To me it may be something about leading the actors, or them leading him?  Perhaps the birds leading the movie and really how can you wrangle birds completely?  Two dogs, two main characters; a pair, a romantic pair.

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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?
 
First, it sets up Tippi Hedren as a sex object from the very beginning. The boy whistles at her and she stops and smiles at him. I understand this was a tribute to a popular TV commercial at the time. As for the romantic comedy, it has the edge of a screwball comedy with misdirection and a verbal sparring between the man and woman. Tippi Hedren poses as a sales woman to meet Rod Taylor. Rod Taylor knows something is wrong and immediately starts trying to catch her in lies. We later find out that he knows who she is, a famous debutante. 
 
What we learn about:
 
  • Tippi Hedren - She is very stylish, presumably rich. She is very good-looking and from her reaction when the boy whistles is used to the attention it brings her. From the way she treats the sales woman, she is demanding and used to getting her way. She goes after what she wants (Rod Taylor) and is not afraid of using deception to get it.
     
  • Rod Taylor is good looking too. I have seen The Birds a number of times, so I know he is a lawyer. From the way, he questions her, almost an interrogation, I would guess that he is either a cop or a lawyer. He doesn't have patience for games, though he seems to be able to play them quite well. He has a little sister, who he is protective of, wants love birds to be not too demonstrative nor too aloof.
 
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?
 
Though realistic, there is the constant chatter of birds. Outside you hear the seagulls mixed in with the sounds of traffic and the cable car. We see a flock of seagulls circling above, so their sounds don't seem out of place. Inside the pet shop, again more bird sounds, again motivated by the situation, a pet shop with caged birds everywhere. I'm sure that audiences knew coming in knew that the film was going to be about bird attacks, so despite the bird noise everything is very normal/mundane. Even the large flock of seagulls is explained as normal by the shopkeeper, saying that a storm at sea would drive them inland.
 
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 only deeper meaning I can see is that he is walking dogs and not a bird person. Also he is getting away from both the birds in the shop and from Tippi Hedren. He turns the opposite direction that Tippi Hedren had come from.
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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? In looking the glib dialogue and the verbal sparring between Melanie and Mitch, one could almost substitute Doris Day and Rock Hudson from one of their three romantic comedies (almost 'screwball' comedies) contemporary to the time.  The two spar back and forth (like a couple of birds about to mate?) and Mitch is obviously pleased that he has tricked Melanie into playing along. Mitch's constant questioning of Melanie hints at his occupation as a lawyer.  Later, when Melanie calls the newspaper office, we hear that she is able to coerce the city editor into looking up Mitch's license plate and that "daddy is in a meeting" -- enough information to tell the audience that she is a spoiled rich girl.  Also, we first see Tippi in that severely-tailored black suit, forcing her to walk, almost hop, like a bird.  The scene opens on Union Square, a popular open space in San Francisco surrounded by upscale hotels and shopping, a setting much more associated with a light-hearted, sophisticated comedy than the end of the world.

 

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?  I love how the bird sounds crescendo and fade away, starting with the gulls over Union Square and especially the captive birds in the shop as Melanie comes into view at the top of the stairs.  As in most of Hitchcock's previous work, deliberate care is given to the sounds of the city (traffic, streetcar bells, etc) giving the realistic aural accompaniment to the visual. One other note -- per the lecture notes, we have learned that Hedren was discovered by Hitchcock via her appearance in a 1960s television commercial for a diet drink called "Sego".  As I remember from the day, one of those commercials featured an off-screen cat-call whistle to which the model turns and smiles -- exactly as Hedren does in the first few frames of the film, a nod to the source of his new star's discovery.

 

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. One of our classmates here made a great observation about the dogs representing 'double' or 'pair'.  I have also heard that those were indeed Hitchcock's personal dogs (might have been in the lecture notes) and have read that they were even associated visually with Hitchcock's Shamley Productions, perhaps in a logo (?).  A big stretch here, but could it be somewhat of a 'thumbed nose' at the studio system that Hitch is now his own 'system' and at a point where he can do whatever he wants?

 

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Prior to The Birds, there were other films about nature gone wrong, often connected to radiation. In many that I can recall, humans unambiguously win in the end and show the ultimate superiority of human intelligence.  However, The Birds is not just apocalyptic but almost anti-Enlightenment in its refusal to spell out cause and effect and its nightmarish unresolved ending. We humans think we are in control of nature and that our God-given superiority gives us the right to express mastery over  other lower order species. We have great logical capabilities, like Mitch's law degree, and we are confident of our success, like Melanie's undaunted determination to pursue Mitch. But in the end, neither looks nor money, not logic nor expertise will suffice to save us from what we don't know that we don't know or from what is simply random absurdity.  And Hitch is reminding us that any at moment, in places where we least expect it, illogical absurdity can complete crush rationalism and collapse our sense of civilized superiority.

 

Does anyone else think of 1968 Night of the Living Dead with the refugees boarded up in a house?   

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The opening scene to the birds introduces Melanie to Mitch to one another through a chance encounter, a momentary misunderstanding, a game of pretend and a flirtatious go-along, all ingredients of romantic comedy.  We learn that Melanie can be patient (with the ditzy sales clerk) and can take the initiative (with Mitch), suggesting that she is probably not attached.  Mitch, who makes a breezy entrance, probably quickly realizes that Melanie doesn't know what she is talking about as far as birds are concerned, but enjoys the encounter, suggesting he might be interested.

 

The sound design, with only the sounds of birds with no music whatsoever, is almost disorienting -- the sounds of birds overwhelming all other sounds almost suggests that birds are everywhere as voyeurs to what is unfolding on screen.

 

The Hitchcock cameo makes me smile --- he emerges with two dogs (reliably man's best friend) from a pet store touting 'birds and tropical fish' in the window, in a movie titled The 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? By the choice of location and easygoing atmosphere one can easily identify this movie as a romantic comedy.

 

The playful tone of the characters, the dialogue gives in into what Melanie and Mitch are like. It also gives in the background of a possible family man and an class glam woman engaged in what can be described as flirtatious activity.

 

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 sound of birds are used probably and specific to give the audience this chilling mood. Sound and image basically working in distinctive actions.

 

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 waking the dogs probably gives in the information about animal versus human. It's flirts with the audience without telling them anything else apart from what they are watching.

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