Tag Archives: The Birds

Top Ten: Alfred Hitchcock Films

Alfred Hitchcock, celebrating what would have been his 114th birthday last week, is undeniably my favorite director. I’ve seen almost all of his filmography, barring a few scattered ones here and there and most of the silents, and even though there are a few I’m not that crazy about (looking at you, Under Capricorn), by and large I’m going to be at least entertained and often blown away by his work. In fact, an Alfred Hitchcock film is my #1 of all time, and three Hitchcock films are in my Top Twenty, more than any other filmmaker by far. Looking farther down, all of my Top Ten Hitchcock films are in the top 15% of my Flickchart, and I have 16 Hitchcock films in my Top 1000 (basically the top 1/3 of my chart). Not too shabby for the Master of Suspense.

Flickchart is a movie ranking website that pits two random films against each other and asks you to choose which one is better, meanwhile building a list of your favorite films. I rank according to what I like the best, prioritizing personal preferences and emotional connections, so my Flickchart is in no way meant to be objective.

10 – The Trouble with Harry (1955)

The Trouble with Harry is my go-to recommendation for underrated Hitchcock films. In a small New England town, one of those places where everyone knows everyone else, a man ends up dead in the woods and no one seems particularly upset about it. In fact, several people are fairly convinced they’re the ones who killed him. The dark comedy side of Hitchcock is in full view here, and it’s gleefully macabre and dry. Also, Shirley MacLaine’s screen debut. So there’s that.

9 – The 39 Steps (1935)

The sole British film on my list, The 39 Steps epitomizes the witty charm that characterized Hitchcock’s British period while also foreshadowing many of the themes that would run throughout his career – mistaken identity, the wrong man on the run from shadowy pursuer, a forced entanglement leading to a romance, a cool blonde, etc. Robert Donat is the man mistaken for a spy who ends up handcuffed to Madeleine Carroll while they suss out the spy ring threatening England.

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More on The Birds remake

Variety keeps dropping little bits about the proposed remake/adaptation of The Birds. I put both terms because I’ve heard they’re planning to stay closer to Daphne du Maurier’s short story than to Hitchcock’s film, but it’s fairly obvious they’re also planning on the name recognition of the earlier film, so it’s sort of both. Here’s a quote from the newest bit of news:

“We think we have a very contemporary take,” Schulman said. “In the original, the birds just showed up, and it was kind of like, why are the birds here? This time, there’s a reason why they’re here and (people) have had something to do with it. There’s an environmental slant to what could create nature fighting back.”

Um.

THE WHOLE POINT OF THE BIRDS IS WE DON’T KNOW WHY THEY’RE ATTACKING. Aaaargh. I was just becoming reconciled to the idea of them remaking what I consider to be Hitchcock’s scariest movie and one the top five films he ever made. But this…oh, this changes everything. The very thing that makes The Birds scary is that it’s completely unexplained. We don’t know why the birds attack, neither the characters nor the world at large seem to have done anything to provoke them, the cessation of attacks is just as random as the attacks, and just as unquieting. It’s a brilliant film. If you give the attacks motivation, if you make them vengeful against mankind’s abuses of the environment, you have made just another creature feature with a left-wing moral. If there’s a moral to Hitchcock’s The Birds, it’s don’t be afraid to love other people, and take care of them when you do love them, because the world is a harsh place, and you’re going to need each other.

Of course, given my feelings on directorial authorship and creative licence, the filmmakers have every right to do that if they want. But they think it’s going to be better that way, and I’m saying they’re absolutely wrong about that.