TCM Club October 2023 Meeting

Our Triangle Classic Movie Club met on Sunday, October 22, 2023 for the Fathom Big Screen Classics 60th Anniversary screening of The Birds (1963), starring “Tippi” Hendren and Rod Taylor.

Afterwards, club members indulged in “coffee and” at Panera Bread to discuss and enjoy a fun, robust critique of The Birds. Using a “now vs. then” approach regarding the scare/jump scenes, most of our group thought there were still a few good scares in this classic film.


A brief synopsis–

It all starts in San Francisco with a silly prank where Mitch (Taylor) and Melanie (Hendren) meet in an exotic bird boutique. Melanie, instantly attracted to Mitch, pretends to be an employee at the shop, servicing a very brusk Mitch who wants to purchase love birds for his little sister’s birthday. Melanie decides to deliver the love birds in secret to Mitch’s mother’s house in Bodega Bay, where his sister lives and where he likes to spend weekends. Bodega Bay becomes the center of all the action as the birds begin their unexplained attacks and wreak havoc on the small, sleepy seaside community where everyone knows everyone else.

By 2023, Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) special effects certainly have evolved. Baby-boomers may look at this movie today and see fake blood, fake birds and “perfect hair” on the heroine and have a quiet laugh although The Birds, while rudimentary in special effects as compared to today, has deep emotional characters and sub plots that reach across the decades. The intense scene at the diner when the town patrons whip themselves to a “frenzy” (no pun intended) as one man leaves to put gas in his car, unaware that a bird has attacked and knocked over an attendant who was filling a car with gas. The attendant falls to the ground and we see the gas flowing across the ground nearby another pump where a different patron is lighting his smoke and just getting ready to throw his lit match on the ground. This action ignites a full-blown explosion as the diner patrons helplessly watch in horror. We all JUMPED, even though we knew it was going to happen.

This movie, however, offers much more than cheap thrill. It offers an unexpected dark side of nature, showcasing loneliness, jealousy, and fear, just to name a few of the emotional tangents the film touches on.

Our group also talked about couture fashion in The Birds. The fashion trip down memory lane was pure bliss. We wished we could go back in time and wear those styles the ladies wore again! It has been written that director Sir Alfred Hitchcock preferred women who behaved like well-bred ladies. Tippi had that quality. The stunning green suit that Tippi wore throughout the movie made us long for the fashions of the 60s. She was a classic beauty. 

Rod Taylor, well-toned, tanned and in his prime, plays the dashing hero who is smitten with Hedren. The possessive Mother who will not let go of her son, is ably played by Jessica Tandy, who delivers a highly believable performance. Tandy’s stoic body language and icy stare, rife with jealousy, needs no words. Veronica Cartwright, playing Mitch’s young sister is innocent but thoughtful and worries about the love birds brought to her by Hendren as a payback joke that they share at the start of this movie. Still cutting her teeth as an actor, Cartwright could not have known that she would later have a rich, lengthy career. Suzanne Pleshette, the sultry, charismatic ex-lover of the hero in this story plays a weak woman who cannot let go of the past. Her performance is heartbreaking.

As our meeting came to an end, we agreed that watching this movie after decades of only seeing it on smaller screens was exciting. Even though The Birds could be considered pure camp to some, the movie permeates our thoughts. Does this movie hold up in the age of CGI? Of course not, and we don’t want it to! We do not care that the blood and gore is painted on the body parts. It is okay for us cinephiles. Hitchcock told stories that tapped into the evilest minds and his audiences continue to be spellbound.

Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s contributions to the world of cinema are immense; he is among the most influential figures in the history of cinema. His cinematic legacy is unparalleled, and he has changed the way we create movies. The film scholar Peter William Evans wrote that The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964) are regarded as “undisputed masterpieces.”  Hitchcock directed over 50 films.

Oh, one more thing: 

Ask yourself: In 2023 would a savvy, grown woman go upstairs in the middle of the night, in a strange house, with a flashlight knowing there are hundreds of huge, unhinged, killer birds of all varied species that are waiting to kill her? Would you open the door? Ha! We think NOT!!!

Overall, we had a good turnout on a warm sunny Sunday afternoon, and we shared a wonderful time catching up on “Hitch” trivia and why we love classic movies.

Lastly, we won’t forget how Tina brought us in for a huddle. Tina, you had us on the edge of our seats with your inside celebrity story! 

TCM Club members L to R: Chris, Tina, Kami, Linda, Kim, Dan, Sharon, Caroline

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