The Birds (1963) is a modern Hitchcock thriller/masterpiece, his first film with Universal Studios. It is the apocalyptic story of a northern California coastal town filled with an onslaught of seemingly unexplained, arbitrary and chaotic attacks of ordinary birds - not birds of prey. Ungrammatical advertising campaigns emphasized: "The Birds Is Coming." This Technicolor feature came after Psycho (1960) - another film loaded with 'bird' references.
Novelist Evan Hunter based his screenplay upon the 1952 collection of short stories of the same name by Daphne du Maurier - Hitchcock's third major film based on the author's works (after Jamaica Inn (1939) and Rebecca (1940)). In du Maurier's story, the birds were attacking in the English countryside, rather than in a small town north of San Francisco. The film's technical wizardry is extraordinary, especially in the film's closing scene (a complex, trick composite shot) - the special visual effects of Ub Iwerks were nominated for an Academy Award (the film's sole nomination), but the Oscar was lost to Cleopatra. Hundreds of birds (gulls, ravens, and crows) were trained for use in some of the scenes, while mechanical birds and animations were employed for others.
The film's non-existent musical score is replaced by an electronic soundtrack (including simulated bird cries and wing-flaps), with Hitchcock's favorite composer Bernard Herrmann serving as a sound consultant. It was shot on location in the port town of Bodega Bay (north of San Francisco) and in San Francisco itself. Hitchcock introduced a 'fascinating new personality' for the film - his successor to Grace Kelly - a cool, blonde professional model named 'Tippi' Hedren, in her film debut in a leading role. [Hedren reprised her character in a minor supporting role, in an inferior made-for-TV sequel, The Birds II: Land's End (1994), set in the New England fishing town of Land's End. The director was Rick Rosenthal, although the standard generic pseudonym 'Alan Smithee' is found in the credits. Leads Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren are replaced by Brad Johnson and Chelsea Field.]