Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Spooky movies! The Birds, Psycho and Frenzy

Ah, I love me some Alfred Hitchcock. The Birds was released in 1963, starring the fantabulous Tippi Hedren as a wealthy socialite who follows a fellow to the semi-rural Botega Bay on the pretext of delivering a pair of lovebirds to him for his sister's birthday. After her arrival, all of the birds go berserk for no apparent reason, start attacking people in big flocks, and absolute mayhem, including gratuitous eye pecking, ensues. I love Tippi, and I love this movie. I saw it as a very young child, and it scared me to death, especially that scene with Tippi all alone in the attic room and the birds just attacking relentlessly, with squeaks and flapping wing sounds. Yikes. As an adult, my biggest concern is that Tippi wears the same suit throughout the entire three days, and I worry if she's washing her undies out in random bathroom sinks or what. Apparently, there's a remake in the works, with Naomi Watts and George Clooney. Why? Now that is a scary question.

The classic killer movie, Psycho, was released in 1960, with the unbelievably wonderful Tony Perkins and Janet Leigh in amazing bras. We all know the story of Norman Bates and his mother. I first saw this movie when I was about eight, and I don't recall being all that scared at the time. My favorite Psycho story: The sound you hear when Norman is stabbing Marion in the shower is a knife being plunged into melons. Hitchcock actually auditioned melons. He had some assistant buy every available type of melon, and then had him stab the melon while Hitchcock was not looking. The assistant would announce the type of melon, stab, Hitchcock would listen. At the close of this experiment, Hitchcock said, "Casaba." Oh, man, wouldn't it be great to sit and have a couple of hours worth of chat with him? Best Psycho line: "We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven't you?"

Frenzy was released in 1972, and is the most disturbing of the three. The Necktie Murderer is loose in London, brutally raping and strangling women with neckties. The wrong fellow is accused of the crime, and the film focuses on the criminal investigation, as well as the hijinks of the dapper murderer himself. There are several grisly scenes, one with extreme black humor, as well as one where a murder occurs off camera that is almost more unsettling than the fairly graphic one that we see on camera. It's a suspenseful, tense little movie, with great seventies flair. Hitch does that great thing of his, where we know who the murderer is throughout the movie; we're just waiting for the authorities to catch up. Also wonderful are the scenes with the lead police detective and his gourmet cook of a wife.
I recommend all three as classics. Face it, even the worst Hitchcock movie is better than 95% of the movies released today. Okay, if we leave Family Plot out of the equation. . .


  1. Ooh, great post. Of the three I've only seen Psycho but I can't believe I've never gotten around to seeing The Birds - given that I study them and work with them! Frenzy sounds like it would be a good ride too... and great story about the melons! I never knew!

  2. There's a great book about the making of Psycho that I read awhile back, and the casaba story just stuck with me.