Christie’s Chronicles: ‘The Birds’ redux

Christie Mastric

A former colleague of mine once told me he didn’t watch a movie twice. Why? His thinking was that if he saw it once, that was that. He knew the plot, the spoilers and other things about the film. Seeing it again was not going to enhance that. Watching that movie was in his past, and he was ready to move on with his life.

Were I thinking more quickly, I would have retorted that I listen to songs more than once, even though I know the words and the melody. Of course, if you’re in your car with the radio on, sometimes you have no choice but to listen to a song again, unless you change the channel to avoid a potentially ear-worming experience.

With movies, I harbor no such illusions. If I’ve really taken to a movie, I will watch it many times. I’m not sure what I will pick up on subsequent viewings. Sometimes I just watch it because…I want to.

My current overwatched movie is “The Birds,” now being shown on Showtime. Occasionally I pick up the movie after it’s already started, which isn’t a drawback; I’ve seen it numerous times, so I know what’s taken place and what’s coming up.

One reason I’ve been watching “The Birds” so much is that I love Alfred Hitchcock’s mid-century films such as “Rear Window,” “Psycho” and “North By Northwest.” Edith Head’s wardrobe design on many Hitchcock films is timeless, plus Bernard Herrmann’s score adds immensely to the latter two movies. Can you imagine Janet Leigh meeting her demise to anything other than screeching violins?

With “The Birds,” though, there is no music, other than menacing avian sounds. And as far as clothes go, Tippi Hedren wears the same green outfit throughout most of the film.

This makes me wonder: How did she get from Saturday to Monday with nary a wrinkle in her suit? Her hair was always coiffed, except after a bird attack. I also assume she bought an extra pair of underwear or two at the general store since she stayed longer than planned.

But those are small details.

The plot leads to a possible dystopian future, with birds taking over the planet. However, the final scene leaves it up to the viewer’s imagination.

Two things I really like about “The Birds” are the town, Bodega Bay, and a secondary character, schoolteacher Annie Hayworth, played by Suzanne Pleshette.

By brother and I visited Bodega Bay in the 1990s, and as I recall, it really had a rural yet coastal charm. I saw my one and only American avocet (a bird, of course), and tasted barbecued oysters for the first time.

Most importantly, no birds pecked at our heads.

There’s something about a small town in the middle of nowhere that fascinates me. In the movie world, bad things often happen in places such as the fictional Santa Mira, California, featured in the immortal “Halloween II – Season of the Witch.”

And yes, I could have better spent my time reading a new book or going on a walk instead of viewing this movie repeatedly.

Naturally, characters are important in drawing me back to a movie. “The Birds” gave me a great appreciation for Miss Hayworth, who was kind enough to let Tippi Hedren — Melanie Daniels in the movie — pursue their mutual love interest, Mitch Brenner. The fact they were interested in the same guy was understandable, seeing as how he was played by Rod Taylor.

Annie Hayworth also performs a heroic deed late in the movie, and I won’t spoil it for you, although since it was released in 1963 people should know by now what happens to her.

What’s not to like about Annie? She was classy and gardened a lot, so we have a mutual passion. She can be my inspiration when my first tendency is to be vindictive.

I make a distinct point, though, not to watch a movie too many times, because it would ruin the experience. My two favorite films are “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Witness.” Thus, when I see them in the TV listings, I often skip over them. Scout Finch walking down the street with Boo Radley, hand in hand, would lose a lot of its charm on the 100th viewing.

Rewatching a movie, apart from being an entertaining if unproductive way to pass the time, can give you a few insights into details you might have missed the first dozen viewings. I’ve seen “Get Out” many times now, and I still gather new plot nuances. It makes me feel kind of stupid, but I’m willing to learn.

I’m not sure if watching a movie more than once is my worst habit, but it’s a habit with which I’m reasonably comfortable.

Hey, “The Birds” is on TV at 6:30 a.m. Sunday. Maybe I should set my alarm.


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