The Birds (1963 113min.) [Film4 10.45pm &+1]
Classic chiller starring Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor. A chance meeting in a San Francisco pet shop impels wealthy playgirl Melanie Daniels to track down lawyer Mitch Brenner at his mother's home in Bodega Bay, 70 miles away. As a gift, she takes a pair of lovebirds with her. This seemingly innocuous act unleashes the forces of nature in an unexpected and terrifying way as Bodega Bay becomes prey to "the Birds".
The ne plus ultra of the fifties/early sixties 'nature bites back' sub-genre - brilliantly shot and constructed with some magnificent set pieces (the children leaving the school, the attack on the gas station) and shot through with dark humour and a proto-eco concern message.
Psycho gets all the plaudits from the horror fans and Vertigo from the critics but The Birds is the third corner of the triangle where moments of gory blood letting are juxtaposed with a genuine sense of psychological terror in face of the unknown.
Rod Taylor is reliably handsome and brave as the leading man but it's Tippi Hedren's performance that really makes the film, with able support from Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette and (especially) Ruth McDevitt as Mrs MacGruder, the local bird watcher and Cassandra of doom.
The really long prologue, before the action shifts to Bodega Bay, might have newcomers scratching their head and wondering what on earth is going on; but it brilliantly sets up and foreshadows the events that follow.
Hitchcock was a master of the cinema at the height of his powers when he made this film, and it's structure, look and message all had a huge influence on generations of future film makers.
Superb in every department.