I really liked the written version of “The Birds,” but the Hitchcock version was just as good in my view, though completely different.
In the original, a man that lives in a small stone cottage in the English countryside with his wife and two small kids are the main characters. The house is really old so the windows are small and there’s a fireplace. Farms are nearby, also some newer postwar built houses with big windows. But not close enough to see from their house.
He realizes the schoolchildren who went home to the newer houses must all be dead. The picture windows would have broken. There isn’t much nearby, so when he goes out to get supplies, he’s looting dead people’s houses. At the end, there’s no solution in sight and it appears it’s happening everywhere. The government tries some desperate measures in London but nothing works. He realizes help isn’t coming.
He tries to hide everything from his wife and the young kids, and glosses over the truth with her because she’s immature and prove to hysterics. Typical postwar attitude of women as overgrown children that can’t face up to reality. You see some of that in Hitchcock’s movie, with Mitch’s mother and some of the other women, the woman in the restaurant that gets slapped especially.
In reality, when the men were away at the war, the women ran everything and kept their families together. But postwar, there was this cultural backlash of putting them back in the “helpless” box. The whole story smells immediately postwar.
There’s mentions of the British public overcoming wartime problems, as if this is another problem that can be overcome by sacrifice. But it isn’t at all. They’re deluding people because there’s no solution. News reports on the radio sound more and more futile. Things are tried that don’t work at all. The family doesn’t have a television.
I could see this being done as a low budget black and white British movie filmed on cheap sets. Hitchcock is lucky he got to do it in Hollywood. I’d love to see it done now, more accurately to the story. They plainly didn’t do it that way because it was a very English lower class, blue collar family. Frumpy couple in their thirties looking much older than they were. They were brilliantly drawn though.
Setting it in San Francisco and Bodega Bay was much more glamorous and gave an excuse for beautiful actresses, sets and clothes. But I’ll never forget the last line, the husband had looted a pack of cigarettes from a dead man’s house. When he smoked the last cigarette, he threw the empty pack in the fireplace and let it burn. The future, after the story ends, was just a blank. I think Hitchcock tried to capture that dead end, but had to soften it a bit because movie audiences of the era didn’t want to see that. The way the movie ended, there was hope they would be safe. Not so in the story.