The Birds appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. A difficult source, the 4K UHD replicated it about as well as I could hope.
Sharpness varied a bit. Most shots appeared crisp and well-defined, but some fuzziness occurred in a few images.
As usual, Hitchcock used soft-focus on his leading lady, and this technique resulted in some lapses in sharpness. Take the pet store scene early in the film, where cuts from Hedren to her costars go from blurry to crisp in the blink of an eye.
Opticals also impacted accuracy. Nonetheless, these couldn’t be avoided, and the 4K UHD reproduced the source well, with sharpness that generally felt positive.
Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and edge haloes remained absent. Grain felt fairly natural, and I saw no print flaws.
Colors were fine. They never quite leapt off the screen, but they maintained a nice sense of liveliness and accuracy within the film’s production design. The disc’s HDR gave the hues greater oomph and range.
Black levels appeared deep and rich, and shadow detail looked good. The HDR brought nice emphasis to whites and contrast. Ultimately, The Birds presented a pleasing image that got held back only by limitations of the source.
I found the movie's DTS-HD MA monaural audio to be good for its age. An important aspect of the mix, the effects were just fine. From ambient sounds in the environment to the bizarre - and creepy – electronically altered noises made by the birds, they came across without many hitches.
As reflected in my review, the movie used no score. Dialogue occasionally suffered from awkward dubbing, but the lines remained reasonably concise and natural. In the end, the audio worked well for its age.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the prior Blu-ray? Audio remained identical, as both came with the same monaural mix.
On the 4K, visuals showed superior definition as well as stronger blacks, colors and general stability. This wound up as an obvious upgrade compared to the Blu-ray.
As we shift to extras, we start with a documentary called All About The Birds. The one-hour, 19-minute, 50-second show offers notes from Hitchcock’s daughter Pat, production designer Robert Boyle, screenwriter Evan Hunter, matte artist Albert Whitlock’s colleagues Syd Dutton and Bill Taylor, storyboard artist Harold Michelson, Hitchcock collaborator Hilton Green, actors Tippi Hedren, Veronica Cartwright and Rod Taylor, filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, author Robin Wood, makeup artist Howard Smit, and Bernard Herrmann biographer Steven Smith.
The program starts with a discussion of how Hitchcock chose a follow-up to Psycho and goes through the development of the script. From there we hear about the use of matte shots, storyboards, visual effects, casting and working with Hitchcock, locations and sets, stunts and filming the bird scenes, the movie’s themes and cut sequences, editing and alternate endings, the absence of score and the use of electronic sounds, and reactions to the final film.
“All About” covers a lot of territory in fine form. Its 80 minutes fly by as we scoot from one interesting subject to another. We learn tons about the making of the film in notes that vary from basic nuts and bolts to terrific anecdotes. This is a serious winner of a documentary.
The Birds: Hitchcock’s Monster Movie runs 14 minutes, 23 seconds and provides info from film historians David J. Skal and John William Law, and filmmakers Ron Underwood, Carol Littleton, Joe Dante and John Carpenter.
This one looks at the history of monster flicks and Hitchcock’s place in that genre. The program offers a decent mix of interpretation and historical significance. While it never becomes a great show, it offers some insights.
Under Hitchcock/Truffaut, we get a 13-minute, 58-second excerpt for interviews between Hitchcock and director Francois Truffaut. They discuss aspects of The Birds such as the cast and characters, his mindset during the production and related topics. Hitchcock throws out a nice collection of thoughts.
We also find two featurettes under the 100 Years of Universal banner. “The Lot” goes for nine minutes, 25 seconds and features comments from filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Peyton Reed, Ivan Reitman, Peter Berg, John Landis, Ron Howard, Michael Mann, Phil Alden Robinson, and John Carpenter, NBC Universal Archives and Collections director Jeff Pirtle, Universal Studios Hollywood tour guide Molly Orr, and actors Dan Aykroyd, Paul Rudd and Meryl Streep. This one takes us around the Universal Studios locations and tells us a little about movies made there.
What does any of this have to do with Birds? Very little.
Despite the featurette’s disconnect from Birds, it seems pretty fun. While it aims to promote the greatness that is Universal, it’s still light and likable.
“Restoring the Classics” goes for nine minutes, 13 seconds and offers statements from Universal Studios Vault Services VP of Image Assets/Preservation Bob O’Neil, Universal Studios Technical Services VP Peter Schade, Kodak Pro-Tek Media Preservation VP of Preservation Services Rick Utley, Universal Studios Digital Services engineer Henry Ball, Universal Studios Technical Services mastering supervisor Phil Defibaugh, Universal Studios Technical Services mastering supervisor Ken Tom, and Universal Studios Technical Services supervising sound editor John Edell.
“Restoring” covers all the procedures used to bring various movies to Blu-ray. It’s a reasonably informative take on the subject.
Cut material appears under Deleted Scene (4:20) and Original Ending (3:40). Unfortunately, neither shows any actual film footage.
It turns out the ending was never shot, while the other scene was filmed but apparently lost. As such, in these sections we see script excerpts plus production photos (for the "Deleted Scene") or conceptual drawings (for the "Original Ending") that let us know what these pieces would have been like. It's not quite what I expected, but at least they made the effort to convey this information, and I appreciate that.
Another unusual presentation occurs in the Storyboard Sequence section. Unlike the typical film to storyboard comparisons, this piece shows storyboards and then displays still photos of the relevant scenes, all from the attic sequence. I'm not a big fan of storyboards, but this presentation works pretty well.
One interesting section shows much of Tippi Hedren's screen tests. This area runs nine minutes, 8 seconds and offers a fascinating look behind the scenes. Hedren interacts with Martin Balsam and we hear Hitchcock himself give directions off-camera. This becomes a great addition.
Other fun supplements come from two included "Universal Newsreels". First we find The Birds Is Coming (1:15). It's a fairly straight promotional piece that shows Hitchcock and Hedren as they shill for the movie, and it's entertaining.
Suspense Story: Nat'l Press Club Hears Hitchcock (1:54) seems more interesting because it shows a lecture given by Hitchcock to the National Press Club. While neither is fascinating, they're both still quite useful.
A funny trailer (5:12) in which Hitchcock slyly points out all the reasons birds may not be too happy with humans also shows up on the disc it's not quite as good as the classic Psycho preview, but it's very entertaining nonetheless.
A second disc provides a Blu-ray copy of The Birds. It includes the same extras as the 4K along with 81 screens worth of Production Photos.
These include publicity shots, movie posters, and more candid on-set shots. All in all, it's a fine grouping of supplements that definitely added to my enjoyment of the film.
Although I wouldn’t objectively call The Birds Hitchcock’s best movie, it may offer his most entertaining effort. Packed with thrills and tension, it turns into a fun ride. The Blu-ray delivers largely positive picture and audio along with a nice set of supplements. I feel pleased with this Blu-ray.
Note that as of September 2020, this 4K UHD version of The Birds appears only as part of the four-film “Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection”. It also includes 4K UHD versions of Psycho, Vertigo and Rear Window.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of THE BIRDS