Event Reviews / Features

Review: Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds with Tippi Hedren at Somerset House

Originally published in 2012 on The Hollywood News

At Somerset House last week, we were very honoured to attend the opening talk and second screening for Film4’s Summer Screen film season and what a way to start, watching the work of the greatest director of our time, Mr Alfred Hitchcock. We began with a fascinating Behind The Screen talk into Hitchcock’s London, led by the BFI National Archive curator Nathalie Morris (find more of her on set with Hitchcock work here) with a presentation of intrigue, information and another wonderful understanding of his life. It’s often forgotten that although his move to Hollywood propelled him into the stratosphere of film, his heart and roots always remained in London.  He spent the first two decades of his career working in our film studios and the talk explored the director’s relationship with the city, both on and off-screen.

We were led through his early films such as The Lodger (1927) and Blackmail (1929) as Nathalie explored his younger life when he lived with his parents above their family Greengrocers shop. It’s fascinating to realise how these humble beginnings never left his creative soul and created that unique sense of humour, plus a noticeable desire to prove that every little detail is important when others may have considering them ‘ordinary’. This was particularly evident when he returned to London from Hollywood to make Frenzy (1972) as his interest in the lives of real people and sharing that simplistic, yet acute, awareness remained unmistakable right through his film career.

After the talk, we relocated to the courtyard of Somerset House for a glorious summer evening screening of Hitchcock’s classic The Birds (1963) set in Bodega Bay, also home to John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980). That wasn’t all though, as The Birds star Tippi Hedren was guest of honour and she offered us her irreplaceable memories about working on the film, praising the intelligence of Hitchcock’s direction and the infamous birds saying:

“Hitchcock understood the way the bird behaved, and he used that to scare the audience…”

She continued by offering some advice by referencing that scene from The Birds:

“Whenever you walk up stairs, and you open that bedroom door… don’t go! That’s all my advice.”

The evening saw the first UK screening of the digitally restored version, it’s the 100 year anniversary of Universal Pictures, and the film still looks and connects beautifully. For those who haven’t seen The Birds it remains intelligent, shocking and just as encapsulating as it undoubtedly did on its release. My personal favourite is Rear Window (1954), which focuses on wheelchair bound photographer L.B. ‘Jeff’ Jefferies (James Stewart) as he spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and gradually becomes convinced one of them has committed murder, it also co-stars Grace Kelly and is utterly compelling and still unique.

For those Hitchcock lovers amongst us, or if you’re new to his work, we highly recommend you take a visit to the BFI on the Southbank who currently running their ‘Genius of Hitchcock’ season that plays to October and is showing, wait for it, every single film of his extensive back catalogue including Vertigo, the film that was recently voted by Sight & Sound as the best film of all-time and frankly, it’s hard to argue against it.

Although tickets have sold out for the Film4 Summer Screen courtyard films, there are tickets left for some of the fantastic Behind-The-Screen talks that can be found by clicking right here.

My article was originally published over on The Hollywood News in 2012.

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