In most Alfred Hitchcock movies, the characters devolve into madness. Here the entire picture goes, well, cuckoo. After a protracted opening third, in which San Francisco socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) pursues lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) to his seaside home of Bodega Bay, the pecking finally begins. As swarms of seagulls, ravens, and other formerly innocuous creatures attack, the picture swerves from solemn spookiness to outright silliness (though the movie is always in on the joke). If this works at all it’s because of the sound design: the cacophony of squawks and flapping over the opening credits, followed by incessant tapping, screeching, chirping, fluttering – sometimes in scenes where no birds are present. And then the occasional shock of silence, which is eerier still. There is also the sequence of Hedren sitting outside a schoolhouse as crows stealthily gather on the playground behind her; it’s as masterful as anything in Hitchcock’s filmography. As for Hedren, upon first viewing I agreed with the consensus that she gives a bad-movie performance for the ages. But it has since grown on me. The film sets Daniels up as an elitist, sultry stalker, but Hedren’s commitment and confidence make the case that she’s simply a strong woman determined to get what she wants. Considering things go awry in Bodega Bay when Daniels shows up with such feminist inclinations, is The Birds suggesting that she has instigated even more extreme “unnatural” behavior?