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Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ swarms back into theaters next week

Actress Tippi Hedren star 1963 Alfred Hitchcock film 'The Birds' poses with prop bird Wednesday Aug. 1 2012 Beverly Hills

Actress Tippi Hedren, star of the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock film "The Birds," poses with a prop bird on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012 in Beverly Hills, Calif. Hedren's relationship with Hitchcock during the making of "The Birds" and "Marnie" is the subject of the HBO film "The Girl." Hedren says she survived working with Alfred Hitchcock, but her career was another matter. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

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When: 2 and 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: 18 local cinemas, including Showplace Icon, City North, Webster Place and River East

Tickets: $12.50


Updated: October 15, 2012 9:19AM

The original “Angry Birds” swarm back into theaters nationwide next week.

As part of Universal Pictures’ yearlong celebration of its centennial, the studio has teamed up with Turner Classic Movies and NCM Fathom Events to present a one-day screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller “The Birds” (1963).

Newly restored, the film will screen at 7 p.m. Wednesday at 18 area cinemas (with 2 p.m. mat­inees at select locales). Introducing the film, TCM host Robert Osborne also interviews “Birds” star Tippi Hedren, who famously became the object of Hitchcock’s obsession.

His pursuit began on the set of “The Birds,” and when Hedren refused to submit to his advances, he retaliated by backlisting her in Hollywood. “He did ruin my career,” she said last month at the Plaza Classic Film Festival in El Paso, Texas. “But didn’t ruin my life.”

At the festival, which also presented “The Birds,” Hedren, 82, made it clear she has made peace with the past. For the screening, she wore a gold pin of three birds on the wing, a gift Hitch picked out at the San Francisco luxury store Gump’s before their relationship turned rancorous.

“This pin means a lot to me,” she said. “It was literally life-changing.” (The Hitch/Hedren relationship is explored in the upcoming HBO movie “The Girl,” which debuts Oct. 20.)

Based on the story by Daphne du Maurier, “The Birds” involves avian at­tacks on the California community of Bodega Bay when socialite Melanie Daniels (Hedren) arrives for a weekend visit. The film’s meaning still mystifies audiences, but most agree it represents an allegory for the Apocalypse. As for what Hitchcock told his cast, “He didn’t even give us a clue,” Hedren said.

Like “Psycho” (1960), which preceded it, “The Birds” also represents an escalation of horror that’s unusual in a studio film of the early ’60s. The American Film Institute ranked “The Birds” at No. 7 on its “100 Years ... 100 Thrills” list. Plaza Classic artistic director Charles Horak calls it “Hitchcock’s masterpiece of Freudian eco-terror.”

In one chilling scene, ravens swarm Melanie as she enters an upstairs room. Though the use of mechanical birds had been planned, Hitchcock ordered a switch. After several days of shooting, Hedren recalled, the film’s first assistant director came to her dressing room and blurted out: “ ‘The mechanical birds don’t work. We have to use live ones,’ and then he bolted from the door.”

A traumatized Hedren, who suffered numerous cuts, had to recover in a hospital afterward. “It was the worst week of my life,” she said. Fifty years later, her terror still radiates from the screen. As Horak noted during their onstage talk, “‘The Birds’ should carry a notice that says, ‘Humans were harmed in the making of this film.”

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