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Sunday June 23rd 2024

The Birds | 1963

The Birds filming location: Bodega, Northern California
The Birds filming location: the Schoolhouse: Bodega Lane, Bodega, Northern California

Alfred Hitchcock’s film of the Daphne du Maurier short story (originally set in Cornwall, England) uses lots of process (special effects) shots but, as usual, the director plays fair with the geography.

Fluttery socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) is first seen in San Francisco’s Union Square, heading to the pet shop – where Hitch puts in his trademark cameo appearance – with a pair of fluffy dogs. Notice the crafty edit here, as the news-stand flashes by the camera, disguising the cut from the real San Francisco to the pet shop, which was a set at Universal studios in Hollywood.

Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) drives north up the California coast to Bodega Bay, centre of the bird attacks. Bodega Bay, once a small fishing village, on the coast 50 miles north of San Francisco, really is a centre for bird migration, and the air can be disconcertingly thick with squawking and chattering. It truly is a great place for birdwatching, and even amateurs can check out the different species on a chart at the tourist office.

The Birds filming location: Tides restaurant, Bodega Bay, Northern California
The Birds filming location: the restaurant: Tides Wharf and Restaurant, Bodega Bay, Northern California

The Tides Wharf Restaurant, in which the assorted locals shelter from the bird attacks, has expanded into an unrecognisable hotel complex since the film was made. The big surprise is that there is no town. No post office, no gas station, little more than a cluster of holiday accommodation.

The aerial view of Bodega Bay is largely a painting. In fact, many of the Bodega Bay scenes, including the post office itself, were shot on a set back at the Universal lot, where Hitchcock felt more in control of the elements.

The roads around Bodega Bay are also used in I Know What You Did Last Summer (which was filmed mainly in North Carolina).

A few miles inland is the quaint village of Bodega itself, where you can see the schoolhouse of Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette), at 17110 Bodega Lane, which, in the film, appears to be just up the hill from the bay. The house was originally a schoolhouse, a local community centre and for a while a guest house. It’s now a private residence.