Synopsis: This is the official sequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’, again having Tippi Hedren on the run from rather nasty seagulls. Director Rick Rosenthal distanced himself from the finished product, so it became another Alan Smithee Film.
eyelights: no animatronic or CGI birds. Tippi Hedren.
eyesores: the unusually crappy make-up effects. the predictable plot developments. the lack of suspense. the cheesy TV-movie music.
History Has A Nasty Way Of Repeating Itself. (or, Hollywood Has A Nasty Way Of Repeating Itself)
As if there weren’t enough of one ‘The Birds‘, at some point during the mid-’90s, someone decided that it would be a splendid idea to produce a sequel to it – over thirty years later. Unsurprisingly, the idea didn’t elicit unanimous consent at Universal Pictures (which produced both films): it was made as a TV movie and then dumped on home video.
‘The Birds II: Land’s End’ is the end result.
Released in 1994, ‘The Birds II’ migrates its titular beaked monsters to the east coast, to a summer home that a nameless family rents out for the summer. Ted is a biology teacher hoping to get some writing done. May is an editor who gets a summertime gig at the local newspaper. They are accompanied by two pre-teen daughters.
The picture retains very little of the original Hitchcock classic aside for its title, a vaguely similar plot, a similar house (IMDB claims that it’s the same one, but it only appears that way at first glance) and Tippi Hedren, who returns in an entirely different part. Beyond this, ‘The Birds II’ has none of the qualities that made the original a hit back in 1963.
Whereas the original had two up-and-coming stars in Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren, and award-winning actresses Jessica Tandy and Suzanne Pleshette, ‘The Birds II’ has a former Marlboro man, former dancer, and former opera singer. And instead of the sure hand of Alfred Hitchcock, this one had Rick Rosenthal – a capable but not especially innovative director.
Rosenthal’s claim to fame is ‘Halloween II‘, if that says anything. He also returned to the series 20 years later for ‘Halloween: Resurrection’ (I’m a fan of both, truth be told, but I’m one of the few). He’s mostly done bits and bites on television. And yet, after much studio meddling, even he asked to have his name removed from the credits on ‘The Birds II’.
But, given its budget and intended audience, this is obviously an entirely different beast than its predecessor. Hitchcock’s 1963 picture was a giant release for its time and, for all its flaws, is to be considered on different terms. It couldn’t have been made for TV. So let’s not compare apples and oranges here: How does ‘The Birds II’ hold up as a TV movie?
Television production are notoriously bad. Yes, there are exceptions to that rule, but the usual standard is that if makes it to the small screen it’s because it can’t make it on the big screen. And, seeing as there’s less of a chance of a massive return on investment, the investors usually keep the expenses in check. They basically crap out crap product.
In my humble opinion, ‘The Birds II’ is no worse than most TV movies from that era (which, admittedly, were usually pretty horrid). Sure, the screenplay is clunky, and some of the acting is truly awful, but the leads are genuine enough and the story is within the realm of the plausible – you know, considering that it’s about bird attacks on a small community.
The most astonishing thing about this production is that, three decades later, the make-up effects in this picture are worse than in the original. Since the eye-gouging was so unforgettably shocking in the ‘The Birds’, they decided to repeat it a couple of times here. However, somehow they managed to do it so poorly that the effect it produced was derision, not shock.
On the flip-side, the picture doesn’t use the same clunky process of mechanical birds and rear-projection to integrate these winged fiends into the film. Now, I’m not saying that the birds in ‘The Birds II’ always look real, I’m just saying that it’s not as much of an eye-sore as in its predecessor; I was able to buy into the effect far more effortlessly here.
Still, this is a mostly forgettable affair. But there were a few moments that I found quite amusing:
- The dad is supposed to be writing, but instead he does anything but that (much to the consternation of his spouse). At one point he decides to repaint the porch – even though it’s a rental. Gah. Well, as if reading my mind, a gull swoops by, putting a gash in his head and knocking him down his stepladder. That’ll teach ‘im.
- The dog brings back a small bird, but somehow kept it alive in its maw. Naturally the ‘rents decide to put it in a box while it mends and the girls end up keeping it, in a cage. Convenient, huh? Now the birds have an “in”. Can you see this one coming?
- Just as the dad is about to drown his sorrows (he has trouble dealing with his son’s death – for which he’s been having videotape-recorded nightmares for years), he gets attacked by a bird that crashes right through the kitchen window. It was so ineptly staged that it made me laugh a little bit. Again, the birds were reading my mind: never drown your sorrows – it’s a weak person’s way out.
- The dad and Helen (Tippi Hedren, in a more naturalistic and fresh performance than in the original) agree that something’s up, but they never discuss it – at least no on screen. Similarly, he and his spouse get in a fight just as they’re getting it on, but they never follow-up on it. The whole film is like that – lots of loose ends, moments that are left open-ended.
- The girls’ bird escapes. Later, the girls hear it tap at their window, so they let it back in. Naturally, all the other birds swarm in (I didn’t see that coming!). The parents arrive, but are totally ineffectual: the mom is busy being poked and the dad is swatting at thin air – even though there are birds everywhere he hits none of them. Heck, he doesn’t even hit the crow on his spouse’s back – and she’s right next to him! Then, after she and the girls have left, he stays in the room to swat thin air some more. Watching this putz was a real riot. My hero.
- The final attack at the dock was farcical and exciting at once, but it lead to the series’ second non-ending, as the birds head for the mainland. The lighthouse keeper told them that the birds are preparing for war, that mother nature can only take so much. But… were they thinking sequel, or were they just emulating the original? We’ll never know… and that’s okay with me.
If all goes well, there won’t be a ‘The Bird III’ in 2025. I don’t think either story needs a follow-up and there’s really nowhere to go with this that the original didn’t already explore somewhat well. And if you really must, there’s always ‘Birdemic: Shock and Terror’, which explores the same ground and which makes the original and the sequel look like frickin’ masterpieces.
Because ‘The Birds’ sure wasn’t. And ‘The Birds II: Land’s End’ is even worse.
Date of viewing: November 30, 2014