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LeBARON: 'The Birds' holds a special place for local Hitchcock fans

  • Alfred Hitchcock poses for a magazine photo in 1962,with real seagulls on leashes and a mechanical crow. The scene is the Tides Wharf parking lot in Bodega Bay. The “seagull handler” is famous Hollywood animal trainer Ray Berwick. (John Bressie)

The Alfred Hitchcock biopic that came and went in the local theaters over the holidays — and didn't get great reviews — was all about the filming of “Psycho.”

That grim paean to mother-son relationships, released in 1960, is seen as the game-changer in the career of the ponderous Brit who dominated the scary screens before the film noir genre became risen zombies, and post-apocalypse teenage angst.

There's no doubt that “Psycho” put its director in the eye of the movie-going public, but in this little corner of the world, the subject of “Hitch,” as the film was titled, looms large for two other cinematic triumphs.

There is “Shadow of a Doubt,” one of his best films — the one he called his favorite — which was filmed in Santa Rosa in 1942. And the other, which is about to enjoy a 50th anniversary of its release, is (drum roll) “The Birds.”

In both stories, the towns Hitchcock chose for filming were also the settings. Santa Rosa and Bodega Bay played themselves in the movies, you might say.

“Shadow of a Doubt” has become a real period piece, cherished by Santa Rosa born-and-raiseds for its footage of the town at the start of World War II.

But “The Birds” has become something of a local icon.

Storekeepers and restaurateurs in Bodega and Bodega Bay will attest that a television showing of the bloody tale of birds gone creepy is guaranteed to bring an uptick in weekend visitors.

Their primary destination is the Tides, although the Tides Wharf, then owned by the Zankich family, was a much different place when the film crews arrived in '62.

There was a relatively upscale seafood restaurant right on Highway 1 known locally as the “High Tides.” So there had to be a “Low Tides,” of course, and that was a well-used fishermen's hangout on the water.

Carlo Galazzo, the manager of today's Tides, says the gift shop sells flocks of CD's and souvenir photographs. German tourists, says Carlo, lead the pack of Birds fans, with the British close behind.

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