Birds of Prey (1987)

Birds of Prey (1987)

You don’t have a wing of a prayer!

A news reporter and her cameraman head to Spain to investigate the story of a farmer and his wife being attacked by their chickens. It turns out that this isn’t an isolated incident and a whole town was wiped out thirty years ago by birds. Now they’re back and hungry for more.

 

Alfred Hitchcock would clearly be turning over in his grave if he knew what had happened to his thrilling 1963 nature-runs-amok classic The Birds. Not only did it get given a horrid sequel thirty years later, it has also been unashamedly ripped off countless times, probably none more as blatant as René Cardona Jr’s Birds of Prey. With all of the tactless attributes of a 80s Italian exploitation horror flick, I was surprised to find out that Birds of Prey was a Mexican-Spanish production. It could quite easily masquerade as one of those glorious rip-offs that the Italians did better (or should that be worse) than everyone else – the numerous Dawn of the Dead knock-offs, the never-ending slew of Jaws clones, etc. In fact in Italy, this was actually billed as a sequel to The Birds, no doubt the ‘town wiped out thirty years ago’ part of the synopsis referring to the town of Bodega Bay from Hitchcock’s film.

Taking a page from Hitchcock’s book by not giving any explanation for the bird attacks, Birds of Prey would no doubt entertain those of you looking for some campy low grade rubbish to watch. Most of Hitchcock’s film is ripped off in abundance, so much so that at times it runs like a scene-by-scene remake. There’s the growing sense that the birds are massing against man. Almost everyone in the film mentions that the birds seem to be organised at least twice throughout the running time. The birds attack a group of children, here at a party. There’s even a ‘siege’ inside a house. Only where Hitchcock actually managed to create fear and sustained tension from birds attacking people, here you just have to laugh at everything as pigeons and doves don’t exactly make the most threatening enemies. Rarely do any remotely aggressive birds appear and there’s nothing to rival the classic scene with the crows – it’s always the feathered friends with the least brains that seem to get to do the dirty work here.

The ‘attack’ scenes follow the same formula every time instead of mixing it up a bit: there are plenty of slow-motion shots of birds flying through the air followed by shots of the actors being mobbed by them. In most cases the actors are simply thrust into a room full of birds and told to act scared. In fact it looks like the birds are actually embarrassed to be on the camera. Take for instance the scene where the farmer and his wife are attacked. The guy is clearly holding the birds as they swarm him on the floor and, as he falls, you can see birds struggling to break free and get away from him. Some even appear to be tied to the actors’ clothing. I’d bet that a lot of the birds involved in this were killed because the actors clearly don’t care about falling on top of them or crushing them against the wall as they wave about and struggle to make the attacks look terrifying.

On the flip side, it’s hard not to dislike some of the exploitative elements to the film. You can’t really go wrong with an opening scene in which a hang glider has his eyes pecked out by birds whilst he’s in mid-air. Or another overblown scene in which a guy standing on his balcony has his eye ripped out by a swooping eagle in one swift swoop. With the gore in abundance, it’s up to the director to pull one of the sneakiest moves I’ve seen to provide the token nudity. Female lead Michelle Johnson is cute and you’d be shocked to see that she’s only too eager to get her kit off and take a full frontal shown for the camera – only she didn’t exactly get naked for the film and Cardona has used a body double to provide the nudity (of whom we never see above neck level to keep the secret safe). Co-star Christopher Atkins must have wondered what the hell he’d done to fall off the radar so badly having starred in The Blue Lagoon in 1980. Together Atkins and Johnson are pretty terrible in the roles, not helped by a script which has them saying some idiotic things and a cast of Hispanics who are dubbed to the heavens.

 

Birds of Prey is a z-grade rip-off where pigeons rip people’s eyes out and doves menacingly organise themselves to destroy man. Clearly the blame lies squarely at the feet of the director: Hitchcock turned birds into a terrifying force of destruction that we’d never really considered a threat before. Here, Cardona Jr (who also brought us the equally-as-dire Jaws rip-off Tintorera) just makes them look dim-witted and laughable.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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