Rod Taylor passed away on January 7th, 2015 at the age of 84. He had a long and varied career starting in the 50s and continuing all the way through Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds in 2009, where he played Winston Churchill. While he never quite made the ‘A’ list, he did star in some memorable motion pictures.
While I saw many of his action movies (like Chuka), his genre roles made the most impression on me. I grew up with him as the protagonist of The Birds and The Time Machine.
Unfortunately, for some reason Rod Taylor doesn’t even rate as a search term on Netflix. I looked up many of his roles by movie but could not find any streaming on Netflix and the search engine does not recognize his name.
Rest in Peace, Rod Taylor, you will be missed by many – just not Netflix apparently.
Yesterday I praised Psycho and dissed Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. This combination of Hitchcock and nature must mean that today’s film is The Birds.
WATCH: The Birds (1963) – “Chic socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) enjoys a passing flirtation with an eligible attorney (Rod Taylor) in a San Francisco pet shop and, on an impulse, follows him to his hometown bearing a gift of lovebirds. But upon her arrival, the local bird population runs amok. Suddenly, the townsfolk face a massive avian onslaught, with the feathered fiends inexplicably attacking people all over Bodega Bay”
The first thing to get out of the way is that while Psycho is a masterpiece, The Birds is not. The old-time special effects (rear-projection, etc.) look very dated but still better than much of what the Syfy channel movies offer. Tippi Hedren’s socialite is definitely one of those characters that exist solely in movies and this harms the beginning of the film and Rod Taylor doesn’t have a lot of depth here but Jessica Tandy and Suzanne Pleshette give good performances. The script bears only a passing resemblance to the Daphne Du Maurier story but is still scripted well by Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain). Long-time Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrman is given a sound credit though there is no actual score. The lack of a score makes a number of scenes stand out – in particular the gathering of birds while the children sing in the schoolhouse, an excellent nailbiter of a scene and probably the best in the movie. There are a number of nice tense escalating setpieces right up until the ambiguous ending.
People Watchers: The little girl Kathy is played by a very young Veronica Cartwright (Alien).
AVOID: Fallen (1998) – While not bad and featuring a nice cast (Denzel Washington, Donald Sutherland, James Gandolfini, John Goodman, Elias Koteas). The musical theme of Time is on my Side is well thought out but far too overused (almost to the point of parody). There are waaaaaay too many POV shots of the demon. The end idea is intriguing but the ending is ridiculous – I’d describe why but I wouldn’t want to spoil it save to say that there are two very ridiculous parts about it. Basically you have everything you need for a really good movie but it was all overblown so it ends up being just okay.