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60 years after Hitchock's 'The Birds,' fans flock to filming locations

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In the 1963 horror film "The Birds," waves of seagulls, crows and sparrows attack the locals on the Northern California coast.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BIRDS")

ROD TAYLOR: (As Mitch Brenner) I don't know how this started or why, but I know it's here, and we'd be crazy to ignore it.

ETHEL GRIFFIES: (As Mrs. Bundy) To ignore what? The bird war?

TAYLOR: (As Mitch Brenner) Yes, the bird war. The bird attack, plague. Call it what you like. They're massing out there someplace, and they'll be back. You can count on it.

GRIFFIES: (As Mrs. Bundy) Ridiculous.

INSKEEP: Six decades later, fans of the movie still flock to Bodega Bay and the smaller town of Bodega to find the locations in the Alfred Hitchcock classic. NPR's Chad Campbell reports.

CHAD CAMPBELL, BYLINE: Inside the Sonoma Coast Visitor's Center, there's a corner devoted to "The Birds."

MITCHEL MAHDAVI: How are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Good, thanks.

CAMPBELL: And on the back patio overlooking the harbor, five plastic crows perch on a railing.

MAHDAVI: And I think we need more of them. People love them. They come out here, and they take pictures with them.

CAMPBELL: Mitchel Mahdavi calls himself a concierge for Bodega Bay, recommending restaurants, hiking trails or filming locations to the tourists who stop by for information.

MAHDAVI: I'd say it's half and half - here to relax, and some people don't even know about the movie. Fifty are here for the movie.

CAMPBELL: To test those numbers, I introduced myself to some visitors looking at brochures.

Do you guys know anything about the movie? Did you come here for the movie?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: No.

CAMPBELL: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: We don't know.

CAMPBELL: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: No.

CAMPBELL: Fair enough.

But the second couple?

GARY GRANATA: I never thought I'd be here. And suddenly, it's like, wait a minute. We're only, like, 50 miles? Let's go do it.

CAMPBELL: Gary Granata and his wife, Linda, are visiting from Tampa, Fla. And they are huge fans of "The Birds."

G GRANATA: That movie has such an impact at the time. It lingers. I mean, especially people our age.

CAMPBELL: The Granatas are retired and zipping through their bucket list during a long cross-country drive. Linda Granata says being where the film was shot makes their memories even more special.

LINDA GRANATA: It just brings back that chill...

G GRANATA: Yeah.

L GRANATA: ...You know, of watching it but actually reliving it.

CATHIE BRUTON: People are so enthralled by it still.

CAMPBELL: Cathie Bruton lives in the nearby town of Bodega. She moved here from New Jersey about 40 years ago.

BRUTON: I didn't know that the buildings up there were related until I lived here.

CAMPBELL: The buildings up there are the gleaming white church and the restored two-story schoolhouse from the film. Both are still very well-preserved attractions here in Bodega. The two towns are separated by a 10-minute drive. But local historian Robin Rudderow says Hollywood magic made them appear to be a single location.

ROBIN RUDDEROW: And that causes all kind of confusion for tourists because they're driving around Bodega Bay looking for the schoolhouse.

CAMPBELL: She says the building dates back to the 1870s, when classes were held in the two big rooms on the first floor.

RUDDEROW: It's been a variety of things over the years. I know that it was a restaurant and a bed-and-breakfast.

CAMPBELL: Now the Potter Schoolhouse is a private residence where the owners tolerate curious fans taking pictures. It's also where this memorable scene was filmed.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BIRDS")

SUZANNE PLESHETTE: (As Annie Hayworth) I want you to go as quietly as possible. Do not make a sound until I tell you to run.

CAMPBELL: Dozens of crows sit on the school's playground equipment as the teacher prepares her students to flee for their lives.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDS FLUTTERING)

CAMPBELL: Many visitors these days eventually run - or walk - across Bodega Highway to browse the collectibles at Seagull Gifts. Every morning, owner Rick Madsen drags two mannequins out front. One is dressed in a replica of the outfit worn by the star of the movie, Tippi Hedren. Melanie wears a green skirt and jacket and is taking shelter in an old phone booth.

RICK MADSEN: Yeah, she's in there. And the birds are attacking and smashing the glass.

CAMPBELL: Madsen's other mannequin wears an Alfred Hitchcock mask, a scarf and...

MADSEN: I'm working on a new jacket for the guy, OK? I got him new pants, but they're skinny pants. They don't look too good. But it's better than nothing.

CAMPBELL: The store sells knickknacks like Hummel figurines, old magazines and ashtrays.

(SOUNDBITE OF CASH REGISTER RINGING)

CAMPBELL: Behind the cash register, a TV screen shows the movie on a continuous loop. Madsen estimates he's seen "The Birds" more than 13,000 times.

MADSEN: It's, like, three times a day for the last 20 years, five days a week. A whole bunch of times. (Laughter).

CAMPBELL: He swivels around, turns up the volume and describes what's happening on the screen.

MADSEN: So this is where it all begins. She's almost at the dock. A seagull comes down and clips her in the forehead. Wait for it. Wait.

(SOUNDBITE OF SEAGULL SQUAWKING)

MADSEN: Oh. That was the beginning of the end. (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BIRDS")

TAYLOR: (As Mitch Brenner) That's the damnedest thing I ever saw. I don't know. It seemed to swoop down at you deliberately. Oh, you're bleeding, too. Let's take care of that.

MADSEN: It's kind of a corny movie, man, to tell you the truth.

CAMPBELL: Classic film or corny movie? It doesn't really matter here, where "The Birds" has drawn countless visitors to this part of the California coast. Chad Campbell, NPR News, Bodega Bay, Calif. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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