Updated October 2, 2016: After having viewed the true Hollywood classic of the original (yet again), The Birds, there were a few interesting notes to take away from it that passed me by before; notes which contribute to elements of The Birds II: Land’s End. Tippi Hedren’s character of Helen in the film works at a general store and helps the townspeople in time of crisis. Interestingly, the waitress who helped nurse Melanie’s wound in the restaurant in the original, was named Helen. I feel this could be a definite homage to a secondary character that provides aid, only this time instead of a restaurant, it’s at a store. Secondly, and most eyebrow raising, is that Melanie explains to Mitch midway through the film that her Mother left them and found some guy out East. Taking into the consideration the timeframe of both films, and that the sequel does take place on the East coast, that Tippi’s Helen character would be Melanie Daniel’s half-sister. I realize this is a stretch but the elements are clearly there to connect both films and I feel that it supports my feeling that the original script/screenplay by Ken and Jim Wheat, as well as Robert Eisele, were trying to take the film seriously and give something to fans of the Hitchcock classic. At this point, it is all up to interpretation, but I most certainly will continue to enjoy the film through my theories here because you just never know.
Originally Published on 40oz. Of Horror Published by Jeff T. Smith on November 16, 2014
There are three all-time classic horror movies that my Mom loves: Psycho, Halloween and The Birds. Growing up amidst my array of The Real Ghostbusters, Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, these were the three horror movies I knew about and got to see. Terrified, I secretly knew one day I could see myself enjoying more of this genre. The early 90s were not that impressive among even the best of horror fans and by 1994, the horror genre itself was pretty well dead. Sure there was Jason Goes To Hell or Phantasm III, but the spark that made the 80s so renowned was most definitely extinguished. Still, on that Fall day in 1994, when I visited our local Waterdown Jumbo Video, I remember the excitement my Mom had on when we saw The Birds II: Land’s End on the New Release Wall. By that time, I was head over heels for movies like Jurassic Park and had just gotten to see all the Jaws and Aliens movies. A new trek into the world of killer birds was just what I needed.
“My character in this film is not at all similar to Melanie Daniels … I play someone completely new.”
What we didn’t know by that time was that this sequel was already despised by those genre fans who watched it upon its original Showtime Cable Network Broadcast in March 1994. We didn’t know that the final version was so disappointing to Halloween II director Rick Rosenthal that he took his name right off the film, opting to use the Alan Smithee label instead. The film, set 30 years after the Alfred Hitchcock original, picks up on the East Coast (instead of the West Coast). The story revolves around Ted and Mary Hocken (Brad Johnson and ‘The Last Boy Scout’s Chelsea Field) and their two young daughters who take a summer break on Gull Island. The family is dealing with the loss of their son after a freak vehicle accident. The after match being Ted’s instability in maintaining his career as a Biology Teacher and Mary switching jobs to the Island Newspaper. So far so good right? The movie has a compelling family tale to get behind and how will they deal with the threat of this wildlife gone awry. I’ll proudly admit right now that I enjoyed this movie but would not have enjoyed it as much if not for the return of original Birds star Tippi Hedren. Melanie Daniels returns! Well, not really. Even in the original script draft, writers Ken & Jim Wheat did not have Melanie returning prior to any commitments by the actress herself. Instead, Hedren portrays local Helen Matthews, owner of the proverbial General Store and privy to all happenings of Gull Island. For a smaller role, Hedren still delivered here bringing that much needed class and value to the story and segue for new viewers from the original. In my own childhood mind, and my Mom enjoyed this aspect, I made believe Helen was Melanie having gone through extensive psychiatric therapy to overcome the horrors of her past and start life anew. Sadly, Hedren herself confirmed in Fangoria #130 (which covered The Birds II) that “My character in this film is not at all similar to Melanie Daniels … I play someone completely new.”
Check out this original 1994 Showtime commercial spot
So it’s a Made-for-TV movie and has that mid-90s yawn factor at certain points but it also mixes up the internal family drama by having Mary get up-close and personal with her new boss Frank (James Naughton) and includes the stereotypical Lighthouse keeper (Jan Rubes) warning of the evils brought forth by mankind’s treatment of nature. Spoiler alert – they kill off the Family Dog Scout when he heroically protects the youngest daughter from a vicious Bird attack. You can also look closely at one of the Mayor’s lackeys because its none other than I Know What You Did Last Summer’s Muse Watson. The Birds II is also more grisly than its predecessor right from the opening scene where a marine biologist is brutally attacked complete with eye gouges. Not only were optical effects utilized, but this film also brings the animatronics into the forefront. Why do I mention this? Because nowadays, every filmmaker and his mother would probably use CGI. It’s a damn shame that the pinch of penny now forces people to opt for CGI over the real thing so-to-speak. The animatronics were provided here by Kevin Brennan (Return of the Living Dead III) and his special effects team.
The Birds II: Land’s End is a total guilty pleasure
Total guilty pleasure or the fact that it is now so rarely seen, or available, that I still love pulling this movie from my VHS archives and plugging it in. I am so much a fan that a few years back when I had the opportunity to meet Tippi Hedren at Horrorhound, I didn’t ask her about the original, I asked her about The Birds II! Many interviews have taken place with Hedren having a sour reflection on this film, but she maintained a positive light as she told me that she had no plans to make Helen be Melanie and it was a nostalgic return to a movie that helped define her career. So far, MCA Universal Home Video has kept this loathed entry tucked away in the archives with only this original VHS release in 1994. Scoring only a 2.8/10 on IMDB, I have no doubt many of you out there who are familiar with this are unilaterally cheering ‘GOOD!’ Not I, in fact, I would welcome a DVD or Blu-Ray release with some special features documenting the production and post-production debacles that made this film what it is. The majority of my horror friends don’t have a clue this film even exists until I show them the VHS sitting in my collection. For any true, open-minded collector, I recommend revisiting The Birds II: Land’s End because remember, “Man may own the land, but the birds … they own the world.”
Palmer, Randy. (1994) The Flap Over The Birds II. FANGORIA. New York, USA: Starlog Communications International, Inc. www.Fangoria.com