I had a bit of a cruddy day yesterday. We’ve had some flooding to deal with (a lot) lately and the day started with lashing rain yet again, I consequently changed my plan for the day which is something I always find unsettling and disappointing, and then I spent hours problem solving another unexpected problem that cropped up. It was all small beer in the greater scheme of things and certainly all piffling in the context of a global pandemic. On the other hand, living in the midst of a pandemic is also mentally and emotionally fatiguing so maybe that is why smaller problems are getting to me more.
The point of this preamble is that two things that do the best job at calming me down when I am a powder keg of stress and anxiety: art and horror movies. So I settled down with a cup of tea in front of ‘Shadow of a Doubt’, one of my favourite Hitchcock movies (and not strictly a horror), and decided to draw Alfred Hitchcock using the supplies from this month’s Art Snacks box. I thought the combination of black ink, the sepia ink pencil, and the crimson paint suited the subject.
Regular readers of this blog may recall that I am a movie nerd. I have successfully managed to inspire my sons into being movie nerds too, especially the middle two kids. I have not indoctrinated them, of course, but my enthusiasm for film has transferred to them and now we can all enjoy watching movies together, analysing them, comparing them, and obviously being entertained by them. As a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, I have given my kids a gentle introduction to his movies. We started with ‘The Trouble with Harry’, then moved on to ‘Rear Window’, and then ‘The Birds’. When I told them that we would be staying in the area where ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ (which they have not seen) and ‘The Birds’ were filmed, they were eager to go and visit the locations. I was happy to oblige. Mr Pict had accompanied me on the same mission 17 years before so was also happy to indulge us this time.
We decided to focus on Bodega and Bodega Bay since the kids had actually seen ‘The Birds’ and would recognise the locations. When we reached Bodega, we drove up to the church and parked up. The kids and I got out and wandered the few yards to the Potter House. This is a private residence so, rest assured, we were careful not to be intrusive or to cause a commotion. The house was built in 1873 and originally served as a schoolhouse and it served as the school building in the Hitchcock movie, the set of an important scene in the film and, therefore, featuring prominently. Of course, we could not resist acting out the film but we wanted to be respectful of the local residents so we acted it out as if it had been a silent movie. My kids are such ham actors. St Theresa’s church can be glimpsed during that scene so we took some photos and reenacted some silent action scenes there too.
The movie creates the impression that the schoolhouse and church are right on the coast but, in fact, Bodega is a short drive inland from the bay. We, therefore, jumped back in the car and headed to Bodega Bay. The main focus of our visit to the town was the Tides Restaurant. It plays a prominent role in the movie and is still identifiable as the key location, despite being remodelled a fair bit since the 1960s. When I was last there, it felt very much like Bodega Bay barely tolerated the Hitchcock connection. Apart from one leaflet, there was nothing that declared the place to have been related to the movie. This time, however, it appeared that the town had embraced the movie as a tourist opportunity. Inside the Tides there were ample references to the film, from stuffed ravens to a mock up of a building with smashed windows. More opportunities for ham acting, in other words. The kids bought some ice lollies and we stepped out onto the back deck to look at the bay. We could see the spit of land opposite where the Brenner house stood (it was torn down immediately after filming), the road where Tippi Hedren drove out to that house, and the jetty where she rented a boat to cross the bay.
Once everyone had finished their iced treats, we jumped back in the car and headed along the coastal road to Salmon Creek Beach. It was early evening by this juncture and the air was distinctly chilly. There was no way the kids were even going to go for a paddle, let alone a swim. However, we found a new way to keep them entertained. The beach was covered with little huts that had been built out of driftwood. They were really great, really competently built structures. I don’t know who had erected them and for what purpose but I do know they would fare a lot better than I would if marooned on a desert island. That inspired my kids to gather up driftwood and build their own structure. We ran out of time before they got anywhere near completed but it kept them entertained for over an hour. They also found a washed up, decaying cow carcass. I am sure most people’s kids would recoil at such a discovery but my kids reacted like they had found buried treasure and studied the corpse, fascinated. It’s possible I have exposed them to too much Hitchcock after all.
I am a big Alfred Hitchcock fan, have been since childhood. I think I started with the ‘…Presents’ TV show and then got into the movies but it may have been the other way around. I was so wee that I can’t actually remember. ‘Vertigo’ is my favourite movie after ‘Jaws’. I also love ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ and ‘Rear Window’. When I first visited Northern California, back in 2000, I made sure I visited several filming locations of Hitchcock movies. These included Bodega Bay where I ran around like a nitwit pretending I was being attacked by birds, as I am sure when visitors do. ‘The Birds’ is one of those movies I enjoy precisely because it defies resolution in the same way that I enjoy ‘The Shining‘. I won’t discuss it more so as to not risk spoiling it for any reader who has not seen it but I like that it is ambiguous and mysterious. I think it contributes to its unsettling atmosphere. My mother, on the other hand, absolutely hates ‘The Birds’ for the same reason. All of which preamble is to explain why I chose to draw an iconic scene from ‘The Birds’ – based on the movie poster indeed – as the next illustration in my Inktober sketchbook. You will note that I still pretty much suck at drawing birds. These are definitely cousins to my Raven.