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  Bill and Coo Bird Brains
Year: 1948
Director: Dean Reisner
Stars: Ken Murray, George Burton, Elizabeth Walters, Burton's Birds
Genre: Comedy, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Here is producer Ken Murray to introduce the stars of the movie you're about to see, but he has been finding them temperamental. That's because they are two small birds named Bill and Coo, and they will be playing the romantic leads. Thier owner, George Burton, demonstrates what they can do with a tightrope, and then it is time for our story which takes place in the town of Chirpendale, which has everything a bird could want, a microcosm of society that has no worries. Well, apart from one...

Back in 1948, this novelty effort was a minor sensation, even garnering its own special Academy Award, and it's safe to say a whole film made out of this premise was not something moviemakers returned to very often. It helped in your appreciation if you were a bird lover, although other animals were involved as well, but while something like Paulie would be the closest equivalent from decades later, in this the amusement very much centred around how much the audience were entertained by what was basically lots of bird tricks.

It was notable how they did not fly away, and instead ran around the tiny set, behaviour that could be put down to the fact that Mr Burton had clipped their feathers, but does not quite excuse such scenes as the one where Bill and Coo go up in a balloon ride when presumably if they had their complete complement of feathers they could have flown up into the sky unaided. In spite of the way it was basically one little stunt after another, there was a story to this, and it did not feature Burton's Birds getting their revenge on their owner in an Alfred Hitchcock-style.

There was a villain in the piece, and he was The Black Menace, played by a crow which doesn't do very much apart from stalk the streets of Chirpendale, although he does set fire to the hotel at one point which fireman (or firebird) Bill puts out after saving the residents. Bill has been working on foiling this baddie, which appears to the sound of World War II bomber engine noise, but there's a distraction for the townsfolk when the inevitable circus arrives in the area. Why would that be? To fill up half the running time with yet more tricks, of course, such activity being the entire motive of the enterprise.

The main selling point however was not so much the tightrope walking or pretending to ride a motorbike (!) under the big top, but more that we were seeing the creatures acting out everyday (for humans) activity. So you'll see Bill at the wheel of a taxi, his mother doing the washing (with a washboard, then hangs up the clothes on the line), drinking in the bar (which has a one-armed bandit dispensing birdseed), and various other bits of business rendered bizarre by the cast. This was directed by Dean Reisner, an interesting chap who could list child star, top screenwriter and husband of Vampira among his achievements, but mostly you imagine him tearing his hair out trying to get the winged wonders to hit their marks and act on cue. It was some kind of accomplishment, that was for sure, but whether the performers enjoyed it as much as the audience was a moot point. Music by David Buttolph.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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