Those of you who know me personally know that I enjoy visiting places associated with horror films. And this weekend while I was in the San Francisco Bay area, I took a little side trip to Bodega Bay, California.
Bodega Bay is the setting for two of my favorite films; Hitchcock's classic The Birds and schlock favorite Puppet Master. So I kind of count it as a double entry on my "Horror Movie World Tour" as I like to call it.
I can see how it worked its way into two very different horror films. The town isn't spooky per se. It isn't a place of dilapidated mansions, scary looking trees and such, no but it IS very scenic, and it's also isolated. The first is a good thing for any movie and the second is a good thing for horror films. While I didn't really expect the place to have much reason to play up its connection to Puppet Master, a straight to video offering from the 80s that is well known to horror fans but not so much to the public at large, I was surprised by how little they made of their connection to The Birds. Most places I have visited play up their relationship to the hilt. For instance, even if you had no idea the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park Colorado was the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining, you WOULD learn this fact within 30 minutes of entering. There are a lot of little reminders. But Bodega Bay? If I didn't know The Birds took place there before I visited, I don't think I would have learned that fact while I was there. The sole reminder was a restaurant called "The Birds Cafe." That's it.
The movies that this little town inspired are each interesting in their own way. Hitchcock was inspired to make the film upon reading about an actual even, poisoned shellfish had made local birds act erratically and slam themselves into buildings in Santa Barbara. Alfred Hitchcock read about this, he thought it would make an excellent basis for a movie and then came across Daphne du Maurier's Novella "The Birds" and decided to adapt it. Among other changes, it moved the location of the story from Cornwall to Bodega Bay. Outside of his TV show, it is the closest he ever did to a straight up monster movie. And if you are one of the few people who has never seen it, remedy that immediately. Alas, my Wife and I were unable to find the Schoolhouse that was featured in the movie. I found out the reason for that is because the building is NOT in Bodega Bay, but in nearby Bodega which is a different town that we did not pass through.
Puppetmaster was a very different kettle of fish. It is probably the most famous product to come out of Full Moon Studios, a little company noted at the time for making schlocky but imaginative, low-budget, straight to video horror fare (I could write a whole article on them, and most likely will, eventually). It wasn't the first film to feature killer puppets, but in my view, it was (and remains) the most imaginative in the way it used them. Each of the killer puppets was a unique design: a man in a trenchcoat with a hook for one hand and a knife for the other, a man with a drill in the top of his head, a jester who has multiple faces that he spins around to show his mood, and many more. All only a foot or so tall. Far more interesting than some mere ventriloquist dummy or child's doll who can move and talk. The biggest disappointment to me is that the "Bodega Bay Inn" that is so prominent in the series is fictional, with several hotels in Southern California being used for various shots in the film.
All in all, the town of Bodega Bay is a hidden treasure for horror fans and an all around lovely place to visit even if horror isn't your bag. It's for the birds but in a good way.