Monday, January 3, 2011

Thousands of Dead Blackbirds Fall on Arkansas as Part of Movie Advertising Stunt

Photo courtesy of MSNBC
BEEBE, Ark. -- Terror rained down from the skies on Friday over the sleepy Arkansas town of Beebe, just northeast of Little Rock. Wildlife experts and ornithologists worked through the weekend to unravel the mystery surrounding the deaths of 3,000 red-winged blackbirds that fell from the heavens on New Year’s Eve over a 1.5 square mile section of the town. The event prompted panic and evoked images of a biblical apocalypse. Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church immediately accused Arkansas of harboring a covert population of homosexuals, thereby incurring the wrath of God. But this morning, a movie studio in California admitted that the scare was part of a poorly conceived promotional campaign for a 2013 remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

It’s been 45 years since Hitchcock’s terrifying vision of nature-turned-against-humankind frightened audiences worldwide. But Hollywood insiders say that a remake is in the works, with Naomi Watts signed on to star in the role popularized by Tippi Hedren. Martin Campbell, who took the helm for the last James Bond feature, has agreed to direct.

A studio executive, on condition of anonymity, told The Bennington Vale Evening Transcript, “The stunt was a gross miscalculation. We were trying to help get audiences interested in the remake with a small scare. Unfortunately, the planes dropped the birds over Arkansas instead of Northern California where our marketing crews were waiting to hand out movie posters and swag bags.”

“Reboots of Hitchcock films have a history of poor box office performance,” the source continued. “Look at the shot-by-shot update of ‘Psycho.’ Boring. I kept waiting for Vince Vaughan to don a leisure suit and take off for Vegas with a bottle of Dewar’s. But yes, in hindsight, this was about the stupidest thing we could’ve done. Apart from remaking another classic, that is.”

A spokesperson for the Governor’s office in Arkansas says that legal action against the studio is assured.

Critics chided the studio for its inability to take a lesson from a similar 1978 event orchestrated by the now defunct Cincinnati radio station, WKRP.

In that failed endeavor, then station manager Arthur Carlson arranged to have live turkeys dropped from helicopters as part of a Thanksgiving promotion for the station. Carlson later testified in court that he was not aware that turkeys were flightless birds. The horror was captured by WKRP news correspondent Les Nessman before a live radio audience:

"It's a helicopter, and it's coming this way. It's flying something behind it, I can't quite make it out, it's a large banner and it says, uh - Happy... Thaaaaanksss... giving! ... From ... W ... K ... R... P!! No parachutes yet. Can't be skydivers... I can't tell just yet what they are, but - Oh my God, Johnny, they're turkeys!! Johnny, can you get this? Oh, they're plunging to the earth right in front of our eyes! One just went through the windshield of a parked car! Oh, the humanity! The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement! Not since the Hindenburg tragedy has there been anything like this!"

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