Surrounding himself with talented writers and actors, Mel Brooks was the king of film parodies during the 1970s, and probably the envy of many directors due to the different genres in which he worked. From 1974 to 1976, he released comedic versions of a western (Blazing Saddles), a black-and-white horror film reminiscent of the classics made by Universal Studios (Young Frankenstein), and a silent movie (Silent Movie). His last film of the decade was High Anxiety, which spoofed the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.
In the film, Brooks plays acrophobia sufferer Dr. Richard Thorndyke, who comes to Los Angeles to run The Psycho-Neurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous after the death of the previous administrator. There are suspicious goings-on at the Institute with both the patients and staff, but before Thorndyke can make sense out of any of it, he heads north to San Francisco for a conference. While there he meets Victoria Brisbane (Madeline Kahn), daughter of millionaire Arthur Brisbane, a patient at the Institute because he thinks he's a dog. However, the Arthur Brisbane Thorndyke met is not Victoria's father. As Thorndyke gets closer to the truth, he is framed for a murder. He strives to uncover all the mysteries while having to deal with his high-anxiety disorder.
Because it doesn’t reach the consistent, hysteric heights of Brooks' best work, High Anxiety likely won't appeal to everyone. There are funny moments throughout, such as Harvey Korman's Dr. Montague pretending to be a werewolf in order to scare a patient behind Thorndyke's back and the entire performance of Cloris Leachman as Nurse Diesel, similar to her portrayal of Frau Blücher in Young Frankenstein. However, High Anxiety seems more an homage to Hitchcock and other films rather than a parody, and half the fun comes from figuring out the references. Those with limited film history knowledge will likely be left wondering what is going on in many scenes. There are also a few gags that just fall flat.