Wednesday , February 28 2024
More an homage to Hitchcock and other films rather than a parody.

Blu-ray Review: High Anxiety

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.

The video is presented with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer and an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The picture is not overly impressive for high definition. Many of the backgrounds are soft, causing the images to appear flat. Colors have mild, consistent hues in a production design that uses a lot of earth tones and grays. Skin tones are relatively consistent.

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is front heavy as expected for a comedy filled with dialogue, which comes through clear. The surrounds are mainly used for the score with very limited ambiance and the subwoofer doesn't have a great deal to contribute. The Isolated Score Track special feature allows full appreciation of John Morris' score.

There are three other special features. The "Don't Get Anxious! The Trivia of Hitchcock Trivia" pop-up track, which is not restricted to Hitchcock, is amusing and informative. The "Am I Very, Very Nervous?" test, a silly series of questions and answers to check if viewer is anxious, blocks the scene and could be done without. New to Blu-ray is "Hitchcock and Mel: Spoofing the Master of Suspense" (29 min), a very good feature with Brooks and others talking about film.

High Anxiety is not a must-see comedy or a must-own Blu-ray, but film fans should rent it for a good evening of laughs.

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Founder and Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at

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