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HIGH ANXIETY(director/writer/producer: Mel Brooks; screenwriters: Ron Clark/Rudy de Luca/Barry Levinson; cinematographer: Paul Lohmann; editor: John C. Howard; music: John Morris; cast: Mel Brooks (Richard H. Thorndyke), Madeline Kahn (Victoria Brisbane), Cloris Leachman (Nurse Charlotte Diesel), Harvey Korman (Dr. Charles Montague), Dick Van Patten (Dr. Philip Wentworth), Ron Carey (Brophy), Barry Levinson (Bellboy), Rudy de Luca (Killer), Howard Morris (Professor Lilloman); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: PG; 20th Century Fox; 1977)
“Some sketches are indeed very very funny and some sketches just stink stink.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

High Anxiety is Mel Brooks’ parody of Alfred Hitchcock, in which Brooks’ patented crass humor and juvenile outbursts are used to spoof scenes from Vertigo to Psycho to The Birds. Brooks plays a noted psychologist with a concealed fear of heights (High Anxiety). He has just been hired to be chief at a sinister Institute for the Very Very Nervous after his predecessor dies under suspicious circumstances. Brooks as the innocent man among the guilty, finds himself knee-deep in murder and deception. Madeline Kahn is the eccentric daughter of a patient at the institute and his icy blonde love interest. Cloris Leachman as Nurse Diesel, is a domineering damsel to be reckoned with and one with a winsome manly sneer. Harvey Korman as the cowardly villain takes on the role of a psychiatrist with a secret habit of his own.

In this spirited farce, some sketches are indeed very very funny and some sketches just stink stink. But most are scatological and depressing; nevertheless, I found myself laughing out loud at times and if you can overlook the usual Brooks pitfalls over his unrestrained comedy antics and inability to weed out the gags that don’t work, you might find this one mildly satisfying. It’s one of his more entertaining films, though certainly uneven and not as good as his best efforts “The Producers” and “Young Frankenstein”.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”