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20th Century Fox presents
High Anxiety (1977)

"It's very clear to me, I've got to give in / High anxiety, you win!"
- Dr. Richard Thorndyke (Mel Brooks), singing the film's title song

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: April 14, 2006

Stars: Mel Brooks, Madeleine Kahn, Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman, Ron Carey, Dick Van Patten
Director: Mel Brooks

MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 01h:33m:56s
Release Date: April 04, 2006
UPC: 024543167495
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Alfred Hitchcock's films must have seemed ripe for parody to Mel Brooks, and he didn't miss the mark in this loving tribute to the Master of Suspense. In fact, the most fun you'll have watching this movie is picking out the Hitch films being sent up, and there's no shortage of them—this film's very title is essentially a synonym for Vertigo, for instance, and there are very funny bits having fun with North By Northwest, The Birds, and of course with the shower scene from Psycho. And these are sort of the point, as the plot itself is a wisp of a thing, paying its respects to Hitch, but useful principally as the structure on which to hang some jokes.

Brooks plays Dr. Richard Thorndyke, a world-class psychiatrist, newly installed as the director of the Psycho-Neurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous—he's the comic version of Gregory Peck in Spellbound, essentially—and soon discovers that something is terribly wrong in the land of the very, very nervous. What nefarious end came to Dr. Thorndyke's predecessor? What of the billionaire industrialist relegated to solitary confinement because he thinks he's a cocker spaniel? (And is he housebroken?) Quite literally it turns out that the lunatics are running the asylum—Cloris Leachman is a hoot as the aptly named Nurse Diesel, the power behind the throne, and Harvey Korman plays Montague, the interim director deeply bitter about Thorndyke's arrival.

Brooks has rounded out his cast with some hacky, schlocky comedians, and there's not a lot of nuance or deftness in the work of Korman, and Dick Van Patten, and Ron Carey as a shutterbug of a limo driver. But Brooks is particularly funny as his own stand-in for the iconic Hitchcock performances from the likes of Cary Grant and James Stewart, and even more of a riot is Madeleine Kahn as the necessary blonde. Some of the comedy makes the piece look as aged as the wide lapels on the actors' suits—I can get you a great price on some Dr. Joyce Brothers jokes—but there's plenty here that holds up. Particularly endearing is Brooks getting his chance to do his Sinatra when he sings the title song, and there's a great little cameo from Barry Levinson, who also shares screenplay credit. Make sure you're on time for this one, though—latecomers get no fruit cup.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This looks like a pretty sloppy transfer—the print shows its age, which you might expect, but there's an excess of debris and scratching that seems to have been introduced for the title's DVD debut.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoFrench, Spanishyes
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Too much room tone and a lot of hiss throughout.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Robin Hood: Men In Tights, Silent Movie, To Be Or Not To Be, Young Frankenstein
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Only trailers, for this and four other titles in the Brooks oeuvre.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

The DVD debut of this loving Hitch sendup has been long overdue, and it's most welcome, even if the title is only available as part of a boxed set.


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