High Anxiety
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 8, 2001
For some reason, High Anxiety is not nearly as admired as some of Mel Brooks' other films. I don't think I've ever read a truly glowing review of High Anxiety. No one really hates it, but no one really likes it, either. Roger Ebert explained that because Alfred Hitchcock's films contained so much humor, High Anxiety, as a satire was unnecessary and redundant.
If this is indeed the rationale for High Anxiety's lukewarm reception, then I personally think that ALL of the critics just don't get it. While it's true that Hitchcock films contain loads of humor (Robert Donat's political speech in The 39 Steps, the auction scene in North By Northwest and Alec McCowen's "gourmet" meals in Frenzy come to mind), the most vivid Hitchcock moments are dead serious. The burning of Manderley in Rebecca, the fight on the merry-go-round in Strangers on a Train, the bell tower scene in Vertigo, the cropduster attack in North By Northwest and, of course, the shower scene in Psycho are deadly serious scenes. These are the moments that Brooks spoofs in High Anxiety. The humor is dead on, giving the serious Hitchcock buffs several gigantic laughs throughout the film.
Take, for example, Brooks' take on the shower scene from Psycho. Director Barry Levinson plays a psychotic bellboy who is pushed over the edge by Brooks' repeated requests for a newspaper. He bursts into Brooks' hotel bathroom and "stabs" him with the newspaper. Brooks duplicates every angle and visual detail of the original, right down to Janet Leigh's fuzzy bathroom slippers. He uses ink from the newspaper to simulate the blood swirling down the drain in Psycho. It's a obvious target, but Brooks presents the scene with such care and such genuine affection for the original that it work beautifully as both satire and an homage.
Brooks recognizes that even though Hitchcock was one of the most innovative and technically brilliant filmmakers of all time, even he, like every other director, relied on favorite storytelling devices. For example, Brooks and Ron Carey are driving down the highway discussing a psychiatrist who recently died under mysterious circumstances. When Carey declares that he thinks it was murder, ominous string music, a la Bernard Herrmann, comes blasting onto the soundtrack. Brooks and Carey look out the window of the car and see the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a bus next to them, providing on-the-spot musical accompaniment. Because Hitchcock was such a master craftsman, these "cliches" never got in the way of the audience's enjoyment of the film. However, Brooks recognizes these "cliches" and brilliantly spoofs them.
I wish the critics would take another look at High Anxiety and recognize that it belongs right beside The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie and History of the World Part I as one of Mel Brooks' best. If any director is a ripe target for satire, it's Alfred Hitchcock. It's a tribute to The Master that hits its target dead center.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2004
This is the funniest movie, and the world awaits the DVD. When, oh when, will it finally arrive????? There are so many of my all time favorite movie moments in this classic comedy. Who could forget Dr. Charles Montague and Nurse Diesel's cagey response after being interrupted during an intimate moment: 'Sorry for the dissssturbance.' (I probably know the dialogue for this entire movie by heart!) Nurse Diesel arrived on the scene long before Madonna and her tectonic bras. What about Dr. Wentworth's trouble with the car radio? Or Brophey's ineptitude? Every scene is memorable, but if I had the DVD, I would repeatedly jump to Dr. Thorndyke's dramatic lounge act where he wooed Victoria Brisbane by singing the very romantic song 'High Anxiety,' all the while slapping the microphone chord on the ground for dramatic effect. Which is to say nothing of Hitchcock--whose movie plots provide endless fodder for this Mel Brooks masterpiece. The cast is superb, and the movie divine. Granted, this is one review that is not written with those who've never seen the movie in mind. My intent is to take a stroll down memory lane, because this movie deserves to be on DVD.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2004
For my money, the best Mel Brooks' movies are the ones that he doesn't appear or barely appears in, like THE TWELVE CHAIRS, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, and THE PRODUCERS. This film is one of the exceptions. Also, for my money, the best Mel Brooks' movies are those that are flat out parodies of film genres--like BLAZING SADDLES and SPACEBALLS. This film is the highest achievement of his parodic form.
HIGH ANXIETY is Alfred Hitchcock on goofballs. The references are wide-ranging: "Psycho", "The Birds", "Vertigo" (the main parody plot), "The Man Who Knew Too Much", "Notorious", etc. The result is out and out Brooks' mania, and, of course, a certain reverence to Hitchcock. My only negative comment isn't specific to this film but it does apply: most parodies run out of gas during the course of a feature length film. Once the novelty wears off, the film kind of lags. That's why the best film parodies are usually skits on variety or comedy television shows. Probably the only exception to my theory would be 1980's "Airplane". (See my review of that for a further explanation.) Still, HIGH ANXIETY has enough manic energy to sustain it for the most part. It's a clever film and extremely entertaining.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2005
Allow me to begin by stating that "High Anxiety" is by far, one the all-time BEST Mel Brooks films. Being a huge Hitchcock fan, I immediately became attached to this one. Thank you to 20th Century Fox for finally making this available in Region 1 DVD format for the US.

If you're even just a bit curious, check this title out. You won't be dissatisfied.

Enjoy,
Jeff
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HIGH ANXIETY was Mel Brooks' salute to Alfred Hitchcock. Though many of the gags do fall flat, the entire movie as a whole is a complete joy.

Mel Brooks plays Richard Thorndyke, the new head psychiatrist of the leading `Institute For the Very, Very Nervous'. Thorndyke himself is plagued by bouts of `high anxiety' (vertigo). When Thorndyke is framed for murder and discovers the sinister cover-ups at the Institute, he joins the leggy Victoria Brisbane (Madeline Kahn) in a race against time to rescue her father from the clutches of sadistic Head Nurse Diesel (Cloris Leachman)!

Brooks and the rest of the cast have an absolute ball. Cloris Leachman sports a traffic-cone decolletage that would make Madonna jealous, in her inspired performance as Nurse Diesel (and her scenes with Harvey Korman are hysterical; you won't be able to view their performances in HERBIE GOES BANANAS the same way again). Madeline Kahn is Kim Novak, Eva Marie Saint and Tippi Hedren combined in her performance as Victoria Brisbane (now that's quite a lot of Hitchcock cool blonde-ness!).

Classic Mel Brooks.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 1999
Being that I'm a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, AND a fan of Mel Brooks, I cannot recommend this film highly enough! Mel Brooks manages to comically deconstruct SEVERAL of Hitch's best works in this film. Mel's version of the shower scene from Psycho is truly a classic, second only to Hitch's original (it's almost a frame-by-frame retake!). Several other cues are given the Brooks touch; dramatic music playing suddenly, camera moving slowly forward towards a window leading to a room full of people, particular shadow work, even an attack by hundreds of birds! Not one to be missed!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon November 13, 2011
High Anxiety is my personal favorite Mel Brooks movie along with Young Frankenstein. I was very excited when it was released on Blu Ray and had high hopes for a good to great Blu Ray viewing experience. With that said this review will deal with the Blu Ray transfer, both video and audio rather than the film itself.

Warning: Trying to find the "High" in High Definition on this disc may become a major source of High (Def) Anxiety in your life! What became readily apparent to me while watching this Blu Ray disc is that 20th Century Fox took the easy and cheap way out here and simply used the same old tired transfer being used by the current DVD version, only in 1080p. This is a tired and flat looking print. There is an abundance of bothersome grain (not the good kind we film lovers enjoy) and noticeable dirt throughout the presentation. On the plus side there is no noticeable DNR or edge enhancement, but I will say publicly that THIS print actually could have BENEFITED from some! No major print damage was seen but plenty of crud seems to inhabit the celluloid used for this disappointing print. (yep, it is pretty bad folks)

Is this Blu Ray a step up AT ALL from the DVD? By a nose, yes. But for every decent looking shot or scene, there are 4 or 5 more that look horrendous. On the plus side the colors, while a bit faded are nice enough. The color timing looks correct but the contrast is a bit blown out with an overall brightness and bleached look to the entire movie that detracts from my enjoyment and at times is actually a source of eye strain. I found that I needed to enhance the contrast a bit with my Qdeo processor that resides inside my Oppo BDP-93 player. Also, the original aspect ratio is respected and presented in 1.85:1 which means you get very narrow bars at the top and bottom of your frame unless you engage your overscan control. Keeping the OAR on films is something I truly respect and enjoy so that got a few points from me.

Perhaps the average viewer may not be able to articulate exactly what is wrong with the picture on this disc, but will only think it is no better than the DVD. Again I will say, it IS a step up from the DVD, but a very small step at times. I thought perhaps 25 to 30% of the film was nice to look at while the rest , including almost ALL the matte, stock footage and rear projection shots, was a major disappointment for me. Phooey!

Was it too much to expect 20 Century Fox to show a bit of love and respect for such a well liked title from the Mel Brooks canon? There is absolutely NO WAY Mel could possibly be happy with this disc! I am pretty darn sure he would say it looked like Cockadoodie to him!

How about the sound? Is it any good? You can choose between the original stereo tracks or the enhanced DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. Honestly unless there was music playing (which is panned nicely and has a bit of new depth with the DTS mix) I really couldn't see much improvement over the dialogue or foley work from the existing DVD. One thing is certain... the sound is no where near as poor as the picture quality.

The extras are not too bad at all. You get a really cool 30 minute HD featurette about the making of the film with interviews from many of the original cast. I enjoyed it. You get a couple of 'gimmick' extras such as the "Am I Very, Very nervous?" Test. You get an isolated score track and a fair number of Mel Brooks trailers.

Now this is not to say the film can't be enjoyed on Blu Ray. It DOES look better now than it has ever looked before, at least in a home entertainment format. But when you compare it against the DVD you may wish you saved your money. I bought my copy on sale and will firmly state that paying more than 10 dollars for this Blu ray release would be paying too much! (and remember, I really LOVE this movie!) I can only truly recommend this product if you do not already own the DVD of High Anxiety OR if you are willing to pay through the nose for perhaps a 20% improvement overall in picture quality.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 2, 2007
Speaking as a great fan of Alfred Hitchcock and his infectious combination of twisted humor and compelling suspense, I would say HIGH ANXIETY is truly a valentine to the man and his vast body of cinematic work. Mel Brooks, the clown prince, is at it again! This time, he stars as Dr. Richard Harpo Thorndyke, The new head administrator of the Psychoneurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous. Thorndyke must contend with the likes of Dr. Montague (Harvey Korman) and his equally demented partner in crime, the devious Nurse Diesel (Cloris Leachman). Together, they are out to frame Dr. Thorndyke for a murder he never commited. In the face of this madness, the doctor encounters the alluring and seductive Victoria Brisbane (Madeline Kahn), the daughter of an industrialist who entered the Institute, to be treated for his condition. What's more, many of the scenes pay homage (if in parody) to some of the most well-known and well-loved scenes from some of Hitchcock's best films (including STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, THE BIRDS, VERTIGO and PSYCHO). For those of you familiar with Mel Brooks and his brand of comedy, you won't be disappointed. For those of you who have never seen a Brooks film and are not familiar with Hitchcock, this will still provide belly laughs.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2005
Though not quite as funny as Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety is one of Mel Brook's funniest movies, actually the first time I saw this movie was on cable when I was little and I didn't like it too much and was bored but now that I'm older I have since seen it again a few times and now I really like it and think that maybe I didn't like it when I was little was because it wasn't as silly as Young Frankenstein or Silent Movie and Also I hadn't yet seen any Alfred Hitchcock movies, and Now being a fan of Alfred Hitchock I can now totally laugh at Mel Brook's homage to Hitchcock's classics and I especially liked the hilarious scenes spoofing The Birds and Psycho, they are both truly classic comedic scenes and this movie is highly recommended to any fan of Mel Brooks and also Alfred Hitchcock and like others I'm waiting for this movie to come out in DVD! A nice widescreen DVD with all of the extra goodies would be great. And also I would love to see Silent Movie put on DVD too.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2004
This is without a doubt , one of the funniest Mel Brooks movies of all time. The cast is hilarious and the hitchcock parodies are a scream. The big question is..when will this movie be released on widescreen DVD? It is certainly, in my opinion, as funny as Blazing Saddles. I hope it will soon be rereleased so it can be discovered by a new generation of movie lovers.
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