Monday, October 31, 2011

High Anxiety (1977)



“Working? Hmm, working. Working is a big word. I'm a consultant. It's a fancy title for a part-time job.”

Usually when people “pay tribute” to the Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock they try to mimic his filming style, his types of anti-heroes, his villains, his seductive blondes, etc, etc. I find they wind up sucking because the people who “pay tribute” try too hard one person that got a Hitchcock tribute right was Mel Brooks in his hilarious take on several of the director’s best films in his movie High Anxiety.
            The movie takes its main plot from Spellbound and Vertigo. Brooks plays Dr. Richard h. Thorndyke. He is assigned as the new head for the Psychoneurotic Institute for the Very, VERY Nervous. He himself is a very, very nervous man he suffers from high anxiety. Dr. Thorndyke tries not to let it become known but an old professor of his lets it slip to Dr. Montague (Harvey Korman) who is insanely jealous that he was passed up for the job.
            Just like in every Hitchcock film Montague plans to destroy Thorndyke by making it seem like he committed a crime. Of course Thorndyke is innocent of the crime so he has to flee and stay one step ahead of everyone. And also of course there is a “seductive” (I say this quotation only because it is a hysterical seduction) blonde named Victoria Brisbane (Madeline Kahn). She needs Thorndyke’s help to rescue her father from the Institute.
            I cannot even go into detail without giving away so many funny moments.
            Like a lot of Mel Brooks’ films his cast is incredible. Harvey Korman and Cloris Leachman steal the whole movie they are so hysterical together. Leachman plays the creepy Nurse Diesel who likes to play rough bondage games with Dr. Montague (that is all that I will say about that!). Madeline Kahn was as always brilliant she was so funny. I loved how they stuck her in a blonde wig and made her the typical Hitchcock blonde. If you do not know that Hitchcock loved his blondes than you would be missing out on a great joke. I found it so odd with Kahn and Books paired up as the love interest because I see it as Mel Brooks was her boss since he directed her in a few of his films so the ending is always a bit weird for me.
            What makes Brooks’ Hitchcock tribute so great is that he made the tribute fun. Right at the beginning he literally lets the viewer know that the movie is a tribute to the Master of Suspense so we know that he will be taking from the great director’s films. I remember when I first watched High Anxiety a few years ago I did not get the jokes or really know what he was referencing but now that I do know the references I find Brooks to be a total genius and the movie one of his best. Right away we know that his main references are Spellbound and Vertigo then he throws in the shower scene from Psycho, mentions North By Northwest (“Meet in the north by northwest corner.”), and even has birds poop on him.
              Even the music is dramatic like a Hitchcock film. I cracked up with the running joke that every time the music got dramatic the characters looked up or made a comment on it. When Thorndyke comes out of the airport he comments "What a dramatic airport" because the music kicked in and shots were filmed to be dramatically funny. 
            Mel Brooks is just awesome. I find him to be a total genius in whatever he does. This is what real spoof movies are supposed to be like they are meant to be funny but respectable to what is being spoofed. You can tell just by watching High Anxiety that Brooks great respected and admired Hitchcock. I am biased in my opinion but absolutely see High Anxiety especially if you are big Alfred Hitchcock fan.