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  • Theatrical trailer

High Anxiety

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 90 mins . PG . PAL


There has been many, many an homage to the greatest ever director Alfred Hitchcock throughout the years. However, unlike most, who have just stolen the great man’s shots and plots and claimed them as their own, with High Anxiety Mel Brooks proudly admits it, in what is a lovingly crafted tribute to Hitch and many of his most well-loved films.

Armed with a canon of works simply ripe for a touch of parody, Brooks is close to his comedic peak here. Even if you’re not a walking encyclopaedia of all things Hitchcock you’ll still surely spot the obvious spoofs of his works - Psycho, The Birds, North by Northwest and, of course, Vertigo - however bigger fans of the man will find many, many more references dotted throughout High Anxiety’s landscape. From locations obvious and otherwise, to bite-size morsels from other films to a brief reference to a Mr MacGuffin, there’s plenty to keep the more obsessed on their toes here.

But mercifully it’s not just a “let’s see how many Hitchcock references we can stuff in” fest, the parody actually runs quite a bit deeper. The whole story, in fact, is quite redolent of Hitch’s generally simple with a few little twists here and there style. We have our everyman in Dr Richard H Thorndyke (a Nobel Prize-winning psychiatric man, not a red herring) who, after arriving at a somewhat dramatic airport and meeting his driver and sidekick in Brophy (Ron Carey), heads off to his new position as head of the Psycho-Neurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous (for the sake of sanity let’s just call it PNIVVN in future, shall we?). Thinking it’s a standard appointment after the untimely death of the previous head shrink, Dr Dick soon discovers that there just may be more afoot at PNIVVN than meets the eye. Our baddies are introduced - the snivelling Dr Charles Montague (Harvey Korman), who’s not too happy at having been overlooked for the new post, and the rather manly Nurse Charlotte Diesel (Cloris Leachman), who has breasts that could take an eye out and a simply wicked moustache. They seem to have a nice little earner going at PNIVVN, and when Thorndyke starts poking around they realise something has to be done – then they discover his secret shame, he suffers from “high anxiety” or, duh, vertigo...

With the good doctor off to San Francisco for a psychiatrist’s convention, our dastardly duo sees their chance to get rid of this Thorndyke in their sides. While he’s having a run in with our requisite icy blonde for the tale in Victoria Brisbane (the sensational Madeline Kahn), whose industrialist father is an inmate at the asylum, a plot to frame Thorndyke is put into action. On the run, will he be able to prove his innocence, overcome his vertiogo, save Mr Brisbane AND get the girl? Jeepers!

"Climb you son of a bitch, climb!"

As well as the references both obvious and not coupled with the very Hitch-like plot and characters, this tribute runs even deeper. No nod to Hitchcock could ignore the musical side of things, with the medium employed here to great effect more comedic than dramatic, as would be expected. Every so often a borderline silly visual shot is used – from under a glass table or directly above a room for instance – paying obvious homage to the great director’s often unique way of shooting things. When combined with your standard Mel Brooks line in silliness, from the witty dialogue and character names through to those little background signs and some killer sight gags (the bus, the bus!), High Anxiety manages to deliver a satisfying feast for fans of both Hitchcock AND Brooks.


This is a ‘70s film, so it looks shocking.

This is what we’d usually expect to say here, however nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, there’s the rare – very rare - speckle here and there, with the number only ramping up quite alarmingly on the final reel. Sure the end credits do a passable impersonation of jelly by wobbling all over the place, and grain rears its grainy head quite often. OK, so there’s the occasional example of edge enhancement and one particular dark scene which renders the words “shadow” and “detail” about as relevant to each other as “Anna Nicole Smith” and “tastefulness” – but overall the transfer shoots with its other hand, one which delivers a surprisingly clean, anamorphically enhanced 1.85:1 print with good, if quite ‘70s, colouring, solid blacks and a brilliantly placed layer change which shooms by almost unnoticed.


Despite being simply a mono source made into Dolby Digital stereo, if you ramp it up enough (in this case quite a way above the normal listening level) a quite reasonable quality of sound can be obtained. The score – from John Morris, who ain’t no Bernard Herrmann but still makes a pretty good fist of things - in particular delivers quite some decent bass at times (and timpani and viola and trombone and... sorry.)

Pleasingly it’s all synched well, there’s no hiss, and while no credit has been given for any remastering trickery the quality of what’s on offer compared to many other films of mid-‘70s vintage would hint that somebody clever just may have been at work here.


All we get is a full frame trailer, trailer which runs for 2:50 and does its job well enough, enough. Bugger, bugger.


This DVD release of High Anxiety delivers surprisingly good video, serviceable sound and a great film to boot, what more could you want? Extras, you say? Yes, well...

Despite the dearth of bonuses, if you’re a fan of either Hitchcock or Brooks you’ll still want to get a hold of this DVD. Then, of course, you’ll be able to say, “I got it, I got it, I got it...”

“I got it!”

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      And I quote...
    "Don’t stress! If you think this tale of one man’s vertigo is for the birds then you’re psycho..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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