Nobel prize-winning Harvard professor of psychiatry Richard Thorndyke arrives in Los Angeles as the new administrator of the Psycho-Neurotic Institute for the Very Very Nervous to discover some suspicious goings-on.
When he’s framed for murder, Thorndyke must confront his own psychiatric condition, “high anxiety,” in order to clear his name.
It is dangerous to try and parody Alfred Hitchcock since Hitchcock was already in on the joke, but Mel Brooks manages to score some hits in High Anxiety, largely by taking some of Hitch’s most famous set-pieces to their logical – usually sexual or scatological – conclusion.
The scene inspired by the attack of The Birds (1963) is easy enough to predict, but there’s a very funny spin on the shower scene from Psycho (1960) and a conclusion which manages to combine Vertigo (1958) with The Wizard of Oz (1939).
Brooks himself has never been so natural or so likeable on screen.
He’s in his element playing straight man to a host of grotesques and relishes the chance to get romantic with the wonderful Madeleine Kahn. He even has a very creditable stab at becoming a cabaret singer by devising a whole scene simply so he can sing the title song, complete with small talk and whiplashing the microphone cord.
Richard H. Thorndyke
Nurse Charlotte Diesel
Dr. Charles Montague
Dr. Philip Wentworth
Dick Van Patten
Albert J. Whitlock