High Anxiety (1977): Mel Brooks Silly Spoof of Hitchcock

Brooks’ spoof of Hitchcock classics, including Spellbound, Psycho, Vertigo, and The Birds, is, like most pastiches, a sharply uneven, often silly and trivial comedy.

Brooks plays Dr. Richard H. Thorndyke, a renowned Harvard psychiatrist with a concealed fear of heights, or High Anxiety.

Thorndyke takes over as the newest director of the PsychoNeurotic Institute after the last director dies under suspicious circumstances.

He is surrounded by very strange colleagues, including Cloris Leachman, as Charlotte Diesel, a nurse with a dark sneer and tendency towards domination, and Harvey Korman, as Dr. Charles Montague, a psychiatrist with a closeted habit of his own.

Madeline Kahn is Victoria Brisbane, the eccentric daughter of a patient at the institute and Thorndyke’s love interest.

As Thorndyke heads to a psychiatry conference, he is faced with saving the Institute and his own sanity.

The movie has a number of cameos, from a young Barry Levinson’s spot as an unstable bellboy to Hitchcock’s right-hand special effects man, Albert J. Whitlock, who plays Madeline Kahn’s father

Brooks also used the bird trainer from Hitchcock’s 1963 thriller, The Birds.

The movie was both an artistic flop and a middling commercial success.


Running time: 94 minutes.

Directed by Mel Brooks

DVD: April 4, 2006