Wednesday, September 8, 2010

'High Anxiety' is a Mel Brooks masterpiece

High Anxiety (1977)
Starring: Mel Brooks, Madeline Khan, Harvey Korman, and Cloris Leachman
Director: Mel Brooks
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

When psychiatrist Richard Thorndyke (Brooks) takes a new job as director of the Psychoneurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous, he finds that something is amiss. Before he can take action, he is framed for murder and set on the run. In order to clear his name, he must face his own neurotic condition, "high anxiety."

In "High Anxiety", one of cinema's greatest satirists takes on the works of Alfred Hitchcock, and he does so beautifully. In theory, this should be a movie that doesn't work, because making a satire of a body of work that's already rich in comedy--Hitchcock's movies mostly mix suspense and humor in near equal amounts--but Brooks manages to deliver a film that keeps viewers chuckling, giggling, and issuing full belly laughs in order to clear his name. Fans of Hitchcock will be laughing especially loudly and consistently, as Brooks not only offers spot-on spoofs of some of Hitchcock's most famous scenes, but provides affectionate mockery of many of his most-used stylistic flourishes. (And when Brooks isn't spoofing Hitchcock, he's delivering random insanity, such as Leachman's Nazi nurse character.)

And then there's the catchy tune of the theme song. Some twenty years after first seeing the film, the melody still stuck with me, and now that I've heard it again, it'll probably be in my head for days. (I find myself humming it as I type this review!) It's also nifty how it gets used in Bernard Hermann music score parodies in the film, too.

Lovers of well-done satires should get a big laugh out of this suspense movie spoof, and fans of Hitchcock's work absolutely must see this loving send-up.

For reviews of some of Hitchcock's actual films, click here for the ones I've reviewed at the Shades of Gray blog. (For ones reviewed here, click on the Alfred Hitchcock tag at the bottom of this post.)

You can read reviews of other Mel Brooks films by clicking here to Cinema Steve, the hub for all my review blogs.

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