High Anxiety (1977)


High Anxiety is a 1977 comedy film produced and directed by Mel Brooks, who also plays the lead. This is Brooks' first film as a producer and first "speaking" lead role (his first lead role was in Silent Movie). Veteran Brooks ensemble members Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman and Madeline Kahn are also featured. The film is a parody of suspense films, most obviously the films directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo in particular. The movie was dedicated to Hitchcock, who sent Brooks a bottle of wine to show his appreciation.


The story begins at Los Angeles airport, where Thorndyke has several odd encounters. He leaves for the institute with his driver, Brophy. Upon his arrival, he is greeted by the staff, Dr. Montague, Dr. Wentworth and Nurse Diesel. When he goes to his room, a large rock is thrown through the window, with a message of welcome from the Violent Ward. Thorndyke then hears strange noises coming from Nurse Diesel's room and when he and Brophy go to investigate, Diesel claims it was the TV. However, it was a passionate session of BDSM with Dr. Montague. The next morning, he is alerted by a light shining through his window. It is coming from the violent ward. Later, Nurse Diesel is talking with Dr. Wentworth. He wants to leave, but she won't let him. However, after some arguing, she says she'll let him go. When Wentworth is driving home that night, his radio blasts rock music loudly and will not shut off. He is trapped in his car, and he dies from an ear hemorrhage. After this, Thorndyke goes to the grand hotel - the broad-atriumed, vertigo-inducing Hyatt Regency San Francisco, where much to his dismay he is relegated to a room on the top floor, due to a reservation mix-up. He pesters the bellboy with repeated requests about getting a newspaper, wanting to look in the obituary for information concerning Dr. Wentworth's demise. He then takes a shower, during which the bellboy comes and in a frenzy mimics stabbing Thorndyke with the paper while screaming "Here's your paper! Happy now?! Happy?" The paper's ink runs down the drain, a reference to Psycho. After his shower, a woman bursts through the door; she is Victoria Brisbane, the daughter of Arthur Brisbane. She wants help regarding her father. He agrees to the terms, but then finds out Nurse Diesel's plot. The patient is not the real Arthur Brisbane. To stop Thorndyke, Diesel and Montague hire a killer, "Braces", to impersonate Thorndyke and shoot a man in the lobby. Now with the police after him, he must prove his innocence. He contacts Brophy, and realizes Brophy took a picture of the shooting. The real Thorndyke was in the elevator at the time, so he should be in the picture. He orders Brophy to enlarge the picture. When he goes to call, "Braces" tries to strangle him; however, Thorndyke is able to kill him. Brophy enlarges the photo, and Thorndyke is indeed visible in the picture. Nurse Diesel and Montague capture Brophy and take him to the North Wing. They also take the real Arthur Brisbane to a tower to kill him. As Thorndyke runs up the tower to save him and Brisbane, Nurse Diesel leaps out from the shadows in a witches costume with a broom, and falls out the tower window. Thinking she really is a witch, she tries to act like she's flying, ending in her crashing into the rocks below, thus killing her. Dr. Montague appears from the shadows and gives up before being hit in the head by the lighthouse trap door by Brophy. Victoria is reunited with her father and gets married to Thorndyke who go off on Honeymoon.