Friday, August 8, 2014

High Anxiety (1977)

High Anxiety: written by Mel Brooks, Ron Clark, Rudy De Luca, and Barry Levinson; directed by Mel Brooks; starring Mel Brooks (Richard H. Thorndyke), Madeline Kahn (Victoria Brisbane), Cloris Leachman (Nurse Diesel), Harvey Korman (Dr. Charles Montague), Ron Carey (Brophy), Dick Van Patten (Dr. Wentworth), and Howard Morris (Professor Lilloman) (1977): Mel Brooks is all over the place figuratively and literally in this parody of the films of Alfred Hitchcock. He sings. He dances. He stars. He directs. He co-writes. It's probably no accident that Brooks' films became decreasingly popular as his ego moved him from supporting roles in his own films to lead roles -- this is his second turn as the lead, and the rot has begun to set in, lightly but inevitably.

Still, there are some killer sequences parodying both the specific and the general in Hitchcock's films, from some complicated camerawork under a glass coffee table to a ridiculous riff on Janet Leigh's driving problems in Psycho. And there are killer performances, none moreso than Cloris Leachman as a nurse/dominatrix with truly peculiar line-readings and physical mannerisms. Recommended.

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