The satirical comedy is a real hit or miss genre, more so miss in recent years. When the humor is constant and a mix of ridiculous and witty, we can end up with something brilliant like Airplane! However, some of the modern satirical films that spoof popular films can crash and burn easily because of not having anything funny or original to offer. I have seen most of Mel Brooks’ films and knew that I had to see this for number of reasons. I loved Young Frankenstein; it was a brilliant humorous take on the classic Frankenstein film and Gene Wilder is phenomenal in it. I mostly enjoyed other films like Silent Movie and The History of the World Part 1 but there are lapses in comedy in both films. As a matter of fact I’d say Brook’s brand of humor isn’t always consistent (and somewhat dated) but there are enough laughs to make for a good time.
Another reason I had to check out High Anxiety is because Alfred Hitchcock is one of my favorite filmmakers ever and I had to see Brooks’ take on some of Hitchcock’s most famous work. I definitely enjoyed being able to spot some of the references to Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, and of course, Vertigo. Some of the film’s humor may have been funny for an earlier generation. I think the best comedic moments come when Brooks pays his tribute to Hitchcock. The most memorable scene in the film is when the lobby boy ‘stabs’ Brooks with the newspaper in the shower and the smudged ink of the paper circles the drain (akin to the blood in the shower scene in Psycho). Some of the Hitchcockian references are smart, others feel tacked on. None of it really takes away from experience though.
I did enjoy some of the characters and their outrageous natures in the film. Lilloman is a fun character and the moments he and Brooks spend together on the scene bring for a delightful patient-doctor experience. I’d say the best is stiff and pale Nurse Diesel. She plays a memorable villain in her own right, despite the villain being spoofed off of a previous incarnation of something Hitchcock devised. Much like Silent Movie and History of the World Part 1, there are passages in the film that just kind of pass through without really eliciting a response. I guess its dependent on the viewer and their brand of humor, as I’d expect people would react differently to the comedic situations.
I’m not the biggest Mel Brooks fan but I have no problem admitting he’s an icon in the satirical comedy genre. I don’t think this film touches something like Young Frankenstein or The Producers but its a fun little ode to the master of suspenseful cinema. Its dated but enjoyable. Honestly I didn’t expect anything more from this film so I am satisfied with what I saw.