High Anxiety is a spoof that is far too respectful of its source material. You certainly can’t blame anyone involved in its production. When copying a master, hesitation is understood.
Instead of completely letting loose, this is one of the most reserved Mel Brooks films in his library. There is minimal fun here, Brooks himself giving a mundane, lackluster performance in what turns out to be a copy of Alfred Hitchcock films as opposed to parody.
Many of these scenes are exact, including the inevitable Psycho shower scene. It matches shot for shot, and the joke is incredibly predictable. It was set up the minute Richard Thorndyke (Brooks) walks into the hotel.
Then there are the scenes that exist because Brooks wanted to pay tribute. The Birds is mimicked, only with pigeons. The scene is wildly disconnected from the rest of the story-driven narrative Brooks along with co-writers Ron Clark, Rudy De Luca, and Barry Levinson put together.
None of the scenes stray far from their source. This is none of the charisma. This feels like the work of a Hitchcock fanboy, someone who wanted to make their own tribute, not their own movie. To its credit, the fine camera work, pacing, and style instantly put you in the frame of a Hitchcock film, a jarring change in the viewers mindset going into a comedy masters film.
High Anxiety does not have its own identity, which is the likely source of its misguided tone. Despite the best efforts of Cloris Leachman, Harvey Korman, and Madeline Kahn (who is also oddly subdued for a Brooks’ film), this one never finds its footing or momentum.
This one of the weakest looking films in the Mel Brooks Collection, although it doesn’t suffer from the level of digital anomalies of Men in Tights. The only notable complaint about the encode is the use of edge enhancement, visible throughout the film on any high contrast edge. At times, it becomes a significant distraction for the videophile, and in other spots, is a minimal intrusion.
Soft and lackluster, the movie never gains a notable level of detail or depth. Black levels are minimal, and facial textures are generally non-existent, save for a few extreme close-ups. Barely noticeable textures on suits are easily missed, as delineation is not strong enough. Flesh tones are fine, while color is usually muted. The reds of the early airport scenes are the highlight.
The source is in excellent shape, with few (if any) distinguishable specs on the print. The fine grain texture is not manipulated, and causes no problems for the encode itself.
While a DTS-HD mix is advertised as 5.1, this one never leaves the center. Not a single note, cue, or sound effect occurs outside of the middle. Fidelity is flat, much like the video, lacking crisp highs and the low end is completely absent.
Dialogue is fine, mixed well with the musical accompaniment. A bonus isolated score likewise suffers the same contained feel, a disappointment as John Morris’ score could really come alive.
Hitchcock & Mel is a nice making of, showing Brooks’ admiration for the famed director, and how he went about spoofing him. Two pop-up tracks, one focusing on Hitchcock trivia, the other a marginally amusing therapy quiz are followed by the usual round up of trailers.