On High Anxiety (1977)

VHS coverI’m a little late writing this one up–this is the film we watched on Thanksgiving, but I have had it sitting on my desk since then and a text file with the title in it (I do my drafts for these On… posts and the book reports in a text file editor before I copy and paste them onto the blog–clearly, I had one such post eaten by blogging software at some point in the past or I just wanted to template out the basics of each post–the title, the image, and back in the old timey days the Amazon affiliate link). So because I am very slow in reading these days–David Copperfield is like 750 pages, but I’m enjoying them–I have decided to tell you about what I watched two months ago.

You know, you kind of had to be there for the early Mel Brooks. I mean, stuff like Blazing Saddles remains funny and quotable unless you have a modern mindset where That’s not funny. Somehow, it’s crude but not crass. Or maybe I hold it in enough esteem that I overlook its crassinosity. Later comedies like Space Balls and Robin Hood: Men in Tights were hit or miss with me–they have a more modern speed and sensibility, unlike this film and Young Frankenstein (which I rewatched a couple years ago)–they move more slowly and require a little familiarity in the material that the film spoofs. In the middle 1970s, we saw those films on television on weekends. In the 21st century, not so much.

At any rate, this film spoofs sixties thrillers, especially Alfred Hitchcock movies. A noted psychologist is recruited to run an asylum where people have mysteriously died, including the most recent head. He discovers that some of the other staff are keeping rich inmates against their wills and after they’re cured–and the Mel Brooks character is dealing with his own Vertigo-like issues that come into play. I would say the name of the character, but, come on, as with Abbott and Costello in Africa Screams!, Mel Brooks, Harvery Korman, and Cloris Leachmann are playing their respective characters, the ones they tend to play in all these mid-Brooks movies.

So it was amusing to me in a I see what you did there fashion. Both of my boys watched it, which means the older one is growing in his cinema appreciation to be able to sit through something more slow-moving than a ten minute speed run YouTube video. They laughed at one bit, but the youngest proclaimed it a bit cringey. You remember RiffTrax, the thing where you can record your own commentary a la Mystery Science Theater 3000 on a movie? I think if you mashed up 21st century young people watching old movies, you would probably have pure comedy gold. Actually, someone has probably already done that as Kids Try To Figure Out and Reaction videos are all the rage. Or so I heard; I only use YouTube to watch Mizuho Lin sing and my accountant cast pods.

Also, whilst we’re on the subject of Mel Brooks’ usual suspects, I have recently discovered that Madeline Khan was all that.

I mean, my early exposure to her would probably have been Blazing Saddles, where the blonde look really didn’t work for her, and Oh, Madeline on television, which she did when she was forty-one, which was to then-me old but to now-me young. I didn’t really like her voice when I was eleven or twelve either, but it has grown on me since.

Also, she was older than my mother, so that would be a definite deal breaker for an eighties kid. I am not so sure how that would be now, as women might be looking better later in life, or maybe I’m just later and life and think so. It would make for an awkward conversation with my boys, one that I will avoid for the nonce. Boys, given that your mother is the most beautiful woman in the world, what about Elizabeth Hurley who is sixty?

Still, back to the film we’re talking about. Or more related topics. When researching this film, I discovered Silent Movie which I had not heard of. It sounds like Steve Martin’s Bowfinger. I’m going to have to look for that one at garage sales. And, probably, have to order it someday when I’m feeling profligate and think about the film again–perhaps whilst reading this post in the future.

While researching the preceding paragraph, I discovered that Heather Graham and I were born in the same hospital, albeit a couple years apart. Huh. I will be sure to mention that the next time we see something with Heather Graham in it, probably License to Drive since I have boys coming of that age. Of course, I will act as though I always knew it as I always know everything about Milwaukee.

The end, he said, before he fell more into the Wikipediaverse and didn’t get anything of value at all done today.

1 thought on “On High Anxiety (1977)

  1. “Silent Movie” is funny enough, but the target is just not as well known as, say, Westerns or old Universal monster movies, so it doesn’t pack the same punch as “Saddles” or “Young Frankenstein.” I saw it in the theater when I was around 12 and the slapstick bits worked for me — the rest, not so much. When I watched it again a few years ago I connected with more of it.

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