Mel Brooks' brand of humor -- over-the-top, non-stop, often outrageous -- tends to be a matter of taste, although when he's in top form (e.g., The Producers, Young Frankenstein) he's appreciated by almost everyone. High Anxiety is definitely lesser Brooks and wildly uneven, but partisans will embrace it wholeheartedly. As a Hitchcock parody, it includes some excellent visual touches, such as skewed camera angles, use of "caged" shadow motifs, Madeline Kahn's icy blond wig, and especially the Psycho shower scene, here staged with Brooks the victim of a crazed bellhop with a newspaper. Unfortunately, the take-off on The Birds, which starts out well, degenerates into cheapness, though fans of the Farrelly Brothers will probably appreciate it. Brooks is fine in the lead role; as usual, there's both a "distance" and an excess to his performance that keep him from being as good as he should be. Kahn is delightful, though her role doesn't make wise use of her considerable talents. (Do watch for her reaction when she thinks she's getting an obscene phone call, however, as well as her airport scene.) Cloris Leachman gives a performance of tremendous skill and total commitment and creates another memorable character; unfortunately, much of what she and Harvey Korman are called upon to do, while daring in 1977, is a little embarrassing today. After High Anxiety, Brooks went into something of a commercial decline as his style of humor fell out of favor with audiences.
by Craig Butler review