High Anxiety (1977) Poster



This tribute to Alfred Hitchcock contains references to more than 10 of his films: see the links to other titles. Mel Brooks held a private preview of the movie for Hitchcock to see his reaction. When Hitchcock walked out at movie's end without saying a word, Brooks feared that Hitchcock hated the movie. But days later, Hitchcock sent a congratulatory case of wine to Brooks, knowing that Brooks was a wine connoisseur, and declared the film "Splendid! I wish I had done it."
Mel Brooks hired the actual bird handler from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963) for work on this picture.
The bird droppings were actually mayonnaise and chopped spinach. However, Mel Brooks reported to Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show" that the helicopter spraying the fake bird droppings scared the pigeons so much that he believed half of the bird droppings were real.
The appearance of Albert Whitlock as Arthur Brisbane is yet another of the film's many homages to Alfred Hitchcock; Whitlock was Hitchcock's special-effects man on several films.
Ron Carey's character, Brophy, is obviously named after Edward Brophy, a character actor in the classic Hollywood era that played sidekicks in dozens of movies; he also imitates Brophy's distinctively nasal voice.
Mel Brooks once said of Alfred Hitchcock: "Anyone who has ever rolled a foot of film owes something to this man."
Gene Wilder was originally considered for the part of Dr. Richard Thorndyke, but scheduling forced Wilder to turn the role down.
During a special preview screening, Alfred Hitchcock's only criticism of the film to Mel Brooks, was that in the shower scene, when the shower curtain is torn off the rail, they used 13 shower curtain rings, whereas in Psycho (1960), they only used 10.
Mel Brooks performed a number of duties on this picture. Brooks performed the lead role of Richard H. Thorndyke, directed, produced, co-wrote the screenplay and for the title song was both composer and lyricist.
One of Mel Brooks' favorite routines was doing a musical impression of Frank Sinatra, and in this film he performs the song "High Anxiety" in an exaggerated version of Sinatra's singing style, right down to dropping the first syllable of the word "anxiety". Brooks wrote the song and lyrics. Brooks claimed he received singing offers from Las Vegas casinos and clubs following the release of the film.
Alfred Hitchcock films that are homaged in this movie include: Dial M for Murder (1954), Family Plot (1976), Frenzy (1972), North by Northwest (1959), Notorious (1946), Psycho (1960), Rebecca (1940), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Spellbound (1945), Suspicion (1941), The Birds, The Lodger (1927), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), The Ring (1927), The 39 Steps (1935), Torn Curtain (1966), Under Capricorn (1949), Vertigo (1958), and The Wrong Man (1956).
First speaking lead role for Mel Brooks. His first lead role had been in Silent Movie (1976) where there was no dialogue.
In yet another reference to Alfred Hitchcock, Dr. Thorndyke is told that a "Mr. MacGuffin" changed his room reservation. Hitchcock's MacGuffins were objects or devices which drove the plot but which were otherwise inconsequential and could be forgotten once they had served their purpose.
Alfred Hitchcock proposed a scene for the film in which the killer would chase Thorndyke to the harbour, where Thorndyke would try to escape by taking a running jump onto a boat in the water... only to realise the boat was pulling in to the docks. Mel Brooks loved the idea, but was unable to film it due to budget and time constraints.
Richard H. Thorndike is hesitant to reveal his middle name (Harpo) to Madeline Kahn. In Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959), Cary Grant's Roger O. Thornhill never reveals his middle name.
The limousine used throughout the movie is a Mercedes Benz 600. This particular one is the extended wheelbase Pullman model intended for Heads of State - The Pope had one as well.
First film as a producer for Mel Brooks.
In another Alfred Hitchcock reference, the location where Dr. Thorndyke is attacked in the phone booth beneath the Golden Gate Bridge is Fort Point, where the crucial water rescue scene takes place in Vertigo (1958).
Even though she is billed second among the cast, Madeline Kahn does not appear until more than halfway through the film.
Numerous male actors in the film are either wearing hair pieces or have comb-overs, especially in the scenes at the institute.
Three of the film's writers appear in comedic supporting roles.
This picture was dedicated to Alfred Hitchcock (with the proviso "May he never dedicate anything to me in return.")
During his speech at the convention, Dr. Thorndyke mentions the names Otto Rank and Krafft-Ebing. They were real psychoanalysts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
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Thorndike mentions Harpo Marx shortly before his performance of the film's theme. The Marx Brothers were known for having musical interludes in their films.
In the opening scenes at the airport, Mel Brooks' character finally exits the terminal building through sliding glass doors. When he turns around and faces the glass doors, his reflection is incorrect. You should see the front of him, but you see him from behind as you do with the camera angle.
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The opening scene of Psycho (1960) shows the camera slowly panning through the hotel window and into the room where Sam and Lila have just finished making love. In High Anxiety (1977) Mel Brooks pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock when the camera crashes into the wall of the motel after showing Dr. Thorndyke and Victoria in the motel room. You hear the director say, "Pull the camera back slowly" and the cameraman say, "Going too fast. Going to hit the wall."
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Co-screenwriter and future director Barry Levinson plays the bellboy who "stabs" Dr. Richard Thorndyke (Mel Brooks) with a rolled up newspaper, as a spoof of the shower scene in Psycho (1960). Perhaps a newspaper was used because the black ink flows down the drain at the end of the sequence, resembling the "blood" -- actually chocolate syrup -- in Psycho. People who saw Psycho remember Marion Crane's (Janet Leigh) blood as being red, despite its being a black and white movie. This was a subconscious reaction, because newsreels were in black and white, and often showed bloody scenes. See trivia for Psycho.
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