“High Anxiety” is a hilarious Mel Brooks film which spoofs several mystery and suspense films, in particular those of Alfred Hitchcock. The story is hilarious, as is the comedic acting. Mel Brooks plays Dr. Richard H. Thorndyke, a successful psychiatrist who’s been appointed to work at the Psychosomatic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous in Los Angeles. Cloris Leachman is also great as the psychotic Nurse Diesel, as is Harvey Korman as a crazy doctor at the institute and Howard Morris as Professor Littloldman, Richard’s mentor, who cures him of his “high anxiety” – extreme fear of heights.
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The movie begins with Dr. Thorndyke arriving at the Los Angeles Airport. Since he has a tremedous fear of heights, he finds he must relieve himself in the air sickness bag. He has two scary adventures before leaving the airport and comments, “What a dramatic airport!”
After arriving, he’s escorted aboard a bus to the Psychosomatic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous. There he meets Dr. Charles Montague (Korman) and Nurse Diesel (Leachman), who end up killing Dr. Wentworth, head of the institute, and making it look like an accident. He also meets his old colleague Prof. Littloldman (Korman), who discovers his fear of heights, diagnoses him with “high anxiety”, and tries to cure him of it.
Thorndyke travels to San Francisco and stays at the Hyatt Regency, where he speaks at a psychiatric convention. He has a couple misadventures there, including being attacked by the bellboy with a newspaper and being pooped on in Golden Gate Park by a swarming flock of pigeons. He also meets Victoria Brisbane (Kahn), a young woman who’s trying to get her father released from the institute after being wrongfully diagnosed.
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At a critical moment, Dr. Thorndyke becomes cured of his high anxiety after nearly falling to death from a loose step in a tall tower after Prof. Littloldman explains to him that he’s afraid of parents, not heights. The film ends happily, with Dr. Thorndyke marrying Victoria.