High Anxiety (20th Century Fox) (1978)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 9-Apr-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 90:12
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Mel Brooks

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Mel Brooks
Madeline Kahn
Cloris Leachman
Harvey Korman
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music John Morris

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Dutch
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
French Titling
German Titling
Italian Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Mel Brooks is considered one of the great directors of comedy cinema, and righfully so. With a career spanning 40 plus years, Brooks has delivered some absolute classic comedies. But for every one of his greats, i.e.: Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, The Producers or History Of The World Part 1, he has also made some fairly inept films. Take for example Dracula: Dead And Loving It, Robin Hood Men In Tights, and to a lesser extent Silent Movie. These films have a common thread: they contain little to no humour, which is tragic for supposed comedies. High Anxiety unfortunately belongs in this latter group.

    The genre Brooks is attempting to lampoon is the Hitchcockian thriller. There are references to Vertigo, Rear Window, The Birds, Psycho, North By North West and many others, but what is lacking is the energy and irreverence he managed to bring to Blazing Saddles, which brilliantly roasted the western genre. The story revolves around Psychiatrist Dr Richard Thorndyke (Mel Brooks) who when taking up residency at the Institute For The Very Very Nervous observes some strange behaviour from the staff members. He is then framed for murder and has to clear his name before he becomes the next victim. Many non-humourous scenes follow.

    It is a shame that Brooks' gift for comedy is absent this time out, as the subject matter is begging for a send up. The cast, which includes Madeline Kahn and Cloris Leachman, are all top notch, especially Harvey Korman, who is probably the films saving grace. It is the material these talented comics are given that lets them down. The film was met with total indifference upon its theatrical release in 1978 and it is easy to see why. Three years later Brooks recovered from mediocrity with the fabulous History Of The World Part 1. High Anxiety isn't a terrible film, but with the comic potential the subject matter contained, a mediocre one is just as irritating.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    High Anxiety is presented in the films original aspect ratio of 1:85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness of the transfer is acceptable but nothing more, and there are many scenes throughout the film that suffer from edge enhancement. Particularly annoying are any day time exterior shots; these being the most obvious. Shadow detail is adequate and there are moments of grain in the darker scenes, but nothing too distracting.

    Colours are fairly well rendered, but do appear washed out on occasion. This film has not been remastered and I suspect this is the best source material available.

    There are numerous film artefacts throughout the running time of the film, but they are mostly dark in nature and not too noticeable.

    For a twenty-five year old film the transfer is ok, but it is definitely in need of some attention.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    High Anxiety is presented with five Dolby Digital 2.0 audio tracks. They are: English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. The English track is reviewed here.

    Dialogue is always clear and there doesn't appear to be any audio sync problems. The track is actually very minimalist, relying on visuals and camera tricks to increase mood.

    The music is by John Morris and suits the material well. The score emulates the great Bernard Herrmann and adds to the overall atmosphere of the picture.

    Surround channel usage is minimal, but there are occasional sound effects that jump out during the so called 'shock scenes'.

    The subwoofer supports both the score and the sound field nicely.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Theatrical Trailer - Non Anamorphic.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This disc is only available in Region 4.


   One of Mel Brooks's weaker entries, High Anxiety is still worth a look for fans of the director or for anyone who is curious. It is presented in a bare-bones package with acceptable video and audio transfers.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Greg Morfoot (if interested here is my bio)
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayLG 76cm Widescreen Flatron Television. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony HT-K215.
AmplificationSony HT-K215

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Amy F
The DVD Bits - Craig D

Comments (Add)
Elmer Bernstein? -