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Archive for the ‘Madeline Kahn’ Category

High Anxiety

25 Oct

High Anxiety – written and directed by Mel Brooks. Parody. A psychotherapist finds himself at the head of a clinic whose staff wants to murder him. 94 minutes Color 1977.
★★★★
Some people are inherently funny. Some people can do funny things. Some people can conceive of funny things to do. Cloris Leachman and Madeline Kahn fall into the first and greatest of these categories. There is something in them which, called upon, embodies, with all due and necessary exaggeration, human nature at its most deeply cartoonish. Harvey Korman falls into the second category: he can do funny things, so he can support those who are inherently funny. While Mel Brooks is neither inherently funny nor can he do funny things, what he can do is conceive funny things to do – which makes him a writer and a director. But, while his conceptions may look funny on paper, when performed, they are often not funny at all, because either they or his capacity to act them and to direct them are inadequate. Here, for instance, in a series of parodies of Hitchcock, he finds himself in a park being shit on by a thousand birds. What would Charlie Chaplin have done? I don’t know, but the situation requires great delicacy of response from the actor, and Chaplin (who falls into all three categories) would have found great and hilarious daintiness in being shit on by a thousand birds. All Brooks can do is run away. It is not a comic solution, is it? It is crude. Think what a vaudevillian, who cannot run away because he is on the stage, would have done with this. What saves Brooks is that he has an abundance of ideas and he has talented people executing them. And that he is having a good time and he has a big heart. The film as whole works well as a collection of skits on Hitchcock. We have The Birds; we have The Wrong Man with two men wrongfully accused; we have Foreign Agent and the windmill; we have Vertigo, San Francisco, and fear of heights; we have Mel Brooks being stabbed to death in the shower by a psycho bellboy; we have Brooks meeting Kahn at the northwest corner of Golden Gate Park; we have the Hitchcock blond in the form of Kahn’s Niagara wig; we even have Michael Chekov from Spellbound as Brooks’ old professor. Low comedy should make us guffaw and fall off our chairs laughing. Brooks may not be to my taste, but I love to guffaw and fall off my chair laughing. Still, this is an amiable nonsense, and one could do worse than watch it – which is to paint with damn phrase.

 
 
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