This story begins with Dr. Richard Thorndyke has several odd encounters (such as a homosexual man impersonating a police officer, and a passing bus with a full orchestra playing inside it). He is taken by his driver, Brophy to the Psycho-Neurotic Institute for the Very Very Nervous, where he has been hired as a replacement for Dr. Ashley, who died mysteriously. Brophy has a condition of nervousness, and he takes pictures when he gets nervous. Upon his arrival, Thorndyke is greeted by the staff, Dr. Charles Montague, Dr. Philip Wentworth, and Nurse Charlotte Diesel. When he goes to his room, a large rock is thrown through the window, with a message of welcome from the violent ward.
Thorndyke hears strange noises coming from Nurse Diesel's room and he and Brophy go to investigate. Diesel claims it was the TV, but it was actually a passionate session of BDSM with Dr. Montague. The next morning, Thorndyke is alerted by a light shining through his window. It is coming from the violent ward. Dr. Montague takes Thorndyke to the light's source, the room of patient Arthur Brisbane, who thinks he is a Cocker Spaniel.
Wentworth and Diesel argue about whether he can leave the institute. After she lets him go, he drives home, but the car has been rigged to blast rock music loudly through the radio. Wentworth is trapped in his car, his ears hemorrhage, and he dies from a stroke, aggravated by the loud music.
Thorndyke and Brophy travel to San Francisco, where Thorndyke is to speak at a psychiatric convention. He checks into the atriumed, vertigo-inducing Hyatt Regency San Francisco, where much to his dismay he is assigned a room on the top floor, due to a reservation change by a “Mr. MacGuffin”. He pesters the bellboy with repeated requests for a newspaper, wanting to look in the obituaries for information concerning Dr. Wentworth's demise. He then takes a shower, during which the bellboy comes and in a frenzy mimics stabbing Thorndyke with the paper while screaming “Here's your paper! Happy now?! Happy?” The paper's ink runs down the drain.
After his shower, Victoria Brisbane, the daughter of Arthur Brisbane, bursts through the door. She wants help in removing her father from the institute. She says that Nurse Diesel and Dr. Montague are exaggerating the illnesses of wealthy patients so the institute can bilk rich families of millions of dollars. Thorndyke agrees to help after discovering that the patient he met was not the real Arthur Brisbane.
To stop Thorndyke, Diesel and Montague hire “Braces”, the silver-braced man who organized Dr. Ashley's and Wentworth's murders, to impersonate Thorndyke and shoot a man in the lobby. Now with the police after him, Thorndyke must prove his innocence. After he is briefly attacked by pigeons, he contacts Brophy, and realizes Brophy took a picture of the shooting. The real Thorndyke was in the elevator at the time, so he should be in the picture.
He orders Brophy to enlarge the picture. When he goes to call, “Braces” tries to strangle him; however, Thorndyke is able to kill him. Brophy enlarges the photo, and Thorndyke is indeed visible in the picture. Nurse Diesel and Montague capture Brophy and take him to the North Wing. They also take the real Arthur Brisbane to a tower to kill him.
Thorndyke suffers from “high anxiety”, which prevents him from climbing the tower's steep stairs and helping Brisbane. But with the help of his friends, he overcomes his phobia. Thorndyke knocks Diesel's orderly out a tower window, saving Brisbane. Nurse Diesel leaps out from the shadows and attacks Throndyke with a broom, but falls out the tower window. She falls to her death, laughing hysterically and riding the broom. Dr. Montague appears from the shadows and gives up before being accidentally knocked unconscious by Brophy. Victoria is reunited with her father, gets married to Thorndyke, and they go on their honeymoon.
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