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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Full Frame
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English, French, German, Dutch, English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • 2 Audio commentary
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • 2 Featurette - Torquay Tourist Guide, Cheap Tatty Review
  • 3 Interviews
  • Outtakes

Fawlty Towers - The Complete Series

BBC/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 360 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

A Touch of Class
Basil is determined to get a better class of customer into Fawlty Towers. Sybil's just happy to have customers at all.

"Have you seen the people in room six? They've never even sat on chairs before."

The Builders
With a bit of building needing to be done, Basil wants to use the cut price cock-up artist O'Reilly and Sybil wants to use the reliable Stubbs. So who do you think Basil uses?

Basil(on phone to O'Reilly after he botches the job) "Ahh, hello Mr O'Reilly. How are you this morning? Oh, good. Good. No rare diseases or anything?"

The Wedding Party
Unknown to Basil, the guests for a wedding party are staying at Fawlty Towers. Basil thinks there are some kind of kinky shananigans going on between them, not realising they're from one family, and is determined to put an end to it.

Basil (to male guest): "Now look! Just don't you push your luck. I have a breaking point you know."
Guest: "Well, I only want some batteries"
Basil: "I don't believe it."
Guest: "What?"
Basil: "Batteries, huh? You know something? You disgust me. I know what people like you get up to and I think it's disgusting!"

The Hotel Inspectors
There are hotel inspectors in town and Basil is in full freak out mode. The problem is figuring out which guest at Fawlty Towers is the inspector and which is just an annoying git.

Guest: “Now Listen, there is a documentary on BBC2 this evening about Squawking Bird, the leader of the Blackfoot Indians in the late 1860’s. Now this starts at 8.45 and goes on for approximately three quarters of an hour.”
Basil: “I’m sorry, are you talking to me?
Guest: “Indeed I am, yes. Now is it possible for me to reserve the BBC 2 channel for the duration of this televisual feast?”
Basil: “Why don’t you talk properly?”

Gourmet Night
Basil’s a bit sick of all the “ignorant rabble” frequenting the hotel and so goes ahead with Gourmet Night (no riffraff, please) to boost his standing in the community and show off his chef.

Basil has to change the menu when the chef gets drunk...
Basil (to dinner guests): “This is your new menu.”
Guest 1: “Duck with orange. Duck with cherries. Duck surprise?”
Guest 2: What’s Duck surprise?”
Basil: “Uh... that’s duck without orange or cherries.”

The Germans
With Sybil in hospital, Basil is running the hotel. An accident during a fire drill gone wrong results in Basil in hospital with concussion. Against doctor's orders, he leaves and heads back to the hotel where the concussion plays havoc with his sanity and the guests.

…Basil mentions the war a lot and does the silly walk...
German:” Stop it!”
Basil: “I’m trying to cheer her up, you stupid Kraut!”
German: “It’s not funny for her!"
Basil: “Not funny? Not funny? You’re joking!”
German: “It’s not funny for her, not for us, not for any German people."
Basil: “You have absolutely no sense of humour, do you?”
German: “This is not funny!”
Basil: “Who won the bloody war anyway?!”

Communication Problems
Take one deaf and rude guest, one tip for a horse race, a missing 85 pounds, one Basil banned from gambling and stir liberally.

Deaf Guest: “And another thing. I asked for a room with a view.”
Basil: (softly to Manuel) “Deaf, mad and blind. (To guest)”This is the view as far as I can remember, Madam. Yes... yes... this is it.”
Deaf Guest: “When I pay for a view, I expect something more interesting than that."
Basil: “That is Torquay, Madam."
Deaf Guest: “That is not good enough.”
Basil: “Well, may I ask what you were expecting to see out of a Torquay hotel bedroom window? Sydney Opera House, perhaps? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically…”

The Psychiatrist
When Basil learns that psychiatrists are staying at the hotel, the pressure of trying to act normal is just too much for him. He’s paranoid that they’ll ask about his sex life, while at the same time he’s trying to catch out a sleazy looking guest he’s certain is up to no good with a woman in his room. Oh, and not to mention he keeps getting caught by Sybil with his hands on a pretty guest's breasts.

Sybil: “If you think I’ve got time to listen to any more of your hopeless, lily-livered, jellyfish lies...”
Basil: “They are not lies. I’m trying to...”
Sybil: “Why can’t you be a man? If you want to grope the guests, why can’t you at least be honest about it without making up some pathetic song and dance...”
Basil: “Shut up!”
Sybil: “Oh, you’ve done it now.”
Basil: “No I haven’t. I’m just going to. I’m fed up with you, you rancorous, coiffeured old sow! Why don’t you syringe the donuts out of your ear and get some sense into the dormant organ you keep hidden in that rat's maze of yours?”

Waldorf Salad
Obnoxious Americans arrive at the hotel after the kitchen closes and demand dinner. They offer Basil 20 pounds to keep the chef working, but Basil lets the chef leave pocketing the money himself, thinking he can handle things on his own. Then they order a Waldorf salad...

Guest: “Could you make me a Waldorf salad?”
Basil: “uh... a Wa...?”
Guest: “Waldorf salad.”
Basil: “Oh…I think we’re just out of Waldorf’s...”

The Kipper and the Corpse
An already ill guest dies in his room and Basil thinks it was the kippers which were past their use by date that did it.

The ill guest asks for breakfast in bed in the morning...
Basil: “Rosewood, mahogany, teak?”
Guest: “I beg your pardon?”
Basil: “What would you like your breakfast tray made out of?”
Guest: “I don’t really mind.”
Basil: “Are you sure? Fine, you go along and have a really good night's sleep then. I’m hoping to get a couple of hours myself. I’ll be up in good time to serve you your breakfast in bed. If you can remember to sleep with your mouth open you won't even have to wake up. I’ll just drop in small pieces of lightly buttered kipper when you’re breathing in the right direction, if that doesn’t put you out!”

The Anniversary
Basil has organised a surprise party for his and Sybil’s 15th wedding anniversary. Sybil thinks he’s forgotten again and leaves the hotel, throwing his plans into turmoil. Rather than just explain the mix up to his dinner guests, he goes through an elaborate deception to keep them from finding out.

Sybil: “You don’t have to worry about Polly forgetting anything important, Basil.”
Basil: “Don’t I?”
Sybil: “No, you don’t.”
Basil: “Oh good. How splendid.”
Sybil: “She doesn’t forget things.”
Basil: “Doesn’t she?”
Sybil: ”Can you remember the last time she did?”
Basil: “No I can’t but then my memory isn’t very good.”
Sybil: “You can say that again.”
Basil: “Can I dear? Oh, thank you. A-hem... I’ve forgotten what it was...”
Sybil: “Well don’t worry Basil, provided you can remember the things that matter to you.”
Basil: “Do I detect the smell of burning martyr?”

Basil The Rat
The health inspector visits Fawlty Towers and things aren’t looking good. They have one day to fix, well, everything it seems, or he’ll close them down. So this seems like as good a time as any for Manuel’s pet rat, lovingly called Basil, to be on the loose in the hotel.

Trying to decide what to do with Basil the rat...
Sybil: “Perhaps we can find a home for him.”
Basil: “Alright. I’ll put an ad in the papers. Wanted, kind home for enormous savage rodent. Answers to the name of Sybil.”

  Video
Contract

With a mixture of issues with the source material and some transfer imperfections, the overall result isn’t great, but it passes muster. The bad bits are the edge enhancement, some blooming and washed out whites, some compression artifacts and cross colouration. The good bits are the much improved clarity which far surpasses the quality of the VHS version and alone makes this a worthwhile purchase. The colours are also more vibrant, with the very seventies browns and other tacky colours looking as good as they can. Direct comparison with the VHS copy of the series highlights how the original series didn’t look great at times, but also shows that DVD allows finer detail such as the patterned wallpaper in the lobby to come through.

  Audio
Contract

Being a series from the seventies with essentially nothing but dialogue consisting of Basil Fawlty shouting at anyone within earshot and Sybil putting Basil down at every opportunity, you don’t have to be too concerned with the DD2.0 stereo transfer here. Although far from the quality of modern television shows, what with their new fangled surround whizzbangery and all, the results are perfectly fine and faithful to the show. Dialogue is always clear and understandable, even the many, many, shouty bits, with just the slightest hint of distortion creeping in only at the loudest moments.

  Extras
Contract

On the two show discs, each episode has an audio commentary. The first series is done by John Howard Davies and the second by Bob Spiers. These aren’t the easiest to listen to because there are long moments of silence, with the show audio turned off, so it's hard to follow what he’s going on about at times. To get the most out of it, you must switch on the show subtitles so you have a frame of reference to some of the comments. I think many people will not persevere with them for this reason. Even if you do, they aren’t that interesting anyway really.

The other extra features are presented on their own disc. They are made up of:

Interviews: Three interviews, held with John Cleese (50 minutes), Prunella Scales (8 minutes) and Andrew Sachs (25 minutes). In total you probably learn all you need to know about how they felt about the show and each other, and this makes up for the poor commentaries.

Helpful Staff: Now, this is a bit different. Essentially a cast bio, but while you get just a filmography on screen, some git does a voiceover for the actual bio info.

Torquay Tourist Guide: (eleven and a half minutes) Amazing, because it explains the inspiration for Basil Fawlty was a real hotel owner in Torquay called Donald Sinclair. Seems feelings are mixed about what the show has done for the area as well.

Guest Registry: The guests which appeared on the show, done in the same fashion as the cast bios with voiceovers.

Cheap Tatty Review: (1 minute) Cleese in character refusing to do the show, and instead introducing a cheap tatty review. What’s a cheap tatty review, you ask? Well, very good question that.

Outtakes: Not really extensive at one and a half minutes, but some funny bits in it with Cleese pulling faces.

Easter Goog: A bit sad, really. Selecting the frame on the left of the screen shows two and a half minutes of what the Fawlty Towers building (The Grange) looked like after being consumed by fire and left to ruin then eventually torn down and replaced with a new development. What would Basil have to say about this?

  Overall  
Contract

Fans of Fawlty Towers will lap this set right up. Easy access to all the episodes without needing to fast forward, with the whole run spread over two discs and a third extras disc thrown in means no more wearing out your VHS tapes. You might argue that DVD is a collectible movie medium, but I think it really comes into its own when used for storing television shows of worth such as Fawlty Towers.

Although the picture quality can leave you a little wanting at times, it's mostly fine and you can attribute many of the flaws to the source. Thankfully, the sheer brilliance in much of the writing will keep your attention firmly on Basil's onscreen antics for most of the time. There's no doubt that these DVDs will be getting a lot of replay in future.


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      And I quote...
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