Fawlty Towers Remastered Special Edition (DVD)
Coming to Special Edition DVD for the first time, it's the complete Fawlty Towers collection with all-new commentary from John Cleese! Hot off the runaway success of Monty Python's Flying Circus, John Cleese embarked on his now-legendary sitcom, Fawlty Towers, creating one of the most memorable and best loved characters in all of British comedy, Basil Fawlty. Basil Fawlty is a much put-upon, hard-working hotel manager whose life is plagued by dead guests, hotel inspectors, and riff-raff. Of course his biggest headache is his "little nest of vipers," his nagging wife Sibyl. Together they run their hotel, Fawlty Towers, with a little help from the unflappable Polly and the trainee waiter from Barcelona with marginally more intelligence than a monkey, Manuel.
]]> Basil Fawlty, as created and performed by John Cleese, is the rudest, most boorish, most hilariously obnoxious man on the face of the planet. What a natural for a TV sitcom! His screen wife, Sybil (Prunella Scales), put it best in the episode "The Psychiatrist": "You're either crawling all over them, licking their boots, or spitting poison at them like some Benzedrine puff adder." He mockingly replies, "Just trying to enjoy myself, dear." With his gangly frame and contortionist abilities, Cleese brilliantly punctuates Basil's outrageous faux pas with absurd gymnastics and turns Three Stooges-style pokes and kicks into a slapstick ballet. Scales's Sybil is the genial but obliviously chatty voice of reason and Andrew Sachs mangles the English language as the Spanish bellhop Manuel, whose struggles with simple directions results in comic lunacy reminiscent of Robert Benigni. After a six-episode run in 1975, Cleese and cowriter and costar Connie Booth (who plays Polly, the maid all too often pulled into Basil's ridiculous plans) reunited the cast in 1979 for another six episodes without missing a punch line. The four-volume collection contains all 12 shows, interspersed with interview segments featuring Cleese discussing the genesis of the series and anecdotes about the individual episodes. Remember to watch the opening credits of each show to spot the creative misspellings on the hotel sign (our favorite: "Fatty Owls"). --Sean Axmaker
Also on the discs
While enjoying your Fawlty Towers holiday, be sure to extend your stay by visiting the deluxe extra features. New to this set are entertaining commentaries by John Cleese, who provides illuminating insights into how these "lovely little farces" were constructed. He expresses genuine affection for the cast and guest stars, is quick to praise exquisite bits of comic business ("This is funnier than I remember"), and is not shy about criticizing his own performance ("I don't think I acted this right"). Also new to this set are newly filmed interviews with Cleese, Prunella Scales, Andrew Sachs, and Connie Booth, who offers some great anecdotes about collaborating with her then-husband Cleese and how some memorable gags were created. Donald Sinclair, the real-life rude hotelier who inspired the character of Basil Fawlty, is given his due, but be forewarned you will hear several versions of the Eric Idle ticking suitcase story. Also appearing are notable guest stars, including Bernard Cribbins ("The Hotel Inspectors"), Geoffrey Palmer ("The Kipper and the Corpse"), and David Kelly ("The Builders"), who talk of their experiences on one of television's towering sitcoms. There is also an odd "Cheap Tatty Review." Holdover features from the previously released boxed set include episode commentaries by directors John Howard Davies and Bob Spiers; archival interviews with Cleese, Scales, and Sachs; a short film about Torquay; disappointingly paltry outtakes; and a helpful Who's Who guide to the series' cast and guest stars. --Donald Liebenson