Of British sitcoms, FAWLTY TOWERS has always been one of my personal favorites, despite the fact that only twelve episodes ever produced. Even after more than thirty years, FAWLTY TOWERS remains one of the most meticulously crafted and utterly brilliant farces to ever air on either side of the pond. FAWLTY TOWERS was created and written by John Cleese and his then wife Connie Booth, who played two of the show’s major characters.
Set at a hotel called Fawlty Towers, which is situated in the seaside town of Torquay on the 'English Riviera,' the series tells the comic misadventures of its proprietor Basil Fawlty (Cleese), whose sense of personal superiority is at odds with having to service the hotel guest, whom he feels to be beneath him. Basil has grandiose visions for raising the perceived quality of his establishment, and thus attracting a better class of clientele, but his best-laid plans almost always fall short of the mark. Armed with an acerbic wit and a short fuse, Basil‘s interactions with hotel guest are hilariously rude, while those with the staff are ruder still, but his wife Sybil (Prunella Scales) is always able to put him in his place, despite his calling her by a series of belly laugh inducing nicknames, when she is seemingly out of earshot. The primary cast of FAWLTY TOWERS also includes Andrew Sachs as Manuel, a Spaniard, who works as the hotel’s porter/waiter, and whose poor grasp of the English langue adds to the ensuing chaos of many episodes. Connie Booth portrays hotel waitress Polly Sherman, who usually represents the calm at the eye of the storm that is Fawlty Towers.
FAWLTY TOWERS: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION ($50) comes in a two disc set that contains the following twelve episodes: A Touch Of Class, The Builders, The Wedding Party, The Hotel Inspectors, Gourmet Night, The Germans, Communication Problems, The Psychiatrist, Waldorf Salad, The Kipper And The Corpse, The Anniversary and Basil The Rat.
Warner Home Video has made has made all the episodes that comprise FAWLTY TOWERS: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION available on DVD in the proper full screen aspect ratios of their original television broadcasts. Considering British production technique, which is a mixture of PAL video for the interiors and film for exteriors, the series has been nicely remastered for this DVD release. Of course seventies era video sources are far removed from high definition, but as a whole, FAWLTY TOWERS looks quite nice. In comparison to film, the video is a bit soft, but the picture maintains stability and doesn’t seem smeary. Colors have good saturation and appear pretty stable. Blacks and whites appear fairly accurate, while contrast is a bit flat due to the homogenous sitcom lighting. The materials from which the episodes are mastered are free from overt signs of age.
All the episodes that constitute FAWLTY TOWERS: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION come with perfectly fine sounding Dolby Digital monaural soundtracks. There is no excessive hiss or audible anomalies, and for the most part, the sonics are quite solid. Dialogue is always totally understandable, plus the music has decent fidelity. No other language tracks have been included on the DVD, but English, French, German and Spanish subtitles are present.
The interactive menus allow one access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as, as well as the supplemental materials. Running Audio Commentaries are featured on all of the episodes with John Cleese, who is joined by John Howard Davies on the first six and Bob Spiers on the second six. Next are nearly forty minutes of 2009 Interviews, whose participants include John Cleese, Andrew Sachs, Prunella Scales and the somewhat elusive Connie Booth. In addition, there are more vintage Interviews with Cleese, Sachs and Scales that total eighty-five minutes. Torquay Tourist Office offers a look at the inspiration for the series. Outtakes, biographical information and an amusing bit with Cleese close out the supplements.
FAWLTY TOWERS remains one of the funniest places on Earth to visit. The DVD presentation serves up FAWLTY TOWERS: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION in style. Book your stay now, as the DVD comes highly recommended.
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