Plot: What’s it about?
Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) is the owner and operator of Fawlty Towers, a nice hotel with plush rooms, great service, and tons of insane moments. Basil has a keen business sense, but that often falls to the side when his short temper and forked tongue take over, which happens more often than he cares to admit, to be sure. Ok, to be honest Basil has no business sense and really has no business being a hotel manager, but the temper and smart mouth were the truth, as witnessed by anyone who has seen him at work. He often winds up in some real messes, thanks to mishaps by his staff, outlandish clients, or his own poor decisions, which means his wife Sybil (Prunella Scales) is right on his case, with plenty to say about it. But Basil keeps moving ahead and takes out his frustrations on his porter Manuel (Andrew Sachs), who speaks little English and is even worse when it comes to his duties. He does have a gorgeous, helpful maid on the staff however, which makes things a little easier. Can Basil manage to keep his guests happy, his wife in check, and hold onto what little sanity he has left?
It is such a pleasure to see some classic BBC television shows reach DVD, such as the hilarious Fawlty Towers. This is one of the most humorous television series I’ve ever seen and while I am not always taken with British comedies, Fawlty Towers won me over from the start, no doubt about it. One of the main reasons the series works so well is the presence of John Cleese (Rat Race, Monty Python’s Flying Circus), who shines within the material and wrings all the potential humor from every last word, gesture, and facial expression. In other words, he was the ideal choice for the role and his costars also follow in that line, as all seem natural and effective within their characters, I think. But if you’re not at least somewhat into British humor, it is not likely that this series will turn you into a fan, given its style and approach. If you enjoy some outlandish, but often genius British humor however, than Fawlty Towers is a series you simply cannot afford to miss. This three disc set from BBC Home Video houses all twelve classic episodes, plus a host of extras, so of course, it is very highly recommended.
Video: How does it look?
The episodes are presented in full frame form, as intended. I had low expectations here, but the episodes look terrific and much better than on television, to be sure. The source materials have held up well enough, aside from small flaws and that means a solid foundation, which is of course, quite important. The colors look a little less bold than newer material, but haven’t much faded much, while flesh tones seem natural. I had no real complaints to make with the contrast either, as black levels were well balanced, even if not as sharp as I’d like. So don’t expect perfection here, but you can expect solid, better than broadcast quality on these episodes.
Audio: How does it sound?
I wouldn’t say the audio here is memorable by any means, but it does what it needs to, which is what matters. The dialogue is the central focus of the mix and comes across as rich, clean, and crisp, with minimal age defects to report. The sound effects and music won’t make your ears stand up & pay attention, but the basics are covered here. As I mentioned, the audio here won’t win any awards, but as far as the material goes, I have no complaints with this presentation. This disc also includes subtitles in English, French, and German.
Supplements: What are the extras?
I was surprised, but very pleased to find a great assortment of extras here, including audio commentary tracks on all twelve episodes. These are not the worst sessions I have heard, but they tend to be dull, often with large pauses, and even some gross noises as tea is sipped rather loudly, not a good idea here. I do think some worthwhile content can be found in these tracks, but unless you’re a Fawlty Towers junkie, the destination might not be worth the time invested, as most of it is bland and flat out boring. But the interviews with John Cleese and other cast members prove to be much better, both in terms of insight and information. I wish more space was devoted to the interviews, but even so, the interviews are welcome inclusions here. This disc also includes some priceless outtakes, a visit to the original location, and a special guide to the various visitors & inhabitants of the Fawlty Towers hotel.