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Fawlty Towers Remastered!

Thursday, 12 November 2009 13:55

Back at Cult TV 1998, Hercules-related guest Robert Trebor reacted in disbelief when ‘fave rave’ of the time Friends beat Fawlty Towers in one of our Awards comedy categories. In retrospect, he was indeed completely correct to define a dozen episodes from Britain’s finest as defeating ten seasons of one of America’s longest running sit-coms. John Cleese as Basil Fawlty is one of the most iconic comedy creations anywhere. Marking the 30th Anniversary since the end of the series, a Special Edition REMASTERED DVD Box Set is out now.

For those of you who no doubt already have this series on DVD, why indeed should you ‘double-dip’ on buying the series again?  The answer to that is easy: every episode of this BAFTA winning show has been remastered; it has never looked better. Added to that, you also have a plethora of special features including, for the first time ever, audio commentaries from John Cleese on all twelve episodes.

Fawlty Towers RemasteredFawlty Towers was famously inspired by an unbelievably rude hotel proprietor John Cleese encountered whilst filming with the Monty Python team. Written by John Cleese and Connie Booth (his wife at the time the first season was filmed), Fawlty Towers remains one of the most unique, original and best-loved series of all time. And thanks to miracles of modern technology, the master video tapes have been restored in a way which makes them look like they were recorded yesterday - although, if that was the case, they would have probably added one of those filters to make it look like they were mastered on film!

Cast to perfection the series found Cleese playing the put-upon Torquay hotel proprietor Basil Fawlty. Prunella Scales is dominant as his suffering wife Sybil, while Connie Booth plays the dependable maid Polly. It is, of course, Andrew Sachs in the role of Manuel, the non-comprehending, tyrannised waiter from Barcelona who creates the most memorable character other than Basil himself.  Certainly Sachs doesn’t need the ‘help’ of Messrs Ross and Brand for people to be reminded of his status as a comedy legend in his own right.

Each storyline remains timeless, with every guest providing further inconvenience to Basil’s life – from the regulars, eccentric ex-military papers-obsessed Major Gowen, and the batty elderly ladies Miss Gatsby and Miss Tibbs, to visitors such as Bernard Cribbins’ fastidious spoon salesman and the deaf but imperious Joan Sanderson as Miss Richards. Whether it’s errant builders, put-upon Germans, playful wedding guests, bolshie American tourists, inconvenient corpses or even rats posing as hamsters, there's always someone or something to drive Basil to desperation.

Fawlty Towers remains as popular today as it has ever been and now remastered, this comic masterpiece is ready to be savoured again and again.

Crown champion of the extras goes to the exclusive commentaries from John Cleese on all 12 episodes. Often you are filled with dread when you see that it’s just one person related to a show doing a commentary solo, but it has to be said that Cleese gives an absolute masterclass in how to execute such voiceovers. He is knowledgeable, gives us inside tracks on matters of casting and direction, and often notes how they would have done things differently if time had allowed.

If you want an alternative point of view, the Directors of the show also give separate commentaries – John Howard Davies on season one, Bob Spiers on season two.

There are also brand new, 2009, extended interviews with the cast, including the now-elusive Connie Booth, Prunella Scales, Andrew Sachs and John Cleese himself, taken from the recent “Fawlty Towers: Re-opened” documentary shown on UK Gold (which itself has been nominated for a Cult TV Award).

Add to this artist profiles, out-takes (taken from the infamous 1979 BBC/ITV Engineers Tape – good to see them in pristine quality for once!) and the Torquay Tourist Guide (a short documentary). All this gets wrapped up with an accompanying 8-page booklet.

Fawlty Towers Remastered is out now, with a running time of 360 minutes approx with, unbelievably, a ‘12’ certificate – have the censors gone completely mad??? It also has an audio description and navigation option – whilst this makes the collection all-inclusive for everyone, it’s a little clunky and annoying for the rest of us. The RRP is £29.99 or less from

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37