I'm going to break your bottom!
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 07/28/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Nothing really needs to be said about the classic British sitcom "Fawlty Towers," except that the third and final collection of episodes contains some of the series' most brilliant, most hilarious, and most humiliatingly ghastly moments. "Fawlty Towers - Waldorf Salad/The Kipper and the Corpse/The Anniversary/Basil the Rat" sends abusive hotelier Basil Fawlty through his last round of demented crises, and it's more fun than ever.
Basil's insensitivity and overambition finally get the best of him when he tries to cater to a wealthy, equally obnoxious American tourist who wants a Waldorf salad. The result: a crazy scheme in which Basil tries to pretend that the cook hasn't left for the day, and cobble together a foodstuff that he doesn't know the first thing about. And it turns out that the American isn't the only unsatisfied customer.
Then when an overnight guest expires in bed, Basil is thrown into a frenzy -- first he thinks it's because of some expired kippers he served the dead man (when he was already dead), and then he's determined to keep the death secret from all the other guests. Unfortunately, there aren't many places in a hotel that you can hide a dead body where someone won't stumble across it -- and Basil spreads the usual chaos as he and the staff stuff it in wardrobes, bedrooms and the office.
When Basil and Sybil's twentieth anniversary rolls around, Basil secretly plans a party with some old friends of theirs. Unfortunately Sybil thinks he really HAS forgotten their anniversary, and storms off just as the friends arrive -- and a frantic Basil tries to convince the other couples that Sybil's got a weird mystery illness and has NOT left him. Unfortunately, they're too determined to see her, resulting in a very weird masquerade for Polly.
And the series finale deals with what restaurants dread most: a health inspector, who deems the kitchen unsafe and unfit. While everyone tries to get the hotel shipshape, Basil discovers that Manuel has a pet rat ("Is Siberian hamster -- a filagree!") in his room and orders it to be somehow removed from the premises. Unfortunately little Basil The Rat finds his way back into the hotel... at the same time that the health inspector returns to Fawlty Towers.
"Fawlty Towers" is one of those shows that shone brightly and briefly, like a fireworks display -- the last four episodes of the series show little signs of slowing comic genius, and it leaves you wistfully wishing that John Cleese and Co. had managed to turn out one more season. As it is, the series ended on a high note without the jokes getting tired or old.
"Waldorf Salad" is perhaps the weakest of these episodes, since it stretches the Basil-tries-to-pretend-the-cook-is-still-there joke to the max. But the other three are absolutely hilarious mixes of gags (the rat-in-the-purse scene), misunderstandings ("There's a kipper sticking out of your vest"), and plots that revolve mainly around Basil's increasingly frantic efforts to keep everything "normal." Everything gets crazier as the episodes wind on.
And Cleese's writing is typically brilliant here -- Basil gets most of the great lines ("Look, I'm just delivering a tray, right. If the guest isn't singing 'Oh What a Beautiful Morning,' I don't immediately think 'Oh, there's another snuffed it in the night'") but there are some glorious bits of dialogue from others ("Don't talk to anyone, but he's dead." "Ah. Shot, was he?" "No, no. He died in his sleep." "In his sleep? Well, you're off your guard, you see").
Cleese continued to play Basil as a slightly deranged, high-strung, incompetent guy who finally gets told off en masse in "Waldorf Salad," and Prunella Scales serves as the more competent, vaguely contemptuous counterpoint to him. Connie Booth's Polly finally gets sick of Basil's weird ideas in "Anniversary" and has to be bribed into impersonating Sybil, while Andrew Sachs has a rather cute scene in the final episode where he threatens to leave if they get rid of his pet rat.
Wave a tearful farewell to "Fawlty Towers" in its third collection of episodes... then go eat a Waldorf salad and some overripe kippers on your anniversary, and shoot at some rats."