Chaos reigns as one of the guests dies in his bed. Doubtless it was the kippers (which should have been thrown out weeks ago) that did for him. Demented and panic stricken, Basil attempts to conceal both the body and the extremely fishy breakfast.

Fawlty Towers episode guide
#10: Kipper and the Corpse

Series Two, Episode Four — First shown 12 March 1979

A guest has inconvenienced Basil by having the audacity to snuff it during the night. Basil is frantic with worry as he thinks it might have been some dodgy kippers that have done for the unfortunate guest. Basil doesn't really care about the poor guest, his priority is to get the kippers out of the way before they can be used against him in a court of law!

I love the opening scene in this episode: The Major asks a guest what her dog is and when he get the answer, “He's a little Chitzu”, he replies “Is he really?…Oh dear, dear, dear”! The guest (Mrs Chase) and her fussed-over little dog later takes a bite out of poor Manuel. Manuel is convinced, he is a little Chitzu!

Rosewood, Mahogany, Teak?

Screenshot of Basil and Mr Leeman

A guest (Mr Leeman) walks in accompanied by a few friends who soon depart and promise to come back and meet Mr Leeman in the morning. Mr Leeman is obviously not in the best of health but whilst Sybil is typically full of sympathy, Basil on the other hand is full of nothing but disdain! Mr Leeman is off to bed but does request breakfast in bed the next morning as he is under the weather. Sybil makes sure she has every detail of his request including what newspaper he would like. Basil, sarcastically, is equally thorough: “What would you like your breakfast tray made out of… rosewood, mahogany, teak?”

Mr Leeman accepts the kippers he is offered by Sybil for his next morning's breakfast — the kippers that should have been used days ago!

Screenshot of Manuel in the dining room

Day breaks and in the dining room Mrs Chase is giving Manuel the runaround, fussing over her beloved Dog who is getting the sausages Dr Price has been longing for.

Meanwhile in the kitchen, Basil is expressing concern about the use-by date on the kippers he is about to take up to Mr Leeman who probably couldn't care much — he has already been dead for hours.

Classic Scene…

Basil enters Mr Leeman's room complaining to the strangely silent guest about the latest car strike and the state of the country in general, but Basil fails to notice the reason for what he perceives as Mr Leeman's ungratefulness — he is dead. It's not until Polly takes up the milk jug which Basil forgot that the alarm is raised. Basil is certainly alarmed — he immediately suspects the kippers may be responsible. They all immediately rush up to investigate, but Basil's only concern is to hide the “evidence”, worrying that they could be looking at twenty years for poisoning! After frantic attempts to dispose of the kippers by trying to throw them out the window, Polly finally manages to persuade Basil that Mr Leeman has been dead for hours so the kippers can't be to blame.

Screenshot of dead guest in bed

A jubilant Basil turns around to see that Dr Price has entered with a puzzled look as to why Basil is so overjoyed at finding a dead guest. Dr Price thinks something smells a bit fishy—it is probably the kippers Basil has hidden—up his cardigan!

The Fawltys decide to move the body into the office until the undertakers can come and collect it but their attempts to keep the stiff a secret fail miserably. Whilst moving the corpse out of the room, Miss Tibbs happens to wander in and screams her head off after the towels and sheets hiding it fall off, despite some attempts to silence her, she is still hysterical so Polly has to give her a slap, unfortunately knocking her out in the process! Basil remarks, “Oh great, two dead, only another twenty-five to go”.

They quickly rush Miss Tibbs and Mr Leeman into the nearest room but unfortunately the guests want in the room to collect their things. Polly has to stall them whilst Basil and Manuel hide the body and Miss Tibbs in the cupboard in the guests’ room. They let the guests in but soon moans can be heard coming from the cupboard as Miss Tibbs comes round from her slap. The guests demand they open the cupboard, Basil pretends he doesn’t have the key but Manuel insists he has it in his pocket!

They eventually let Miss Tibbs out and Basil warns her not to hide in guests cupboards claiming she does it all the time. Once they get rid of the guests they bring Mr Leeman down to the office for safe keeping where the Major sees him but fails to grasp the situation as usual.

Dr Price is still waiting for his sausages and Miss Tibbs appears at reception looking for Mr Fawlty to give him a piece of her mind. Unfortunately, she wanders into the office only to be met with the corpse again and promptly faints. Basil and Manuel take the corpse into the kitchen and put him on a table just as Dr Price walks in and sees them and warns them that they can't keep a dead body in the kitchen. Basil and Manuel lift the body into the large wicker laundry basket whilst Dr Price tries to sit back down in the dining room for the sausages he is still waiting for but Manuel won't let him as breakfast is finished, kaput!

Screenshot of Basil, Manuel and dead guest

Mr Leeman's friends come to collect him, and Basil at first thinks they are the undertakers and tells them Mr Leeman is in the laundry basket, but the laundry men have already left with Mr Leeman in another identical basket. They all then realise that they are not in fact the undertakers so Basil leaves Sybil to explain what's happened. Basil, Manuel and Polly take Mr Leeman upstairs and into a room where they happen upon the guest who has just been allocated Mr Leeman's room blowing up a blow-up doll! They then rush back downstairs with the body but poor Manuel has had enough and wants to quit so climbs into the laundry basket leaving Basil standing in the lobby with a dead body just as Mr Leeman's friends are coming out of the office after being given the sad news.

Basil has Mr Leeman propped up against the hat stand and by now all the guests are assembled in the lobby where Basil tells Sybil to give them all an explanation whilst Basil, unable to save up to things as usual, dives into the laundry basket where he is last seen being loaded onto the laundry truck and driven away!

Full cast list for The Kipper and the Corpse
Character Played by
Basil Fawlty John Cleese
Sybil Fawlty Prunella Scales
Polly Connie Booth
Manuel Andrew Sachs
Major Gowen Ballard Berkeley
Miss Tibbs Gilly Flower
Miss Gatsby Renee Roberts
Terry the Chef Brian Hall
Dr Price Geoffrey Palmer
Mrs Chase Mavis Pugh
Mr White Richard Davies
Mrs White Elizabeth Benson
Mr Leeman Derek Royle
Mr Xerxes Robert McBain
Miss Young Pamela Buchner
Mr Zebedee Raymond Mason
Mr Ingrams Charles McKeown
Guest Len Marten
Laundryman One Harry "Aitch" Fielder (uncredited)
Laundryman Two Joe Santos (uncredited)
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I found out the names of the two uncredited laundrymen after discovering Harry Fielder's website on a Hammer House of Horror forum. Hammer Films and the TV series are big favourites of mine. Below is a picture of Harry (left) and Joe Santos (orange coat) during filming.

Two laundrymen unwittingly collect the corpse from Fawlty Towers