Piece of Cake
DVD | Box Set
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A Masterpiece Theatre Presentation
Piece of Cake follows the adventures, heartaches and rites of passage of the fighter pilots of RAF Hornet Squadron during World War II.
Piece of Cake marks the coming of age of young men prepared to die for their country. Whatever their own personal qualities, there are heroes in abundance and a rich cross-section of characters from the pilots-to the back-up team at base. The other heroes are the planes themselves. Under ex-Red Arrows aerobatics team leader Ray Hanna (Flyboys), this series features some of the most exciting aerial photography and special effects ever seen.
Top customer reviews
Piece of Cake was shown on Australian television in an edited version during the 1980's. This is a restored version that fills out the story in 6 episodes very nicely. Although there are one or two scenes I remember differently. One particular scene where Fanny Barton uses his CO's cheque book to pay for a flyer's send off stands out. When it is discovered the payment is not kosher, Fanny threatens the restaurant owner, which seemed out of character for me. I remember it as the owner forgiving the debt without the threat. 'However much you owe, monsieur; I will always be in your debt.' A much more heartfelt, and revealing scene, in my opinion. Apart from that, it's a wonderful show with some great flying sequences. Yes, Hornet Squadron is equipped with Spitfires, not fitting with history, but where are you going to find any airworthy Hurricanes these days?
All in all a great purchase with some wonderful characters. The earnest, if little bland Fanny in the video is an Aussie, not NZ as in the book, but still well drawn by Tom Burlinson. Neil Dudgeon's take on Moggy is a great, if cruel character. The whole cast do justice to the nove. Until they bring out a Blu ray with commentaries and the deleted scenes, this will fill the void. I recommend this to all Derek Robinson fans. They did a good job.
What elevates this mini series are two key components:
The first - for Spitfire enthusiasts - are some of the flying sequences shot for this series. The pilots really had a good time and showed off their skills with some flair. Camera angles and careful lens selection can make a Spitfire look like it is flying among tree tops when the trees are in reality some distance from wings but you can's deny just how close to the ground some of these planes really are. When they fly in formation at a camera at almost zero feet you can see the planes bouncing around in each other's turbulence and ground effect and the pilots correcting and jinking to stay in formation. It is as close to being IN an airborne Spitfire as I am ever likely to get. There are also some wonderful shots of planes making the curved landing approaches required by Spitfires' long noses that you could not see over. Tail shots of three point tail dragger landings are quite spectacular too. Watch those unlocked tail wheels spin in the initial shock!
The second key part of this production - for those looking for the story - are the characters developing against the timeline and changing as the pressures of battle alter them all in different ways. Recent post war research has shown that the real make up of the RAF during the Battle of Britain had little to do with Univesity educated upper class so often portrayed. But this view is maybe closer to the pre-war squadron portrayed here - at least at the start of the series.
Important crunch issues of:
- the difficulties of aircraft recognition,
- outdated tactics on the British side,
- friendly fire in battle,
- how horribly people really died in their planes when hit,
- how you could be just plain unlucky if your plane faltered in the heat of the moment
- and just how hard it was for the RAF pilots to learn and pass on experience as they often failed to make it home to tell
all make a showing as "Hornet Squadron" falls back from France to literally sit on the edge of the White Cliffs of Dover in the front line of those trying to fend off the maurauding Luftwaffe.
For the less well developed characters there is a horrific reality - they never survived long enough to get into the story because they get shot down as soon as they appeared.
What sets this series aside - especially from big perspective movies like the Battle of Britain - is the close up portrayal of the reality of rapid aircraft and personnel turnover. By the end - the few old timers are "twitching" with stress and falling as they make mistakes or their luck runs out. If you have ever read the official history of the battle and read the too often used line - "Squadron sent north to rest and re-equip" this series brings home the horrific reality that lay behind that seemingly bland statement. There is absolutely no doubt that in the final moments of the series as the stragglers return - that is where this squadron is headed - what is left of it.
A good adaption of the original book and a worthy tribute to "the few".
I've just re-watched the whole series (April 08) and re-read some of the reviews. For those who have commented on picture quality in their reviews: This was made for UK televisions 612 line PAL standard in 1988 - long before DVD's were thought of. So you can't "improve" the resolution for a 1024 line HD TV - and the switch to NTSC in the US doesn't help either. So sure - it is a little fuzzy on a big screen. Sit back and enjoy for the qualities I've reviewed above.