Details

A six-episode UK TV mini-series produced by Holmes Associates and London Weekend TV in 1988. Directed by Ian Toynton. Based on the novel by Derek Robinson. Filmed on location in England and France. Nat plays "Flash" Gordon, one of an ensemble of WWII fighter pilots. Co-starring David Horovitch, Jeremy Northam, Neil Dudgeon, and Tim Woodward.

 

Plot Summary

The story of a squadron of WWII fighter pilots. In the first episode, war is announced and the squadron heads over to France. The first enemy is boredom as they wait for the real fighting to begin. Squadron commander Rex manages to get them a lavish chateau where they dine on squab and select French wines. "Flash" Gordon (Nat) and "Fitz" Fitzgerald (Northam) fall for two local French schoolteachers, whom they wed. But the dogfights against the Germans soon begin in earnest, showing them how unprepared they really are. As the episodes progress, the ensemble cast keeps changing as pilots are killed and new recruits take their place. They're forced to retreat back the shores of Britain where they continue their air battles, often 5 to 7 times a day, trying to keep the Germans from attacking London.

General Review

This is an exceptional mini-series, the kind of program that - when the British do it well - is impossible to top. It ranks right up there with I, Claudius and Brideshead Revisited. I viewed this series on video cassette and by chance saw the Hollywood WWII film U-571 immediately afterwards. The contrast pointed out how well-developed Piece of Cake really is. One of its many strengths is characterizations. While so many films (like U-571) rely on manipulative action sequences to get your heart rate up and provide only cardboard characterizations, it is the characters in Piece of Cake that really shine. The fighter pilots are very human -- rash, obnoxious at times, sometimes a bit dim and yet tremendously heroic. I mean, how bright can you be to get up in a Spitfire five times a day and engage gunfire with German Messerschmidts?

You have to have either a sense of naïve invulnerability, be really stupid, off your rocker or have a death wish. The characters cover all these possibilities and more. The interaction between the pilots and their on-the-ground support staff is also excellent, particularly as the story progresses and the 'old-hands' become attached by indefinable experience, even when they started out not liking each other. The new recruits all seem so young and silly by comparison. The sense of time and the stiff British character of the 1930's are also very well drawn. The aerial combat is impressive, particularly when you consider all the special effect nonsense we're used to. These shots were done with real pilots in real WWII-era aircraft. In short: a series full of action and danger but also extremely well written.

 

Nat Review

This is must-see for any Nat Parker fan. As far as I know, it's his first-ever film role. He's very young here - only 25 if the production date is accurate, and he looks gorgeous and somehow very solid physically (he looks larger than usual, and perhaps he was a bit heavier - it suits him). His role gets progressively better as the episodes advance. Initially he's one of the ensemble cast of pilots and not much focused on. But he survives through all six episodes (something not many of the pilots do) and is give more screen time towards the end. His romance, marriage and subsequent loss of sanity are well written and well acted. These tapes are worth purchasing for the story alone, but the addition of this strong and very early NP performance makes them indispensable.

 

Quotes

This is from a 1988 TV-Times article about the mini-series: "A replica Spitfire, a Yamaha motorbike engine, is being pushed across the tarmac to its flaming nemesis. Aboard is Nat Parker. This is a poignant moment. His father, former British Rail chief Sir Peter Parker, lost two brothers flying Spitfires during the war. 'My uncles Alan and Mickey both copped it at about the age of 21,' says Parker. 'My father is terribly proud of me doing this series. Last Christmas, soon after I got the role, he put a present for me under the tree. He said: "Just before you open it, I want you to know it's the real thing." I opened it and found a white fling scarf. "Yes," said Dad, "it was Alan's"'".

Status

The DVD has been re-released. You can order from many online stores, including Amazon. 

We use cookies on our website. Read our Policy