Let Them Eat Cake (1999)

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Released 11-Jul-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 172:03 (Case: 170)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (85:54) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Christine Gernon
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Jennifer Saunders
Dawn French
Adrian Scarborough
Alison Steadman
Lucy Punch
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Nick Bicât


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    When I first saw an episode of Let Them Eat Cake, I thought it was another French and Saunders TV special, but this comedy series is more accurately described as a female version of Blackadder. Although it does star Jennifer Saunders as Colombine, Comtesse de Vache (hint: "la vache" is the French word for "cow") and Dawn French as Colombine's maid Lisette, the series is actually written by Peter Learmouth. No doubt French and Saunders also had a hand in some of the dialogue, which sound very typical of the comedy duo.

    The Comtesse resides in an apartment in the Palace Versailles circa 1782 with her maid and her couturier Bouffant (Adrian Scarborough) during the time of Marie Antoinette (hence the title of the comedy series). Besides engaging in court intrigues and dangerous liaisons, she also has to face her arch-rival Madame de Plonge (Alison Steadman) and her maybe not so innocent and pure daughter Eveline (Lucy Punch).

    There are six episodes in the series, each lasting just under 30 minutes. The following is a brief introduction to each episode:

1. The Pox (29:16)

    Madame de Plonge introduces her daughter Eveline to the Comtesse and challenges Colombine to seduce the scrumptious Marquis de Bonvie (Adam James). Unfortunately, her efforts are cramped by her husband (James Greene) succumbing to a virulent strain of the pox, and being not expected to live. If he hears of the seduction, he might be tempted to change his will to favour Madame de Plonge. Worse still, he might have already done so!

2. Murder (28:58)

    Rumours are flying that the Comtesse has lost her fortune to the Marquise de Foufou as a result of a gambling debt. Therefore, when the Marquise is found hacked to bits using an axe, the Comtesse is the prime suspect.

3. The Portrait (27:40)

    The Marquis de Sade (Richard E. Grant) has escaped from prison and is having his perverted way with the Comtesse each night. During the day, however, the Comtesse is having difficulty choosing the right "look" to pose for a portrait by Madame Vigée-Lebrun (Maggie Steed) - the leading portrait painter of the day.

4. Making Voopee (28:15)

    Marie Antoinette introduces the Comtesse to "Voopee" - an Austrian dish featuring lots and lots of onions. Soon after, the Comtesse is diagnosed as being pregnant. How can this possibly be, when the last sexual encounter that the Comtesse can recall is eight years ago? Rumours start flying and Madame de Plonge is determined to uncover the truth by getting Eveline to seduce Bouffant. Only thing is ... Bouffant's sexual inclinations are towards the "cheerful" side of the spectrum ...

5. A Marriage Of Convenience (28:57)

    The Comtesse's poor and destitute sister Cecile (Kathy Burke) comes begging for money as her husband is in dire straits. Initially, the Comtesse fobs her off, but then the opportunity arises to marry her sister off to gain a large fortune. However, the Comtesse needs to undertake a potentially perilous trip into the poor district to try and find Cecile ... In the meantime, both Lisette and Bouffant appears to be time sharing a hot new lover ...

6. The Royal Command Performance (28:57)

    Marie Antoinette has become unpopular due to her infidelity. She decides to win back favour by holding a Royal Command Performance - a public display of affection and marital intimacy between herself and the King. The Comtesse decides to use the occasion to humiliate her rival Madame de Plonge by pulling rank and title.

    This BBC comedy series, dating from 1999, suffers from more misses than hits and definitely does not compare favourably to any of the Blackadder seasons (apart from the first). Looks like the BBC has seen fit not to renew the series beyond the first year.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer is presented in what I would assume is the intended aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (full frame). Although the BBC does shoot in widescreen (mainly premium quality drama), I'm not sure that this series would have received that treatment.

    All six episodes (with a running time totalling 172:03) have been crammed onto a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL). The layer change occurs between Episodes 3 and 4, so I did not notice any pauses or freezes.

    The transfer quality is acceptable but not great. Detail and colour saturation are reasonable. Compression artefacts are mainly limited to Gibb's effect ringing and minor posterization. I did not notice significant instances of interlaced video artefacts such as aliasing or shimmering.

    There are no subtitle tracks, which is a pity since I would have loved to have been able to capture the details of some of the dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only one audio track on this disc: English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).

    The audio track is mixed at a fairly high level (indicating compressed dynamics) and sounds clear and mainly monophonic. There is a slight distortion every now and then due to clipping as a result of the recording level being set too high.

    I did not detect any issues with audio synchronisation.

    The music (composed by Nick Bicât) seems to be an uncomfortable cross between 18th century French court music and what sounds like industrial punk.

    There is an audible "click" in the audio track around 2:30.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Extras are mainly limited to a photo gallery.

Menu

    The menu is full frame and static. The scene selection menu allows you to select episodes but not index into the middle of the episode (even though each episode is authored as a separate DVD title with 8 chapter stops).

Gallery-Photo

    This consists of a series of 20 stills taken from the episodes.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title has yet to be released in Region 1.

Summary

    Let Them Eat Cake is a "period comedy" in the style of the Blackadder series, starring Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French. The video and audio transfers are acceptable, and extras are pretty minimal.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Saturday, June 22, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3300
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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