WATCH FILMS AT HOME: Robert Tanitch reviews 5 films

WATCH FILMS AT HOME: Robert Tanitch reviews 5 films

THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT (BBC iPlayer). This compelling four-part true crime drama is based on the sad deaths of Peter Farquhar and Ann Moore-Martin in Buckinghamshire in 2017. Scripted by Sarah Phelps and directed by Saul Dibb, it has the enormous advantage of deeply affecting performances by Timothy Spall and Anne Reid, who are cast as vulnerable elderly people, who are seduced, humiliated, poisoned and robbed by a perverted young church warden, played by Eanna Hardwicke.

LADY IN THE VAN (BBC iPlayer). Film version of Alan Bennett’s play. A cantankerous, dirty, smelly, incontinent, cranky tramp with delusions of grandeur; proud and haughty, drove into Bennett’s life and parked in his front garden. She came for three months and stayed until her death, fifteen years later. He had mixed feelings about her. “One seldom was able to do her a good turn,” he wrote, “without some thought of strangulation.” Maggie Smith, grimy face, bulging eyes, splayed feet, her tongue protruding with a lizard-like flick, might be a cockney charwoman in an old Punch cartoon.

WHISKY GALORE (BBC iPlayer). This fine example of Ealing Studios comedy, directed by Alexander Mackendrick, dates from 1949. A cargo of fifty thousand cases of whisky lies shipwrecked off one of the islands of the Outer Hebrides. The almost military ingenuity and precision with which the wily Scottish islanders get the whisky, hide it and cheat the customs and excise (headed by Basil Radford) is a delightful series of gentle jokes.

CROSS OF IRON (StudioCanal). The Germans are in retreat on the Eastern Front in World War II. There’s a stagey conflict between a popular corporal (James Coburn), who already has an Iron Cross for valour, and an arrogant, cowardly, aristocratic captain (Maximillian Schell), who wants an Iron Cross without having to fight for it. This brutal, ugly anti-war film, directed by Sam Peckinpah in 1977, is not an easy watch. The overloaded violence never stops. Stunt men are kept very busy dying acrobatically throughout. The most arresting image is a solitary tank moving menacingly across a battlefield.

WHEN HARRY MET SALLY (BBC iPlayer). Nora Ephron’s script, a witty comment on male and female sexuality, is engagingly acted. Of course, what everybody remembers is Meg Ryan faking an orgasm in a restaurant for the benefit of Billy Crystal and the woman at the next table saying, “I’ll have what she is having.” That woman was played by the mother of the film’s director, Rob Reiner!

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