Night Watch (1973)

Night Watch (1973)

Synopsis:

An emotionally unstable woman, Ellen Wheeler (Elizabeth Taylor, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), is convinced that she has witnessed a murder. After finds no proof that a crime has ever committed, Ellen’s husband (Laurence Harvey, John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate) and her best friend (Billie Whitelaw, The Omen) start to wonder if the unstable Ellen imagined the whole thing.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“You must believe me this time. Won’t you inspect that house just once more?”

Night Watch is an entertaining piece of Grand Guignol, a relative, of sorts, to Robert Aldrich’s Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) and all those deliciously campy chillers that were made in the 1960s and 1970s starring older female movie stars. This one is an adaptation of a stage play by Lucille Fletcher, who is better known for her legendary radio play Sorry Wrong Number (filmed in 1948 with Barbara Stanwyck).

Stylishly directed by Brian G. Hutton (The First Deadly Sin), Night Watch sometimes makes little sense, relying on spotty logic more often than not. The final scenes, however, convinced me that the movie is smarter than what I initially thought — this elegant and twisty thriller one of those endings that makes you rethink the entire film.

Director Hutton does a really nice job staging the surprise dénouement. Although I’m sure sharp viewers will be able to guess the final surprise, I think this is a case where fine craftsmanship trumps any weaknesses in the narrative. The small, but excellent cast does justice to the clever screenplay by Evan Jones (Wake in Fright and The Killing of Angel Street) and Tony Williamson (The Woman Hunter).

Dame Elizabeth Taylor’s old-Hollywood-style performance is, by far, the best thing about this amusing little chiller, though. Laurence Harvey and Billie Whitelaw are very good, but they are no match for Taylor’s deliciously over-the-top histrionics (trust me, her performance makes much more sense after you see the ending).

I couldn’t keep her eyes off Taylor, and that’s a good thing because this is a rather talky movie that clearly needed a hook. Taylor’s magnetic super-star quality kept me glued to the television screen as the thrills slowly come and go. It really shows you that the actress could pretty much turn any kind of movie into a must-see show.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Night Watch is by no means a great movie, but it does have a genuinely outstanding finale. Plus, Elizabeth Taylor’s splendid performance carry the film through its few dull patches. Trivia alert: Night Watch was co-produced by British actor Roger Moore (For Your Eyes Only). Recommended. Color, 99 minutes, Rated PG.

5 responses to “Night Watch (1973)

  1. Thrillers that are not great, but still good enough to be enjoyable, are the kinds that I easily learned to appreciate thanks to Brian Clemens’ Thriller series, and later in the cinema starting with Suspect (1987). Because thrillers like that can have the gift of making the most realistic heroes and heroines out of real people, as opposed to the escapism that most big-hype thrillers in Hollywood have thrust upon us. Casting a most formidably talented actress like Elizabeth Taylor who clearly cares enough about the film and her pivotal role certainly helps too.

    Liked by 2 people

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