Elizabeth Taylor (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) plays Ellen Wheeler, a wealthy woman with emotional problems. One rainy night, the insomniac Ellen paces around her flat and when she looks through the window, she sees a dead body in the abandoned mansion across the yard. Ellen’s husband (Laurence Harvey, Room at the Top and The Manchurian Candidate) and her best friend (Billie Whitelaw, Frenzy and The Omen) don’t believe her. Did the unstable Ellen imagine the whole thing?
Reaction & Thoughts:
Fun piece of Grand Guignol, a distant cousin to Robert Aldrich’s What ever happened to Baby Jane?, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte and all those other deliciously campy chillers that were made in the 1960s and 1970s starring older female movie stars. This one was adapted from a play by Lucille Fletcher, who is better known for her famous radio play Sorry Wrong Number (filmed in 1948 with Barbara Stanwyck), and directed by Brian G. Hutton (Kelly’s Heroes and The First Deadly Sin).
Night Watch has one of those endings that makes you rethink the entire film. The movie sometimes makes little sense, relying on spotty logic more often than not, however, the final scenes convinced me that the movie is a bit smarter than what I initially thought.
Director Hutton does a really nice job staging the surprise denouement (ala Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Sleuth). The small, but excellent cast does justice to the clever by Evan Jones (Wake in Fright) and Tony Williamson (The Woman Hunter).
Taylor’s old-Hollywood-style performance is the best thing about this twisty chiller. Harvey and Whitelaw are good but they are no match for Liz’s deliciously over-the-top histrionics (her performance makes much more sense after you see the ending). You just can’t keep her eyes off her and that’s a good thing because this is a rather talky movie that clearly needed a hook — Taylor’s magnetic star quality keeps you glued to the TV screen as the thrills slowly come and go.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Night Watch is by no means a great movie, but it does have a genuinely great finale. Taylor’s splendid performance carry the film through its few dull patches. Co-produced by actor Roger Moore (Moonraker and Octopussy). Color, 99 minutes, Rated PG.