Night Watch (1973 film)

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Night Watch
Night Watch FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Brian G. Hutton
Produced by Barnard Straus
Martin Poll
George W. George
Screenplay by Evan Jones
Tony Williamson
Based on Night Watch 
by Lucille Fletcher
Starring Elizabeth Taylor
Laurence Harvey
Billie Whitelaw
Music by George Barrie (song "The Night Has Many Eyes")
John Cameron
Cinematography Billy Williams
Editing by John Jympson
Distributed by Embassy Pictures
Release dates
  • 1973 (1973)
Running time 99 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Night Watch is a 1973 British thriller film directed by Brian G. Hutton.

The film reunited Elizabeth Taylor with co-star Laurence Harvey from their 1960 collaboration BUtterfield 8. It was the last time the pair acted together on screen.


Based on a play by Lucille Fletcher, Night Watch is a suspense thriller about a woman named Ellen Wheeler (Elizabeth Taylor), who one night during a raging thunderstorm, thinks she sees a murder happening in a large deserted house next door to hers from her living room window. She frantically tells her husband John (Laurence Harvey), a local stockbroker, who calls the police, but a search of the old house turns up nothing.

The next morning, Ellen notices a freshly planted bed of flowers in the garden of the old house which was not planted beforehand. She calls the investigating detective, Inspector Walker (Bill Dean), and suggests that the body of the murder victim she witnessed may be buried there. Inspector Walker then questions Mr. Appleby (Robert Lang), the caretaker of the old house, who confirms that he planted the flowers the night before during the storm, but refuses to let the police search the garden or dig up the flowers he just planted.

Ellen is also revealed to be recovering from a recent mental breakdown after her first husband, an adulterer named Carl, was killed a few years earlier in an auto accident with his paramour in which Ellen was traumatized after being forced to identify the bodies in the local mourge. Inspector Walker confides to John that Ellen may be mentally ill and suggests rest and a doctor. Ellen continues to maintain, but cannot prove, that she saw a body in the deserted house, but John remains skeptic. Ellen's visiting friend Sarah Cooke (Billie Whitelaw) is equally skeptic and tries humoring Ellen by suggesting that she sees what she thinks she sees stemming from her recent breakdown.

When both Ellen and Sarah see a man enter the old house the following night, they both call the police whom find Mr. Appleby wandering around with a flashlight and he is arrested for trespassing. A second search of the house as well as the excavation of the garden again reveals nothing, and Inspector Walker closes the case.

John then brings over a psychiatrist friend of his, named Tony (Tony Britton), whom after learning about the death of Ellen's first husband and nervous breakdown, suggests going to a clinic out of the country for a few weeks. Ellen agrees to do so. That evening, Ellen then claims to John and Sarah that she saw another body in the old house next door, that of a woman. Ellen is then sedated by John and Sarah whom think that Ellen may be losing her mind.

On the following evening, as Ellen prepares to leave for the airport, she suddenly accuses John and Sarah of having an affair and plotting to drive her insane to commit her to an asylum despite both of their denials. Ellen then reveals a house key that she found belonging to the old house, but John still denies cheating on Ellen or having anything to do with what has been going on. Ellen then runs into the old house across the courtyard and lets herself inside using the key, and both John and Sarah chase after her. It is here that Ellen lures both of them to the second floor room where she claimed to have seen the two bodies, and violently attacks and stabs both them to death with a butcher knife, positioning them exactly in the same manner that she claimed to have seen the two bodies.

The film's denouement reveals that Ellen had only pretended to be insane by claiming to have seen two murders in the house next door as part of a complex scheme of hers to murder both John and Sarah for their affair (through it is left ambiguous if John and Sarah were really romantically involved or if it was part of Ellen's paranoia stemming from her first husband's infidelity, or possibly both). Mr. Appleby was Ellen's co-conspirator in her scheme who had placed himself in the house the night before for the police to find as well as act suspicious. With both John and Sarah dead, Ellen plans to leave the country to check into the clinic anyway and she asks Mr. Appleby (whom had lived in her house before she and John purchased it) to look after her house as well as the garden; insinuating to him to bury John and Sarah's bodies in the garden during the night. Since the police already dug up the garden and searched the old house twice, they will not bother to come back to search it again since they now believe Ellen to be crazy. Mr. Appleby happily agrees to do so as Ellen bids him goodbye and leaves for her clinic... and implying that she will make up a story to everyone about John abandoning her to run off with Sarah.


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