Night Watch (1973 film)

Night Watch is a 1973 British-American suspense-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. Some of the story elements were inspired by the plot outline of the play and 1944 film Gaslight.

Night Watch
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBrian G. Hutton
Produced byBarnard Straus
Martin Poll
George W. George
Screenplay byEvan Jones
Tony Williamson
Based onNight Watch
by Lucille Fletcher
StarringElizabeth Taylor
Laurence Harvey
Billie Whitelaw
Music byJohn Cameron
CinematographyBilly Williams
Edited byJohn Jympson
Brut Productions
Nightwatch Films
Distributed byAVCO Embassy Pictures
Release date
10 August 1973
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States


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, frantically tells her husband John (Laurence Harvey) that from the living room window she has seen a murder being committed in the large old deserted house next door. John 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, that was not there before. 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 the caretaker of the old house, Mr. Appleby (Robert Lang), 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 revealed to be recovering from a mental breakdown that occurred after her unfaithful first husband, Carl, was killed a few years earlier in an auto accident with his paramour. Ellen was traumatized by having to identify the bodies in the local morgue. Inspector Walker confides to John that Ellen may be mentally ill and suggests rest and a doctor. Ellen continues to maintain that she saw a murder in the deserted house, but there is no proof and John remains skeptical. Ellen's visiting friend Sarah Cooke (Billie Whitelaw) is equally skeptical and tries humoring Ellen by suggesting that she sees what she thinks she sees because of her recent breakdown.

When both Ellen and Sarah see a man enter the old house the following night, they call the police, who find Mr. Appleby wandering around with a flashlight and arrest him for trespassing. A second search of the house and excavation of the garden reveal nothing, and Inspector Walker closes the case.

John then brings over a psychiatrist friend of his, Tony (Tony Britton). After learning about the death of Ellen's first husband and her nervous breakdown, Tony suggests going to a clinic in another country for a few weeks. Ellen agrees to do so. That evening, Ellen 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, who think that Ellen may be losing her mind.

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 in order to commit her to an asylum, and she refuses to accept their denials. Ellen reveals a house key that she found, which belongs to the old house across the courtyard, but John still denies cheating on her or having anything to do with what has been going on. Ellen then runs into the old house 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 in exactly 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. Mr. Appleby, who had grown up in John and Ellen's house before they purchased it, makes a surprise appearance, startling Ellen and congratulating her on pulling off her complex scheme. After informing her that he won't go to the police, as Inspector Walker won't believe him either, Ellen asks Mr. Appleby to look after her house as well as the garden. Mr. Appleby happily agrees to do so as Ellen bids him goodbye and departs.


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