Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Night Watch" shocker has a bloody finish

Cleveland Press September 27, 1973

"Night Watch" belongs to the won't-anyone-believe-me school of shockers.The woman alone in the house who sees or hears something that indicates murder most foul is afoot is a plot that has been used before and "Night Watch" is a good addition to the genre.

The original play is by Lucille Fletcher who did: "Sorry, Wrong Number," the classic among tales of a woman stalked by terror.

Tony Williamson's screenplay has plugged some of the holes and tightened up the play to the point where it almost seems believable.

Brian Hutton's direction, on the other hand, has allowed the first part of the movie to advance at an overly-leisurely pace.

Elizabeth Taylor is the victim of sudden fear in "Night Watch." Jewel encrusted and handsomely gowned, she wanders about her London apartment through the small hours -- the victim of insomnia and the memories of the death of her first husband.

That fellow was a philanderer but what is worse he had the bad taste to get killed in an auto accident while his current girl friend was with him.

This is revealed in brief, grotesquely photographed flashbacks which eliminate the play's dependence on expository dialog.

The woman is independently wealthy and married to a handsome stockbroker portrayed elegantly b y Laurence Harvey. Sharing the apartment is the woman's best friend played by actress Billie Whitelaw.

During her nocturnal pacing Miss Taylor sees in a window in the building opposite a murdered man sitting in a chair. No one else, including the audience, sees it.

But the distraught heroine demands that the police be called. A sympathetic inspector investigates, assures her there is nothing around but dust and cobwebs.

Husband and friend try to calm her with assurances and sedatives. Then there is another body, more investigations by increasingly impatient police and indications that there is some hanky-panky afoot behind Miss Taylor's back.

And just when the plot seems to be developing a along well-established lines there is a twist to turn it all topsy-turvy, and a bloody ending with slashing knives that throws the picture into the "Psycho" category.

Miss Taylor's neuroticism is turned on and off rather abruptly and is suggested more by elaborate trappings -- shadows, moody music, jigsaw puzzle versions of Breughel paintings, Far East statuary -- than by acting.

Harvey and Miss Whitelaw are good though hampered by awkward dialog. Harvey's motivations are never entirely clear.

"Night Watch" has its share of thrills and plenty of suspense. The gory climax is hardly for the squeamish, however.