You’ll be seeing this nightmare every night for the rest of your life.
By 1973 Elizabeth Taylor was a shadow of her former glory years, but equally far from the shadow that she would increasingly become prior to her death earlier this year. Night Watch puts her in the role somewhat akin to that which Bette Davis played in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?-namely that of the old spinster genre of horror films.
And Taylor does a good job here and is truly the highlight in what otherwise is a rather pedestrian film. The general plot, that of a slightly older woman (dare we say matronly?) seeing – or at least thinking she sees – a murder happen next door, has been done countless times before 1973. For perhaps the first three quarters of the film the pace is doggedly slow with the usual red herrings along the way- some much more obvious than others.
Elizabeth Taylor carries the film almost alone as I wasn’t overly driven to enjoy the supporting cast much- seemingly all rather stereotypical in their own ways. Taylor somehow seems miscast as a twice divorced and unwanted woman and the nuances of her neurosis and the undercurrents of mistrust and adultery come off well throughout. Just to clarify the miscasting, Ms. Taylor obviously well experienced in the divorce category but the unwanted aspect is where she seems a bit like a fish out of water.
The last quarter of the film is where the action is and things get quite good. The ending is quite a surprise both in the final plot twists and the violence and gore which appears onscreen. Even more shocking in that this was 1973 when things perhaps were a bit more restrained.
Brian Hutton does an admirable job in the director’s chair, and both the intermittent dream sequences and the final few reels are truly well done. The lighting for much of the climax is very subdued if not downright dark, making it hard to discern at times what exactly is taking place. Thankfully the new WB Archive DVD seems to have tackled this somewhat as it seemed the picture was a bit crisper throughout with the final climax being more visually informative- though still dark.
Night Watch hasn’t been readily available for quite awhile, except for the increasingly rare running on the television or an old and substandard VHS release. This isn’t a home run of a film, but if you are into the genre or a tremendous fan of Elizabeth’s, you’ll want to check this one out. The only truly awful thing is the score from John Cameron which is out of place at best and trite at worst.
As mentioned above, this picture has just been released from Warner Archives so get it either from them direct at The WB Shop or from amazon.com. Note that the video quality does appear to be a decent improvement from the previous VHS release and the audio is spot on (for 1973 anyway).
Review copy provided by Warner Bros. Thanks!