Movie of the Week: Night Watch (1973)

Written by Tony Williamson
Based on the play by Lucille Fletcher
Directed by Brian G. Hutton
Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Laurence Harvey, Billie Whitelaw, Bill Dean, Linda Hayden
Released August 9, 1973 (New York City)
RT 99 min.
Home Video Warner Archive (DVD)
Classic Horrors rating = 7 (out of 10)

MPW-100034

Growing up in Enid, Oklahoma with a mother who liked to shop, we often made road trips to either Kansas City or Dallas to satisfy her needs. On one such trip to Dallas, we attended an advance screening of a new movie with Elizabeth Taylor called Night Watch.  I didn’t remember anything about the movie, but I’ve always wanted to revisit it.

Based on a play by Lucille Fletcher, Night Watch is the story of a rich woman (Taylor) haunted by her past. The specific facts of her past are slowly revealed, but they’re causing her to manifest visions of dead people in the “old house at the end of the garden.”  Of course, no one believes her; not the inspector she keeps calling (Bill Dean), the neighbor whom she accuses (Robert Lang), and especially not her husband (Laurence Harvey) and best friend (Billie Whitelaw).  While Night Watch does not feel like a play turned into a movie, it does feel like a very standard mystery.  It’s got a doozy of a twist, but for me, it did not come in the form I expected.  In fact, it’s a dark twist with a violent edge that truly shocks.

I don’t know what else to say about Night Watch. It sort of fits the description of “hagspolitation”; it’s definitely about a woman in danger.  But at 41 years old, I don’t consider Taylor to be the typical subject in one of these movies.  (Maybe instead of a hagsploitation movie, we should call it a milfsploitation movie.)

Elizabeth Taylor Night Watch-1973

I will also say that actress Linda Hayden has a small but vital role. She is, of course, the beautiful young woman (20 years old at the time) known for Hammer’s Taste the Blood of Dracula and Tigon’s The Blood on Satan’s Claw.  The trivia section on IMDb for Night Watch says that she has stated in interviews that its production was delayed due to health problems of major cast members.

The only other trivia I can find is that Night Watch reunited stars Taylor and Harvey, who had appeared together in Butterfield 8 thirteen years earlier. Chances are, one or both of them were the “major cast members” who had health problems, according to Linda Hayden.  He seems older than his age of 45 in Night Watch, but he sports a beautiful head of hair that might just be a toupee.

Night Watch is a typical thriller like many that have come before and after. If I give it an “average” rating, I’m going to bump it a star because of its truly surprising ending.  And then I’ll bump it another star because of its credentials and some sharp dialog.  I haven’t seen many Elizabeth Taylor movies, so I feel like watching this one boosts my credibility.  Even if she is sort of slumming it.

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