Liz Taylor sees dead people in ‘Night Watch’

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From Nov. 4, 2011 –  When her film career started winding down in the 1970s, Elizabeth Taylor was reduced to some very bad material such as “Hammersmith is Out” (1972) and “Ash Wednesday” (1973) and “The Blue Bird” (1976).

These pictures were fast flops at the time and rarely turn up on cable (for good reason).

It was really shocking to see an actress who had won her second Oscar in 1966 — for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” — hit a career wall just as she was about to turn 40.

In the middle of her 1970s string of turkeys, Liz appeared in “Night Watch,” a 1974 adaptation of a play by Lucille Fletcher who wrote the classic thriller “Sorry Wrong Number.”

The Warner Archive DVD-on-demand program released “Night Watch” recently and while it is hardly a classic, it’s a cut above the other movies Taylor made in the early 1970s.

The story plays like a variation on “Gaslight” with Taylor playing a well-off London woman who starts to wonder if her husband (Laurence Harvey) and her best friend (Billie Whitelaw) might be trying to drive her crazy.

One stormy night, Ellen thinks she sees a murdered man in the townhouse on the other side of her backyard. She gets her husband to call the police who check out the abandoned building and find nothing.

A few nights later, Ellen says she sees a dead woman in the house. The police return — no body.

Although “Night Watch” is hampered by a terrible score by John Cameron — that over-emphasizes every menacing moment — Taylor has fun with Ellen’s hysteria and her growing awareness that something might be going on between her husband and the visiting school friend (who claims she is having an affair in London with a married man that Ellen has never met).

It’s hard to fathom why Ellen would allow her friend to enjoy an extended stay in her house when she behaves so suspiciously (two years later, Whitelaw would play an even creepier role, as the nanny in “The Omen”). But the suspense keeps mounting and the movie delivers a very neat twist at the end. “Night Watch” is definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of Taylor’s.

Joe Meyers

2 Responses

  1. Ken Anderson says:

    i think what initially drew me to your posts is that in the midst of all the class and high-brow stuff you cover, you harbor an appreciation for the odd bit of obscure pop-culture entertainment. I love this movie and I love more that in your writing about it, it’s in such good, cultured company.