Night Watch (1973) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Ellen Wheeler, a rich woman, is recovering from a nervous breakdown with the help of her husband and a good friend. One day, while staring out the window, she witnesses a murder. But does anybody believe her?


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In London, wealthy housewife Ellen Wheeler arrives home with new rose plants and is surprised when her usually reclusive neighbor, Mr. Appleby, a gardening enthusiast, offers to plant them for her. Appleby adds that his father used to own the Wheelers' house, but now he can only afford to live in the garden flat next door.

    Later that evening, Ellen and her husband John dine with Ellen's longtime friend, Sarah Cooke, who is visiting the Wheelers before going to Scotland to begin a new job. That night, Ellen is wracked by a recurring dream of a car crash that killed her former husband Carl during a rainstorm. Waking in alarm, Ellen goes downstairs as, outside, a thunderstorm rages. When John joins her later and makes concerned inquiries, Ellen asks if they can go away together. Guilty over his long hours as a stockbroker, John evades a direct answer, prompting Ellen to declare that she has lost something in their marriage that she wants back. After John returns upstairs, Ellen stares out the window at an old, abandoned, dilapidated house across the way and, during a lightning flash, screams in horror. Frightened, John rushes to his wife who has collapsed on the floor claiming that she has seen a man with his throat slashed slumped in a chair by the window in the abandoned house.

    John telephones the police who arrive quickly and search the old house while Ellen, who has been provided with a mild sedative by Sarah, undergoes questioning by Inspector Walker. Walker's partner, Sergeant Norris returns later to report that the house is exceedingly run down, but there is no sign of a body. Frustrated and angered by the men's doubt, Ellen insists that she saw a body.

    The next morning, Ellen views a new row of trees planted by Appleby in his garden and telephones Walker to suggest that the area is the perfect size to cover a body. Meanwhile, unknown to Ellen, Sarah has a rendezvous at a hotel with a man (who is not shown).

    Later, Walker grudgingly returns to the Wheelers' and questions Appleby, who admits that he planted the trees after the storm, which is an ideal time for planting, but protests the inspector's suggestion that he dig them up. After Walker departs without taking action, Ellen finds a pair of cuff-links and a lighter in her private desk drawer.

    At his office, John arrives back from his lunch break and after taking a phone call from a client over a latest stock investment, receives a call from Walker who reveals that Ellen has telephoned him numerous times regarding their investigation of the "murder."

    At home that evening, Ellen responds angrily when John recommends that she speak with his physician friend Tony. When John suggests that perhaps it would be best for Ellen to take a trip as she proposed, she reminds him that she wanted them to go away together. Ellen then shows John the cuff-links and lighter, which she says belonged to Carl and which she has not seen in years, and demands to know how they got in her private desk. Offended by her inference that he placed them there, John departs for his local pub. John meets Sarah on his way out and the two talk quietly, unaware that they are being observed by Ellen.

    That night, Sarah brings Ellen hot cocoa and the women discuss Ellen's frustration that no one will believe her about the body. When Ellen refuses the cocoa, Sarah goes to get her a sleeping pill as Ellen gazes out the window at the old house. Spotting a dim light moving behind the house's ramshackle shutters, Ellen calls Sarah, who confirms seeing the light. Ellen telephones Walker, whose men arrive at the old house as John returns home. Discovering Appleby inside the old house, Walker and Norris take him into custody.

    The next morning, after digging up the back garden, the police find no body, and are forced to release Appleby without making a charge. Privately, Walker tells John the "case" of the murder is officially closed and expresses his hope not to hear from Ellen again. That afternoon, John meets with Tony, a therapist friend of his, to ask him to see Ellen, but Tony insists that she must be convinced to see him on her own.

    At the Wheelers' that evening, Sarah admits to seeing her longtime boyfriend Barry, but avoids answering Ellen's question of how Barry will handle her move to Glasgow. When Sarah jokingly says she would rather go somewhere exotic rather than Scotland, Ellen grows distressed. While Sarah and John privately discuss their concern about Ellen in the dining room, they are interrupted by her scream from the living room. There, Ellen declares she has just seen the body of a dead girl in the old house. Dismayed, John telephones Tony. Ellen agrees to speak with him the next day and, during their conversation describes the car accident that killed Carl and his young mistress, whom she never knew. Admitting it was the deepest betrayal of her life, Ellen points out that the unexpected appearance of her former husband's private articles suggests she is purposely being driven into emotional duress. When Tony advises her to leave the house immediately and go to a rest home in Switzerland, Ellen wearily acquiesces. After John refuses to contact Walker, Ellen secretly telephones the inspector to plead for an investigation of the old house. Falsely promising to do so, Walker also suggests Ellen contact the owners and reveals that the house was purchased six months earlier by a private company, DIPCO.

    After Ellen has packed for her departure that evening for Switzerland, John presents her with numerous financial papers to sign. Dryly noting the speed with which John had the papers drawn up, Ellen nevertheless signs them then is startled to notice that one of the companies in which the Wheelers own joint shares is DIPCO. When she asks John about the company, John claims not to remember purchasing any stock from it. Sarah joins the couple, and abruptly Ellen declares that she has discovered Sarah is going to Bermuda, not Glasgow after finding a plane ticket while searching though Sarah's purse. Embarrassed, Sarah admits she gave up the job to go to Bermuda with Barry, of whom she believes Ellen does not approve. Unappeased, Ellen shrilly accuses Sarah and John of having an affair, revealing that she has had Sarah followed. Turning on her husband, Ellen shows him one of his keys, which says DIPCO, and insists that he purchased the house to torment her. Both John and Sarah deny they are involved and continue to insists that Ellen is just imagining things. When John refuses Ellen's challenge to test the key on the door of the old house, Ellen runs out into the storm to the decrepit house. Alarmed, John hurries after her as Sarah beseeches him not to go. After some moments, Sarah follows.

    In the darkened house, Sarah is shocked to find John in a chair with his throat cut. Moments later, Ellen savagely attacks Sarah, whom she likens to Carl's young mistress years earlier, and brutally kills her. Sometime later that evening, Ellen contentedly finishes packing, then telephones Walker to plead theatrically with him to investigate the old house after she leaves, as she knows there are two bodies there. Chuckling as she hangs up the receiver, Ellen is startled when Appleby steps out from the next room. Praising her performance with Walker and also her dedication in punishing her unfaithful husband, Appleby assures Ellen that the inspector will not believe him either if he were to report the murders. Smiling, Ellen asks Appleby if he would like to look after his former home in her absence and Appleby happily agrees. She then leaves, while Appleby stands alone in the living room and watches the old house through the window... with John and Sarah's bodies still there... implying that he will bury them in the garden now that the police will not bother coming back to search it again.

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