Deathwatch: Vic Morrow’s Film, based on Jean Jeunet’s Play

Deathwatch, Vic Morrow’s eccentric film of 1966, marked the directing debut of the talented actor, perhaps better known now as the late husband of writer Barbara Tent (who did work for Robert Altman, among others) and the father of actress Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Based on Jean Jeunet’s (in)famous play, Deathwatch could be described as a claustrophobic survival tale, as it is set entirely within a prison.  As is known,  jail features prominently in other stories and films (Un Chant d’Amour, Song of Love) by the French enfant terrible, who had himself spent some time behind bars.

The film’s protagonists are three prisoners–a condemned murderer, a thief and a homosexual, thrown together.  The murderer, who is the most criminal, naturally becomes the leader, claiming his turf after negotiations with the other two prisoners.

Morrow shows promise in both the technical and visual aspects of directing, coaxing great performances from his ensemble, Leonard Nimoy, Michael Forest, Paul Mazursky, and Gavin MacLeod.

MPAA Rating: Unrated

Running time: 88 Minutes