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This outstanding drama was the last film to be directed by Becker, who died shortly after its completion. While awaiting trial for the attempted murder of his wife, Michel is moved into a cell with Keraudy, Constantin, Leroy, and Meunier, who decide to include him in their elaborate escape
plan. The film goes into great detail about the mechanics of the escape. Dummies are made, a tunnel is dug, the men build a periscope out of a mirror and a toothbrush to watch for guards, a medicine bottle filled with sand is used as an hourglass so the conspirators can time their shifts, and
eventually the tunnel connecting to the city's sewer system is complete. On the day they are to make their escape, Michel is called into the warden's office. There he is informed that his wife has dropped the charges against him. He relates the news to his cellmates, who eye him suspiciously, but
he intends to go through with the escape anyway because he still faces a five-year term. As the men are about to make their way down the tunnel, alarms ring and guards appear to stop them. The men then realize that Michel has betrayed them in exchange for a lighter sentence. Using a cast of
nonprofessionals, Becker paints a powerful portrait of men in desperate circumstances forced, against their better instincts, to trust one another. The film, shot in a documentary style, contains no music, using only the natural sounds of the prison to convey suspense and tension. American
director Don Siegel was surely influenced by THE NIGHT WATCH when he made ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ, starring Clint Eastwood.