Death Watch

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This article is about the 1980 film. For other uses, see Deathwatch (disambiguation).
Death Watch
Death watchposter.jpg
Directed by Bertrand Tavernier
Produced by Gabriel Boustiani
Janine Rubeiz
Written by David Rayfiel
Starring Romy Schneider
Harvey Keitel
Harry Dean Stanton
Therese Liotard
Caroline Langrishe
William Russell
Vadim Glowna
Eva Maria Meineke
Bernhard Wicki
Max von Sydow
Music by Antoine Duhamel
Cinematography Pierre-Wiliam Glenn
Edited by Michael Ellis
Armand Psenny
Distributed by SELTA Films
Little Bear
Sara Films
Antenne 2
TV 13 Munich
Release dates
  • 1980 (1980)
Running time
128 minutes
Country France
West Germany
Language English

Death Watch (French: La Mort en direct) is a 1980 science fiction film directed by Bertrand Tavernier. It is based on the novel The Unsleeping Eye by David G. Compton, also known as The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe. The film was entered into the 30th Berlin International Film Festival.[1] The film had 1,013,842 admissions in France and was the 35th most attended film of the year.[2]


The film is set in a future where death from illness has become extremely unusual. When Katherine Mortenhoe (Romy Schneider) is diagnosed as having an incurable disease, she becomes a celebrity and is besieged by journalists. The television company NTV (headed by Vincent Ferriman) offers her a large sum of money if she will allow her last days to be filmed and made into a reality television show – they have already spied on her as she is told of her diagnosis (her doctor is colluding with them) and prepared posters for the show which show her face (to her annoyance when she sees the posters on display before they have contacted her).

Katherine pretends to agree but evades NTV's employees and goes on the run with the assistance of a casual acquaintance called Roddy (Harvey Keitel). The audience knows – but she does not – that Roddy is, in fact, a senior NTV cameraman who has undergone an experimental surgical procedure which implants cameras and transmitters behind his eyes, so that everything he sees is relayed back to NTV, who use it as the basis for their reality show. A side-effect of the procedure is that he will go blind if he experiences more than a short period of darkness; he uses drugs to keep awake, has learned to sleep for brief periods with his eyes open, and carries a flashlight which he shines on his eyes at night.

Much of the filming took place in and around Glasgow, including: Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow Cathedral, the former Queen's Dock on the River Clyde and the Glasgow City Chambers. In 2012 Shout! Factory released the film on Blu-ray in Region 1, whilst Park Circus handled the Region 2 release.


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